Dining Out, Wining & Dining

Castlebay Irish Pub – Great Eats, Good Craic and Guinness!

By Lani Gering


Castlebay Irish Pub – Great Eats, Good Craic and Guinness!


We decided to step outside of the box a bit with this month’s column. Instead of the “white tablecloth order an appetizer, an entrée and a dessert and a glass of wine” format, we decided to spend an afternoon in an Irish pub! Every day is St. Patrick’s Day in an Irish establishment.


While we are very loyal to our very own Old Town favorites – Daniel O’Connell’s and Murphy’s – we decided to kill two birds with one stone and combine the R&D for this month’s Road Trip to Annapolis and the Dining Out at the same time.


Castlebay was established in October 1998. Like most of the areas Irish establishments, it is owned and managed by a native of Ireland. Vincent Quinlan, a native of Dublin, has reproduced a Dublin City pub in the heart of downtown Annapolis. Just like Vinny says,”Castlebay is a place where all will feel welcome, have lots of fun and enjoy great food and drink”.


Not only is he a restaurateur, Quinlan has traveled nation-wide and throughout Canada entertaining guests as a professional singer. Many may remember him as a member of the popular “Celtic Folk” band that played in the DC metro area from the ‘70’s through the ‘90’s. He now performs with the house band – Murphy’s Law. Touted as a “local band with national aspirations”, we were happy to know that they would be entertaining us at some point during the day.


We were lucky enough to be at Castlebay when they were hosting a fundraiser benefitting the Annapolis St. Patrick’s Day parade organizers. You know, the Annapolis version of Alexandria’s Ballyshaners. This meant that in addition to the normal Sunday afternoon crowd, there was a fantastic assortment of Irish music and some local celebrities. We also ran into some old friends that we haven’t seen in quite some time.


Anyone that knows us, knows that we have a little bit of experience with spending an afternoon at a pub – not sure if that’s a good thing or a bad thing, but many of these afternoons have resulted in finding several of the fantastic people we have profiled over the years here at the OTC. In true Irish fashion, we started our afternoon out with a pint of Guinness and a Bloody Mary (not sure a Bloody Mary is very Irish but it was really good). The idea of spending the afternoon is to just roll with the flow. If you get hungry, order some food. If you just want to drink, order that Irish coffee or just the one more pint and a shot of Jameson. No rules. Just enjoy.


The food coming out of the kitchen here is spot on! We witnessed the Fish and Chips that will feed two, Irish Stew with a loaf (yes, a loaf) of fresh bread, traditional steamed mussels with white wine and garlic, Bangers & Mash, Corned Beef & Cabbage and several orders of their chicken wings (offered Buffalo, teriyaki, BBQ or Chesapeake style). The next time I am there, the Irish Oak Smoked Salmon Plate is going to be the ticket. The menu is well-rounded and reasonably priced.


The interior truly imitates the likes of a Dublin pub with lots of stained glass work in the light fixtures and in the windows, portraits of Irish icons and memorabilia on the walls and that warm pub feeling throughout. What can I say about a good Irish pubs bar that you don’t already know? Castlebay’s back bar is much like other Irish bars, including Old Town’s Murphy’s, with police/military patches from all over the country attached to it. The shelves display pretty much every Irish whiskey known to man and of course, taps of Guinness, Smithwick’s Ale, and Harp along with several domestic beers. I am a big fan of Magners Hard Cider and was surprised that these guys have England-based Strongbow on tap instead of its Irish counterpart. They do, however, have Magners in a 16 oz can but it just isn’t the same! The balance of the bar is rounded out with the rest of the usual suspects.


We have a new best friend in our bartender, Nikki. In true Irish fashion, she kept our glasses full and told us some good stories. On top of that, she made the whipped cream for the Irish coffee literally by hand with an oversized whisk (I was totally impressed since I use my electric mixer) in between setting up drinks and food for the early crowd. Everyone that was working that day was pretty amazing. The place got stacked to the rafters right before we had to leave and the staff was working like a well-oiled machine. Guess they are used to it, right?


We were entertained throughout the afternoon by the likes of Murphy’s Law, The Eastport Oyster Boys and Dublin 5. We have a special place in our hearts for the Oyster Boys – see the Personality Profile in this issue to see why. It was our first time listening to Murphy’s Law and Dublin 5 but it definitely will not be our last.


Take the time to spend an afternoon in your favorite Irish pub this month (or anytime for that matter) and soak in the spirit of Erin. Put Castlebay on your list of places to dine the next time you head toward the Annapolis part of the Bay. Tell them that the Old Town Crier sent you.




193A Main Street

Annapolis, MD 21401

(410) 626-0165




Mon-Thurs 11:30 am–12 pm

Fri-Sat 11:30 am–2 pm

Sun 11:00 am–12:00 pm


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