Imagine Brendan Behan ensconced at the murky end of McDaid's, smoking his head off and pouring pints of black into his jowly face. The craic is ninety and the place is completely jammers. But you still manage to shove yourself up to the bar and through a noisy fug you yell 'A pint and a Jameson and a packet of Tayto.' Finally you muscle your arse onto a warm stool, take the first heavenly sips, and nod approvingly as some old dude fires up The Auld Triangle. And that, my friends, is undiluted weapons-grade Dublin craic at its finest. And sure, hasn't every publican for the last 40 years been trying to recapture the same vibe and failing miserably.
Nowadays we want more than crisps and dry roasted peanuts, and instead of boozy sing-alongs in smoke filled dens we all apparently crave Sky Sports and giant ear-shattering sound systems. But is that real craic? For any modern pub looking for that extra slice of magic, two vital ingredients are absolute must-haves - a different angle and decent grub.
Does tossing a coin with bar staff for a free pint count as different? Or a round of rock paper scissors, or a bit of live music? Or a really REALLY loud DJ? Saying the music is loud here is a bit like saying Sinead O'Connor likes to talk about herself now and again, if you twist her arm. And then there's the grub.
If you like pulled pork, and I love it, all rubbed and braised for 12 long hours, then served with gherkins and block-sized wedges on the side, you'll really go for this. Poking out of a floury bap are lovely burnt bits and sticky slivery bits that deliver a long meaty mouthgasm that just goes on and on. The coleslaw is a bit iffy and serving everything on a wooden slab is even iffier, but a big icy pint smoothes out most minor bloopers. A perfect pizza is a rare enough creature and the one the Boss chomps into is as fine an example you'll find this side of Italia. The paper-thin base is littered with spicy pepperoni, jumpin' jalepenos, chorizo, bacon, and roasted red peppers. It looks to die for, but blast it all and feck it all, there's a tragic lack of proper seasoning, especially dried oregan.
I'm not sure if desserts are in-house productions but the chocolate brownie and baked cheesecake certainly deserve an honourable mention. Service is handled by top-drawer professionals who don't behave like they've just swallowed a boredom pill and/or wish they were anywhere else but working behind a bar.
Sober Lane in Cork, and her twin sister in Irishtown, Dublin, have come pretty darn close to a full-on sustainable model of 21st century fag-free craic even the bould Brendan himself would enjoy. In short, just 'clink, sink and drink' - it all works perfectly well together.