It’s that time of year again when heaping helpings of corned beef and cabbage are served and streams of stout, cheap green beer and whiskey are flowing—or at least that’s what certain segments of the American population who proclaim to be of honorary Irish descent on March 17 seem to associate with St. Patrick’s Day.
Here in the Bay Area, which is home to a healthy Irish-American population, there are bountiful options for celebrating the patron saint of Ireland, who, according to legend, drove the snakes out of the Emerald Isle back in the fifth century.
Enjoy San Francisco’s Longest-running Parade
While the holiday falls on a Tuesday this year, the official festivities kick off on Saturday with the 164th annual San Francisco St. Patrick’s Day Parade, which according to organizers is the largest such event on the West Coast. Downtown will be inundated with a sea of green as thousands of people descend on Market Street to watch Ceili dancers, floats, musicians and more. There is post-parade festival in Civic Center Plaza with plenty of extra entertainment, exhibits, food, and of course, beverages.
Sing and Dance with The Bogues
When it comes to choosing a soundtrack for the holiday, there’s obviously a vast wealth of material to choose from, ranging from traditional ballads, reels and jigs to more modern interpretations.
For those who like their music infused with as much spirit as their cocktails, you can’t get much better than the hard drinking and hard rocking tunes of the Pogues—mixing a high proof distillation from the sounds of traditional Irish folk music with the piss and vinegar attitude and energy of punk rock, the “Boys From The County Hell” burst upon the music scene back in 1984.
The band’s output showcased the masterful songwriting talents of singer Shane MacGowan, whose reputation for wild antics and marathon bouts of drinking took on mythic proportions—and while the Pogues themselves aren’t playing the Bay Area this week, you can drink, dance and sing along to the next best thing on March 17—the excellent cover band The Bogues, led by local songwriter Paul Griffiths, performing at Brick and Mortar Music Hall. More info.
Come for the drink, stay for the Craic
While any local watering hole can add green food coloring to a light beer and put up some temporary Guinness advertising, why not make a pilgrimage to one of San Francisco’s legitimate Irish bars? San Francisco has several fantastic venues where the entertainment and imbibing have mixed with enjoyable conversations for multiple generations.
One of the oldest—and best—is the Little Shamrock in San Francisco’s Inner Sunset, where they’ve been serving up drinks since 1893. Inside the cozy confines, you’ll find a variety of antique couches and tables, a dart room, and a fireplace to warm up in front of to stave off that cold Sunset fog. While sipping a drink, one can gaze at a series of vintage black-and-white photographs showing the front of the pub back when Lincoln was still a dirt road, and there’s a horse tied up out front.
And here’s a friendly tip: don’t go into any of these businesses and order a “Car Bomb” unless you want to be escorted out of said establishment as quickly as the holiday’s namesake drove the snakes out of Eire.
Irish-American Crossroads Festival
Don’t want to stop the celebration after the 17th? The Irish-American Crossroads Festival continues throughout the end of the month, hosting all manner of Irish cultural events, ranging from music, poetry and dance to lectures, workshops and exhibitions.
Another great resource for those looking for events this month, as well as year-round, is the United Irish Cultural Center of San Francisco, whose headquarters out by Ocean Beach hold an incredible number of events, along with an impressive library and ways to learn about one’s ancestors.