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Slashing through the darkness in a manner photoluminescent, it sits affixed to cladding, casting all who pass by the pub in its unworldly scarlet hue. Cheekily hinting back to days when ladies of the night pounded this particular beat of Benburb Street, it feels entirely alien and un-Irish – its look, its feel and most of all: its wording. In standard sans-serif, capitalized font it spells the two words out plainly: P-H-A-T J-O-I-N-T.

Whether its youngones on the DART calling things that are not lights ‘lit’ or auld lads from Cavan on Facebook calling me a snowflake, there’s always just something about native Irish people using Americanisms that just doesn’t hit my ears right. It was this that fed into my preconception – when I’d be passing by that sign. I had managed to conjure up an image of an entrepreneurial Stoneybatter hipster bragging to his pals about how he was going to open, not a deadly pub, but a phat joint. I wasn’t mad about him, to be entirely honest. I’d developed not only a distaste for him, but also for his pub – a pub whose threshold I had never even stepped beyond in my life. This disaste would not abide.

Running longer than it is deep – The Dice Bar, much like its Queen Street neighbour, is a bar whose hipster credentials are more naturally evolved than its contrived counterparts scattered about town. With tones of black, nearly black and red being those most dominant, you’d be forgiven for thinking that this was just another run of the mill traditional Dublin Pub when the lights are off. But visit at night and observe the abundance of neon which provides one of the primary sources of artificial luminance in the room, you’ll find that it’s transformed to one that’s more post underground gig pints than it is aunty Margaret’s 60th.

Offering bar-proximate high stools and combinations of couches and low stools to its habitués, The Dice Bar is one in which you could comfortably spend a few hours drinking in, or go on the batter in, to phrase it with the expression derived from the locale. Options to do so are plentiful, with the bar offering up pints of a house red ale which tends to sell well on the premises. Regarding the Guinness, I’ll have to put my cards on the table here. Neither Pintman №2, №3 or I have been in the pub in a good few years, so we haven’t been able to make a conclusive call.

Normally, the MO here would be to just visit again and rate the pint, but with global pandemics being what they are, we’ve opted to go another route here and contact Pintman №8. A former Smithfield resident and a capable man where pints of stout are concerned, Pintman №8 is a man well capable of gauging the quality of a jar. His qualified assessment of Dice Bar Guinness amounted to a belief that the pint was of an acceptable standard albeit that the delivery of same wouldn’t have been up to the standard of other neighbouring shops.

So if ever you do situate yourself in this pub with a decent pint in hand and you still find that you’re embittered at the thought of someone diluting the Hiberno-English lexicon with New Yorkisms, rest assured that your fears are unfounded. It didn’t take me a whole lot of digging to discover that Hughie from the Fun Lovin Criminals once part-owned this pub. And I don’t think it’s too much of a leap of faith to imagine that he, a man well qualified to verbalise utterances such as Phat Joint and other assorted phrases from the USA, may just have been the one behind those red neon words mentioned at the outset of this piece. And when you consider that Hughie and Co. also brought the iconic DiFontaines to our shore, you’ll quickly realise that there’s plenty of room to embrace the Liffey being diluted with just a little bit of the Hudson now and again.


UPDATE: During of May 2020, the proprietor of The Dice Bar took to their Facebook page after apparently suckin’ back on a good feed of grandpa’s ol’ cough medicine. There, they proceeded to make comparisons between the so-called ‘lockdown measures’ imposed by the Irish Government in order to stem the spread of the COVID-19 virus and the transportation of Jewish prisoners to concentration camps at the hands of Nazi Germany. Naturally enough the owner was excoriated by the bemused readers of their statement. They apologized, well sort of… I think. Nonetheless, it would be remiss of us not to mention it. Anyhow, the choice is yours and yours alone when it comes to where you drink, Frank Ryan’s & McGettigan’s across the road are both grand pubs.

Consider, if you will, the following couplet.

“There is a crack in everything

That’s how the light gets in”

Taken from Canadian crooner, Leonard Cohen’s back catalogue – these much quoted and poignant lines have many different meanings to many different people. Some think redemption, and some reckon resurrection are the abiding themes to which Laughing Lenny’s words refer. But us, we have our own interpretation, namely that Leonard Cohen is obviously a man who’s never been to Frank Ryan’s.

Presumably named after the republican veteran of Irish and Spanish conflicts – we’d be comfortable enough in labelling Frank Ryan’s as the darkest pub in the city of Dublin, perhaps even the entire country. And as you find yourself rubbing ointment into your bloodied shins of a morning after being there, you will surely agree that there’s neither crack nor light to be found in this Smithfield bar. Sorry Len!

A seemingly traditional pub beneath all the darkness, it makes use of wood as its primary material and is relatively narrow upon entrance. Becoming partially divided twice along its length, it eventually steps down a foot or two at the back opening somewhat to reveal a pool table. Feeble light that is afforded to patrons of the pub tends to be by means of tea and fairy light, mostly hued in shades of red. Along the walls and hung from the ceiling, should you manage catch a glimpse, you’ll find any amount of paraphernalia scattered around – the overarching theme of which seems to lean mostly toward music. But, that said, there’s plenty of drink themed bric-a-brac and license plates filling in the gaps between.

I suppose you might call Frank Ryan’s the original hipster pub – it espouses all the principles the newer incarnations are at pains to remind us about. It has the craft beer, it’ll let you bring the madra in, I think it does pizza somewhere out the back too. But because it doesn’t roar this from the rooftop, and probably because the Guinness is pretty decent too, it manages to retain the charm of a proper Dublin boozer.

Whatever about cracks, there are thankfully no shortcomings in the craic in here. Generally, the place keeps a nice relaxed vibe and is the perfect venue for a night of pints and chats. Though, be warned: you’ll want to try somewhere else if you find yourself oscillating at a higher frequency. We decamped into the pub last year, hyper and half-drunk, only to find ourselves subject to the sort of fascism that Frank himself sailed to Spain to fight against. They cut us off! The Bastards!

The morning, nay, afternoon that followed this sorry incident was, as you might imagine, a rough one. Waking to several texts countenancing my proposed cancellation of Frank Ryan’s, the fear set in like a sledgehammer of doom. Such was, and is the abiding memory, of this anxiety that I’ve yet to, ahem, darken the door of the pub since. And to this day the fear that I might have been barred persists. So with that in mind, allow me to finish just as I started, with the wise words of Leonard Cohen. And please, allow me to directly aim them toward the Gatekeepers of the pub which bears the great Frank Ryan’s name:

” If I have been unkind

I hope that you can just let it go by

If I, if I have been untrue

I hope you know it was never to you ”

The year is 2053 and the end is nigh! Global warming, nuclear warfare, global pandemic, zombie apocalypse – picture it however you see fit. I was thinking about how certain subcultures would get on in some sort of apocalyptic scenario there the other day and ultimately I came to realise that the first set of the general population to start to see rapid attrition, aside from the infirm, will ultimately have to be the hipsters.

My hypothesis is based on two main ideas – firstly the veganism. Now I’m not for a moment going to knock vegans – fair play to them! Especially those who do it properly. But the type of fad veganism that hipsters tend to have a proclivity toward can’t be good for the system – taking all of that iron out of the equation just to look cool can only mean one thing– anaemia. And the anaemic are certainly at a loss when our plague-stricken sun scorched, sea-swelled, radioactive night of the living dead doomsday scenario plays out.

Secondly, and this is something a chiropractor or a spinal surgeon might easily school us on, but it seems to me that the variety of mismatched, rigid and antiquated seating one tends to happen upon in The Bernard Shaw and its contemporaries just cannot be the type that leaves your spine in a better shape than it would have been prior to use. I’m near-on certain that we’ll have a good cohort of grey-haired hunchback hipsters knocking about the place telling us how they collected their pensions before it was cool come 2053. And lord knows that they’ll be ripe for the pickin’ when all of the looters and the undead come rummaging around the gaff at end of days.

So, The Bernard Shaw. Name after Portobello’s most famous Nobel Laureate (who, himself, shortened his name by dropping the George at the start of it), this pub is one held in the same regard by the hipster class as St Paul’s Cathedral would be by subscribers to Catholicism. It’s a boozer which tends to be revered by cooler kids than I for its exterior rather than its interior. We’re told that the beer garden is extensive and that there’s a double decker bus somehow involved in the whole setup. Unfortunately all of this is a bit lost on me – my take on al fresco drinking being that it is better done on grass and through the thriftier means of cans. And as for drinking on a bus, personally I wouldn’t want to risk a Vietnam flashback of some of the things I’ve seen on the 27 down throughout the years.

As with all pubs, our concern lies mainly with the interior.

More Cockney flower girl than toast of London, the pub is comprised of three main sections – the front bar, triangular in its layout, screams twenty minute lunch rather than six pint session – although there is something to be said for its purpose as a prime people-watching real estate. Closing in acutely, this section leads toward a small set of steps which bring you to the lower area of the pub – this in turn houses a larger seating area complete with DJ box and the third section of the pub – a tiled corridor, in essence, sits at the back of the building. The aesthetic of the place is standard hipster chic – rough and ready – characterised by mismatched minimalist furniture and perpetually changing artwork.

Pint-wise, the main complaint is to be made in relation to the price. €5.70 is the sum charged for a Guinness – which, in fairness, was a bit of a majestic drop. Along with the stout – and as you’d expect from such a place – there’s a wide range of craft on offer too.

It was always unlikely that we were ever going to come to extol the virtues of this place. At best for us, it’s a decent lesson in subjectivity – people love it! And we’re fine with that. But with that said, our likelihood of return is probably most appropriately summed up with Shavian parlance – “not bloody likely”.