Our bartending classes up in Nashville end at 6:00pm on Saturday night so we knew that we would want to find a place to eat after we got out. A search on Google Maps revealed that there was an Irish pub named McNamara’s just a scant couple of hundred yards down the road from our school. Now, I have to tell you, both Cindy and I are huge fans of Celtic music and we opt to check out pubs wherever we travel. The thing is, much more often than not the so-called “Irish pub” turns out to be little more than a run-of-the-mill sports bar with Killian’s on tap, a shamrock-shaped neon Budweiser sign over the bar, a blowup leprechaun hanging from the ceiling and a garage band covering death metal tunes playing in the corner. So it was not without some trepidation that we arrived at McNamara’s after our first class.
The pub is housed in what appears to have been a house at one point in its life. The interior décor features lots of wood and plaster and exudes the kind of old world warmth you’d expect from a real Irish pub. They feature a number of beers on tap (though I have only ever opted for the Guinness), the mixed drinks usually feature a generous pour and they have some decent wines-by-the-glass for a pub.
The house band, Nosey Flinn featuring the pub owner Sean McNamara, is truly top notch. The musicians are very talented, they play authentic Irish instruments (fiddle, tin whistle, Irish hand drums and a variety of acoustic guitars, lutes and mandolins) and they sing authentic Irish ballads and drinking songs, including such old favorites as The Wild Rover, The Fields of Athenry, Whisky in The Jar and Oh Dear, What Can the Matter Be. They have a real talent for working the crowd and getting them involved in the sing-along numbers and from the level of participation, they have quite of few regulars.
Speaking of the crowd…be forewarned, McNamara’s can get huge crowds on Friday and Saturday nights. Even arriving as early as 6 o’clock, we’ve found the place packed with folks waiting for tables to open up. Reservations are pretty much a must in the music room if you want to see the band perform and are usually necessary even in the restaurant section. Even when we’re leaving at around 10pm, we still see people waiting for tables.
As far as the food is concerned, it’s the only thing that I wouldn’t rave about. The menu is Irish-themed but we have yet to find a dish we particularly like. It’s fairly typical bar fare. Much of the food is fried, which I don’t particularly care for from a health standpoint, and we just haven’t had any entrees that struck us as particularly tasty. That said, we’ve never left the place hungry either. The servers here have been great, especially considering the kinds of crowds they’ve had to work on the Saturday nights that we’ve been here.
We been back on each of our Saturdays since the first night and have reservations for our last two Saturdays as well. If you’re looking for a hip, edgy nightclub atmosphere this is not the place for you. But if you’re looking for a real Irish pub experience, McNamara’s is definitely worth a visit!!