Night Watch is a regular feature about bars and clubs by nightlife columnist Tara Nieuwesteeg.
Tim Finnegan's Irish Pub
725 S Federal Highway, Delray Beach
Call 561-330-3153, or visit here.
Gentle reader, I have downed many Guinnesses and feigned (terrible) Irish accents on many occasions. I've sat at dark-wood bars and gazed upon kitschy shamrockesque décor more times than I care to remember. But never in my traveling of our sunny counties have I come upon anything that struck me as a "real" Irish pub. Until now. Read on.
Tim Finnegan's Irish Pub: Tim Finnegan's is located in a plaza hidden
behind a Quizno's, which is nestled near a Cuban restaurant in the far
corner of an inlet parking lot. But under no circumstances should you
give up your search; once you turn a corner and open a thick wooden
door, you'll stumble into a joyous scene that seems transported
straight from the Emerald Isle. The room itself is green and narrow,
the walls lined with Irish coats of arms and Guinness posters. One
framed turn-of-the-19th-century painting depicts a boat full of Irish
folk approaching Ellis Island.
Fire in the Kitchen, the band playing on the small stage the night I visited, is composed of a keyboardist and a rotund vocalist, who also played a tiny guitar-like instrument. His thick Irish brogue and lovely singing voice brought a white-haired couple to their feet. Hand in hand, they whirled around the small floor to the upbeat number, their feet thudding on the dull wood. I snagged a seat at a table behind the bar. A man sitting in front of me tapped his tall Guinness glass in time with the quick cadence of the music.
"We have live music -- Celtic and Irish only -- on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday," Tom, co-owner of the bar, told me. He was slight and good-looking, with ears that slightly stuck out and an easy smile. "Though in Ireland, musicians get together and jam in bars. So that's what happens on Sunday -- it's more a jam session than a performance."
"Anyone interesting play here?" I asked.
"We're getting the Michael Dixon band -- from Key West -- in here on August 20," he told me.
"Is this a good place to come and meet hot Irish guys?" I asked.
"In Ireland, we have a matchmaking festival in which an old man and old woman match up young people. It's kind of like blind dating. We're thinking of doing something like that here soon," he said.
Fire in the Kitchen was playing a rousing version of the Irish Rovers' "Unicorn" song. But don't you forget my unicorn...
"Seriously, though," Tom said in his adorable accent. "Too often, Irish pubs try to make their business about getting shitfaced. We're not about that -- we're just about fun and community. We get single girls drinking here because they feel safe. Where else can you see an old guy from Yale casually chatting up a Jamaican guy with six-foot-long dreadlocks?" He pointed at the scene. It was true; the 60-something Q-tip seemed perfectly at ease with the Rasta and his long tresses of twisted hair. (Lisa, Tom's lovely sister and partner, told me later that the Jamaican guy's name was Rasta Mike and that he runs a club in Jamaica and coaches swimming.)
To Rasta Mike's left, a young regular named Jack was sipping his beer at the long, wooden bar.
"My 22-year-old brother has a penthouse in Ireland, right on Dublin Street," he said. "I don't know how he does it, but he does."
"I don't care how great this bar is," I said. "You can't compete with that."
"True," said Jack. "But you'd be surprised who you meet here."
"Meaning I once had an extended conversation with the guy who financially backs MTV. I realized he was no ordinary guy when I noticed that he was drinking $600 glasses of bourbon."
A quick-paced tune had brought a beautiful young woman with long red hair up to the front of the room, where she executed a jig straight out of Riverdance. Her upper body held perfectly still as her feet blurred upon the floor. Her long hair swayed gracefully. The packed bar clapped and cheered her on. A small blond-haired little boy enthusiastically bobbed by her side.
Tim Finnegan's boasts a Monday-through-Friday happy hour, delicious food, great music, and plenty of special events. But that's not what makes the place truly wonderful. At its core, this honest Irish pub -- owned by a pair of charming Irish siblings -- echoes another place and time. Its warm, welcoming atmosphere and authentic décor will make you want to nurse that Guinness and remain deep in the heart of Ireland for as long as possible.