our 52 pub challenge… the best and the worst.

I am pretty amazed at how much Bret and my best and worst lists aligned. It probably isn’t that surprising… we went to all the pubs together, so if we had a great time or a bad time, it was generally a mutual experience.

The Best!


I already wrote a post about Mok’s way back when I thought I would write more about all the pubs we visited.  Feelings have not changed much over the course of the year.  We still love Mok’s.  We had our last pint of Beamish there last night and true to form, it was full of adorably tipsy old men.  Bret and I were probably two of four people in the packed house that were under 60 and I was the only lady there until right before we left.  We had a nice chat with another Tottenham Hotspurs supporter and we were repeatedly offered handfuls of peanuts by another man.  It was real sad to walk away from such a cozy and inviting spot.

The Oval

The Oval was pretty much our first stop in Cork and it remained a favorite throughout the year.  Clearly… we named our puppy dog after this place.  Most of you who visited had a pint at the Oval while in Cork.  We never had a bad pint there.  The bartenders and other patrons were always friendly.  There are enough nooks of various sizes to accommodate any size group we had, and create such a cozy ambiance.  We learned at some point, that the Oval is one of seven or eight pubs known as the “Heritage” pubs. While a couple of them are actually in historic, old building, what they really have in common is the same owner.  The owner also owns the towns largest independent microbrewery, so in generally we like the beers at the Heritage pubs more than at Cork pubs in general.

El Fenix

We celebrated the completion of our 52 pub challenge here!  Or so we thought until we looked over the list one last time the next day and realized that we had forgot to log three pubs…  Still, the intention was there.  It was a great spot to finish.  It is one of the Heritage pubs, so the beer is good.  The company was very friendly.  The ambiance was warm and inviting.  El Fenix had been on my list for a long time, but Bret was more hesitant.  I think it won him over in the end.  We had a long chat with another fellow at the pub about pubs in Cork.  He claimed to be a regular of El Fenix and thought it was a shame that we had not made it to the pub next door, The Charles for a 7am beer (apparently that is a thing to do).


Tom Barry’s

Tom Barry’s is probably the closest pub to our home that made it to the Tops list.  It was a really nice spot to go for a pint on a sunny, summer day.  The back garden is large and packed with  wooden picnic tables.  They also have a few outbuildings that always have fires going in case things cool off or there is an unexpected rain shower.  It is a very popular spot for the college crowd and fills up quickly, rain or shine.  Bret was real keen to try this place out early on, but I was skeptical.  It doesn’t look super special from the outside.  It ended up being one of my faves, though!

Sin E (pronounced Shin-eh)

This was my favorite place to go to listed to music.  The was traditional Irish music on tap a few nights a week here-  and early enough that Bret and I could actually get there before our bedtime (we’re so lame).  Another one of the Heritage pubs, the beer was always yummy and the ambiance is warm and dark.

 Mutton Lane

We discovered Mutton Lane down an alley that emanates out of the English Market.  Again… a Heritage pub (you can see there is a trend of us liking the Heritage pubs).  It is centrally located, good beer, great ambiance.  We had many a good time popping in for a pint when the rain surprised us while we were doing errands.

Crane Lane

I actually only went to this pub once, but it was memorable enough to make the Tops list.  Yet another Heritage Pub, this one is also a moderately large music venue.  We went there the day the Kim and Rocky got into town.  They had a local music showcase in the afternoon and we saw a great local band called the Shaker Hymn.  It was a really fun day!


This place is another one with a great outdoor garden space.  They also serve decent food (and large portions) and good beer.  It was sort of one the way to the soccer stadium, so we went there a number of times before cheering on the Cork City FC.

The Corner House

This one we also only made it to once, very close to the end.  We probably never would have made it there if we had not challenged ourselves to try so many.  We loved it and wished we had discovered it earlier…  They had less common microbrews on tap, which we really liked, and friendly folks and ambiance.

 Top rated- Honorable mentions


This one probably only makes the list because we had such a funny night there.  Typical Irish pub-  The have three kinds of stout (Guiness, Beamish, and Murphy’s) on tap and an array of crappy macrobrews (Coors and Heineken products).  The night we went there though, there was a group of geeky college students singing show tunes for the amusement of some older ladies.  It made quite an impression on me…  This one did not make Bret’s list though.

Arthur Mayne’s

This one was on Bret’s list, but not mine.  Don’t get me wrong… It is an awesome spot.  If this place existed in Corvallis, I would probably live there.  It is another of the Heritage pubs and the food was pretty good at this one.  The nice things about the Heritage pubs is that they all have a similar and solidly good selection of beer and wine, but they all have very unique things about them too.  Some serve food, some are just pubs, some have music.  They have good art and some local flair.  This one is located in an old pharmacy and they have all these old relics from mysterious elixir bottles to 50s era perfume.  It is a great spot for a pint.

The Bottom of the Barrel 🙁

Bret and I had far less overlap on our bottom tens…  I think that is because we would still take many of these places over a typical american pub.  Irish Pubs really are that great for some good and some nebulous reasons.

The Woolshed

We only went to this place once.  We wanted to watch a big game and this is as close to an American- style sports bar as you can get in Cork.  A bunch of TVs, crap food, crap beer and wine selection.  We decided after the first attempt that we would rather not watch games than go here.

Tom Lynch’s

I am not at all sure that this one really makes Bret’s bottom list or if he is just appeasing me.  We had a really odd experience here.  We went there for an after-dinner pint one night, so I had some leftovers in a clear container that the bartender kept referring to as salad in a derogatory manner.  There were also flies all over the place.  Bret chatted the bartender up about the local Cork Rings game that was hanging on the wall.  We later saw some folks playing it at another pub.  Apparently there is a city wide pub team league and they have tournaments now and then.  It looks a lot safer than darts considering the level of drink that some patrons manage at the old man bars.

The Old Oak

This place probably isn’t that bad.  It is located on one of the main shopping drags, so there is a lot of tourist traffic and it seems pretty busy.  Bret and I had a rare squabble as a lead in to grabbing a pint here, so neither of us loved it and it never got a second chance.

The Castle Inn

Some one referred to this as a college guy’s pub.  That about sums it up.  The only seating is a wooden bench that spans the length of the pub and it is pretty hard to miss the trough in the in Men’s bathroom.

The Evergreen

We popped in this pub on our way home from a Cork City FC game.  It was just alright.  It is a large pub with a crap selection of beer and not a lot of that special ambiance that makes Irish Pubs so great.

The Hawthorne

Again, this place is just alright.  The shame about that, it that it has a prime location right on the Lough (pronounced Lock).  The Lough is a fairly large lake with a park around it.  It was a 10 minute walk from our house, so we went there for walks now and then when we wanted to see folks fishing or playing in the grass with dogs and hurleys or if we wanted to be harassed by water fowl.  It would have been a great place to have a pint on a nice summer day, if it had any character at all…

Bret and I don’t really agree on any of the other bottom-tier pubs, so I won’t bore you.  Cork was a fantastic place to take our 52 Pub challenge!  We had a great time testing the beers and exploring the city.  We’ll post once more, so keep your eyes out for our suggested 10-day itinerary if you are thinking about heading to the Emerald Isle sometime.  It is hard to pick and choose, but we’ll get that post out soon, then shut this thing down.  Until then,  here is a picture of our adorable new family member taken by my friend, Brianna!!!  Her name is Oval!

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