By: Samantha Besse
In order to get a traditional Irish experience, I didn’t have to travel far from home. Right across the river in Covington, offering a fantastic view of the Cincinnati skyline, I found a small Irish pub called Molly Malone’s. The story of Molly Malone is a perfect example that depicts the Irish mindset of embracing failure. Molly was a poor fishmonger in 17th Century Dublin who sold both fish and herself in order to survive. Unfortunately, Molly contracted cholera from one of her patrons and died in 1699 on the streets of Dublin. Her story is commemorated through a statue in the heart of Dublin, through the traditional Irish song “Cockles and Mussels”, and through the chain of pubs and restaurants in her name.
Molly Malone’s Irish Pub and Restaurant has a location in Cincinnati, as well as many locations in Kentucky, including Covington, St. Matthews, and Louisville. The pub even captivates visitors in Los Angeles, California, Ingolstadt, Germany, and Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia. I was wary about its authenticity and hoped it wouldn’t turn out to be based on Irish stereotypes, but the numerous awards won over the years, such as Cincinnati’s Magazine’s Best Irish Pub of the City in 2009 and CityBeat’s Best Celtic Pub in 2012, 2013, 2015, and 2016, convinced me to go. The food, drinks, and live music convinced me to stay.
Walking into the pub, I immediately noticed the distinct smell of beer. I’m not a big fan of beer, but couldn’t pass the opportunity to order a drink at the bar. Molly Malone’s offers 28 craft and import beers, as well as Irish, Scotch, and local whiskey. Although Irish drinking is a stereotype reinforced by American assumptions, the Irish are known for their beer, namely Guinness. The fish and chips were identical to what I’ve seen served at a pub in London and the menu offered many traditional Irish dishes, including bangers and mash and an Irish breakfast option.
The most enticing part of Molly Malone’s wasn’t the food or drink, but the atmosphere. The restaurant was covered in flags, scarves, and jerseys of popular football teams and players – Celtic Football Club, Manchester United, and Tottenham Hotspurs – as well as a few local schools, including the University of Cincinnati. All major football (European and American) games were broadcast on the televisions, and I got the impression that on game days, the crowd would be overflowing to the outdoor patio.
The reason I chose to go to Molly Malone’s on a Tuesday night was in order to listen to live Irish music by Roger Drawdy. Born and raised in County Cork, Drawdy draws on his experiences growing up on a farm with a grandfather who would belt out tunes at the pub. According to Molly Malone’s website, Drawdy writes and performs his own music, as well as interpretations of classic Irish pub songs. Drawdy’s Irish brogue and lyrics about life in Ireland perfectly captured the attention of the patrons, and even had me on my feet dancing at one point.
Although I can’t say for certain whether Molly Malone’s Irish Pub and Restaurant is legitimate to Ireland, or whether it was influenced by the stereotypes Americans have of the Irish, the pub definitely offered a place for Irish Americans in Cincinnati to eat a good meal, drink a rich beer, and get swept away to Ireland by the music of Roger Drawdy.
Weekly Events. <http://covington.mollymalonesirishpub.com/?page_id=1632>.
Who is Molly Malone? <http://www.molly-malones.net/index.php/en/wer-ist-molly-malone-eng.html>.