Irish pub, live music, American & Irish fare, nightly drink specials, happy hour, Power & Light
Sure, The Dubliner in downtown Kansas City, Mo., has what you want in an upscale Irish pub—the dark wood decor, stained glass dividers punctuating a long bar, elegant light fixtures and scrollwork accents in the vaulted ceiling. It’s easy to imagine yourself in some Victorian-era hotel in 1904 Dublin, drinking with Leopold Bloom and sharing stories with Blazes Boylan in his turned-up trousers and straw hat. If there’s a slight falseness that comes from The Dubliner being so beautiful, a bit too obviously shiny and new, well, that’s what you’re going to get in the Power & Light District.
The Dubliner occupies prime real estate in the $850 million entertainment district built in 2007, occupying a space directly behind the KC Live! Stage in the main square off of 14th Street and Grand Boulevard. It’s a relatively new tenant in the space, taking over when Raglan Road, P&L’s first Irish pub, closed its doors in 2011. It feels a bit like the first floor of a hotel, with a spacious main seating area and a variety of other rooms that can be reserved for events.
You can see the amount of effort that the decorators put in to bringing our collective nostalgia for old Ireland to life. The staff says that much of the interior was imported directly from Ireland. During any given happy hour, you might find that Irish-born musical acts like Flogging Molly and Damien Rice are playing over the speakers, followed by a fiddler and guitarist taking over the stage, playing instrumental Irish folk music to give the ambience that extra bit of perfection.
The menu, which contains a mixture of American and Irish pub fare (everything from turkey clubs and sliders to corned beef and cabbage and shepherd’s pie) is priced about average for the city and happily not kicked up by its prime location. During “ecstatic hour,” appetizers are half off. The crab cakes are tasty with the chipotle remoulade dipping sauce, and the “Ploughman’s Platter” of cheese, sausage, vegetables and crackers made for a satisfying light dinner.
Beer is a good choice for happy-hour beverages; even imports like Smithwick’s come in at $3 a pint. If you’re looking for a deeper selection of whiskeys than your average bar, The Dubliner is well-stocked with aged reserves of Jameson and Bushmills plus a few more obscure Irish and a handful of Scotch—but this is where you will be paying premium. A regular Jameson cost about $3 more than it will at a local dive bar. Each night also has its own specials, such as half-price whiskey on Wednesday and $3 house shots on Saturday nights.
As the evening goes on, the mood changes. The mostly older, low-key happy hour crowd started giving way to a younger, livelier clientele as it neared 8 p.m. The tweed-hatted musicians turned the stage over to a band in T-shirts and jeans, and multicolored lights started bouncing around on the ceiling.
That blue-to-green-to-red glow up among the ornate detailing highlighted the strange dissonance between the dignified presentation of The Dubliner and the party-time attitude of its surroundings. In an otherwise classy place, the (all-female) servers were clad in low-cut tops, tartan miniskirts and knee-high socks. Still, you’ve got to play what the audience wants to hear. Hopefully it’ll be willing to listen to two different songs.
On a final note, I must say, fair play to the proprietors for including Bono and the Edge in the large painting of notable Irish musicians hanging near the front, but to omit an image of James Joyce from gracing the walls of their establishment? It’s only a shame, it is.