A Bit of the Old Sod in the Old Port     white logo           

Story and Photography by David McBride

Spending time in Ireland, even if only a few days, forever changed my view of what makes a great Irish pub.  Without any conscience attempt on my part to become some sort of snob when it comes to Irish Pub design, my taste now seems to be rather more specific.  The problem is, I can’t actually explain what exactly the criterion is for my newly redefined standard.  What I do know, however, is this has little to do with things like hand-carved antique back-bars or expensive atmospheric lighting. 

Bar at Bull Feeney's in Portalnd, Maine as seen in American Public House Review.com

Let me not be misunderstood, I appreciate attention to detail as much as any admirer of great taverns should. Over the years this publication has featured many a gorgeous pub boasting outstanding design details.  What I am referring to is something more much nebulous. 

Pubs in Ireland seem to breathe their own life.  They tell stories of centuries in ways that escape definition.  They are one of Ireland’s original masterpieces.  Recreating that feeling is almost an impossible task.  Often times, it would be like trying to capture the architectural aura of our own country in some far off land by building a version of the Chrysler Building or Independence Hall.  The details may be spot on, and the ideas perfectly well intentioned, but something palpable is always missing.

Window at Bull Feeny's in Portland, Me as seen in American Public House Review

But occasionally we discover a pub here in the New World that comes very, very close indeed.  And when one of us at the Review does come across such a gem, it is usually followed first by a flurry of excited phone calls to other APHR staff members, and then, of course, a couple of gleeful hours at the bar. 

I will be honest, in the few weeks following my trip to the Emerald Isle I failed to find much evidence of this ethereal quality on my side of the pond.  Despair began to set it with the realization that finding what I now defined as a truly great Irish pub would forever require a 7-hour transatlantic flight.  That was until I stepped through the doors of Bull Feeney’s in Portland, Maine.

This place does it right.  It aspires to the great traditions of Ireland’s urban pubs, but it remains uniquely Old Portland at the same time.  While perched at one of Bull Feeney’s terrific bars, we could easily imagine ourselves in Cork or Limerick listening to a traditional ensemble thundering away in a corner while the craic fills the air.  But at the same time, we could picture ourselves hoisting a pint with a band of fishermen just returning from months at sea.

Bull Feeney’s has not been around for centuries, but you would never know it.  It seems attached to the fabric of Portland like many a great pub in Ireland is woven into its town’s history.  I am no closer to being able to define my new Irish pub criteria than I was before, but I do know Bull Feeney’s fits the bill.

Photo taken by Tim Burke Website link - http://miatainmaine.blogspot.com/
Exterior of Bull Feeney's in Portland, ME as seen in AQmerican Public House Review
Bull Feeney's Irish Pub in Portland, Maine

Backbar at Bull Feeney's in Portland Maine as seen in American Puiblic House Review

Stairs at Bull Feeney's in Portland, ME as seen in American Public House Review

Interior at Bull Feeney's in Portland, ME as seen in American Public House Review

Fireplace at Bull Feeny's in Portland, ME as seen in American Public House Review


Bull Feeney's

375 Fore Street

Portland, Maine 04101-5010

(207) 773-7210



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