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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 ”

Did you ever hear that one about a lad out in the middle of the desert in the United Arab Emirates years ago? He was wandering around amidst the unspoilt golden sand with his friend, a man from County Cork, and thinking aloud he turned to his friend and said: “I think I’m going to build a city here in the desert”. Looking in agreement the Corkman turned to his friend and replied with two words – “Do Boy!”

You might forgive for the Da joke there but, albeit tenuous, it seemed like a decent way to introduce my next and even more tenuous point given that it brings me onto the subject of Dubai.

Dubai, to me, looks like shite craic. Alongside the annoyance of rich lads measuring their respective flutes via the means of consumerism – it’s a bit like a trip to the beach, but taken to the extreme – hot, sandy and difficult to get a gargle. Just not the sort of place I’d be prioritising a visit to. The heat is bad, it is but the drink is probably my main concern.

Drink is treated strangely over in Dubai as far as I can ascertain, it’s heavily regulated and you can seemingly be arrested for landing in the country with a few pints in the system. But that said, you can get a scoop over there and it would seem that one of the foremost places to do so is in one of a number of places which are the namesake of this unassuming Smithfield boozer – McGettigan’s. Anecdotally, by drunk men, I’ve been told that this McGettigan’s is the one which got the ball rolling on what could be easily described as an empire of bars, many of which are situated in Dubai. Now we haven’t been able to corroborate that so maybe somebody who knows any better could let us know in the comments.

A one small roomed shop resplendent with dark wood and traditional seating, this pub is, at its essence, a standard cosy local Dublin boozer. It was actually one of the first pubs we posted on instagram when we set up DublinByPub feel free to seek that out and check out an era when the standard of our photos and captions mightn’t have been as carefully considered as they are now.

The pub would seem to have upped its push toward a tourist market of late with plenty of signage about the place advertising their food and drink offerings but that’s not to say it’s still catering to the locals too. The pint purveyed is a grand sup too for which you will expect to part with €4.80 for the pleasure of.

It’s also a more traditional pub given its opening times. Recently I found myself thirsty early-on in the Benburb St. district and McGettigan’s was my only saving grace. It’s nearby neighbours Frank Ryan’s and The Dice Bar leave their staff a decent lie-in, not opening till around 3 or 4.

So you can take your bespoke fancily furnished bars dotted throughout the UAE and beyond. When it comes to us there’s only the one McGettigan’s on the map. And it’s here in Dublin along the Luas line in the united emirates of Smithfield.

‘That burrito was delish now’ said Pintman №2 as we stood on waiting for the Luas. Agreeing with him on the quality of the soakage we’d consumed not ten minutes prior I posed a question as to whether he agreed with me that Mexican food wasn’t exactly the ideal entrée to a night’s worth of stout. Reciprocating with another agreement in turn – Pintman №2 added that he ‘never really enjoyed the first mouthful of Guinness after a burrito’. As the Luas arrived I was inclined to disagree with him.

Having boarded our tram the topic of conversation changed swiftly to an agenda solely hinged around the subject of pubs, namely which of the many around Smithfield we intended to visit this particular evening. As we approached the Four Courts stop I diverted my gaze out the window and came to see M Hughes – a pub we had unsuccessfully attempted to visit on a number of occasions. This was to be a sighting that was immediately followed by the hasty cancellation of Smithfield pinting plans and a last minute scramble off an almost departed Luas upon realising that the place was actually open.

Hughes is a pub I’d often heard people describe as being the last place of refuge wherein soon-to-be inmates could enjoy a final pint before making their way across to the Four Courts to be sent down before the criminal courts were relocated further up the river. I’d also heard of the place being described as stronghold for traditional musicians – so expectations were mixed at best.

The interior of the pub is fantastic. You’ll often here us lauding pubs for interiors that harken back to the 1960s and further beyond, but it’s not often you’ll hear much about the 70s or 80s. Wrong and all as we likely are – we decided that the fit out was reminiscent of the two aforementioned decades. Dark brick and dark wood panelling are used to much effect. A snug large enough to be considered a lounge sits at the front of the pub and is sectioned off with the type of glass panelling the door into your granny’s kitchen used to have.

The seating is traditional enough – hexagonal tables provide ample perching space for pints and large green couches hug the walls, the couches themselves have seen better days but we wouldn’t have them any other way. The tactile compression of the metal springs that lay sprung beneath the upholstery instantly invoked nostalgia for Pintman №2 and me. When we heard the squeak of these springs we were instantly transported to the days when yer da would plonk you down with a bag of crisps and a bottle of Cidona and instruct you to ‘go and make friends with that youngfella over there’… a simpler time.

The only gripe we had with the aesthetic of the pub was the lighting – the brightness is such that we’d suggest that there are lads who have played in Lansdowne Road under less illumination. Our dissatisfaction with this aspect of the pub was not to be the defining feature of our visit this time around though – for with pubs you’ll often find that one aspect of discontent can be readily cancelled out with something that is done well – this brings us nicely along to the pint.

Y’know when you’re sat in a pub that is known to purvey a pint that’s a cut above the rest? And you might just plonk that 1st beauty down upon the table just so you can sit back and admire it as it settles. Then you raise it gingerly toward your mouth and quaff confidently in the full knowledge that you’re about to sample the cream of the crop. Think of that sort of satisfaction, but guerrilla style! Little did we know when we were raising these scoops toward our unsuspecting mouths of the sheer beauty that was about to dance upon our palates – pure crackers of pints, the type that were half gone after the first mouthful.

As this explosion of flavour subsided and as I looked down to Pintman #2’s half drank glass I only had the one thing to say to him: ‘Thought ye didn’t like the first mouthful after a burrito?’ I was duly told to fuck off.

Hughes is a fine relic of a type of Dublin pub. We’ll likely be back someday to check out the trad they offer. It’s also an early house too, so we might have a look earlier on sometime. We’ll definitely be back for one of them creamy pints either way!