February is pretty much the month of hibernation in the South. We’re impatient to get on with warmer weather—especially since the delight of the holidays and the suspense of the Super Bowl is over. February is that month of doldrums; there are some days when only one thing will help: a change of scenery.
That, and comfort food. Anything buttery, creamy, cheesy or crispy that offers nostalgia and warms the belly. And if you can find a place that offers comfort food with beer, live music and games, even better. Some pubs even welcome dogs. Here, six pubs we love.
328 W. Morgan St.
Check out the tap wall made of pennies or nurse your beer on one of the comfy couches, but definitely make sure to peruse all the plates on the wall of this pub. The “saucers” represent members of the UFO Club ($18 to join), all of whom have consumed at least 200 beers at the Flying Saucer.
And don’t even think about bar peanuts here. The soft pretzels are everybody’s favorite, says McKinzie Barnum, “beer goddess” at the Flying Saucer. “Our pretzels are a big thing; they’re fluffy and the sauce is good,” she says. “You can get cheese ribboned in, spicy mustard. We make our own cream cheese and you can get that too.” Other favorites include the Grilled Cheese served with Tomato Soup, Shepherd’s Pie and a German plate.
On Sundays, N.C. pints are $3; Mondays, nearly all drafts are $3, and Tuesday nights bring Bar Trivia.
311 Glenwood Ave.
A fire in 2012 devastated the original Hibernian, but the rebuild brought it back better than ever with a spacious rooftop patio. Inside, you’ll still find dark wood, cozy nooks and crimson red décor.
“Even though we’re bigger, we still try to maintain that small, country pub feel,” says General Manager Gerry McDermott. The menu features the traditional Irish staples guests love, including the Irish Breakfast and Shepherd’s Pie.
There’s something going on most days of the week here—Bingo Tuesday, Trivia Wednesday, live Celtic music on Sunday and $5 build-your-own burgers on Monday.
This Irish pub is well into its second decade in Raleigh, due in large part to its traditional “public house” feel, says McDermott. “You can either come in with a bunch of people and have a good time or you can sit at the bar by yourself and have a good time.”
6010 Falls of Neuse Road
A local family favorite, North Ridge Pub is often described as a “little gem,” where you’ll find weekly brunch, crab cakes and homemade pimento cheese—perfect on the pimento cheese bacon burger. Nachos and cheese fries are big favorites year round as are the mac and cheese, meatloaf or Philly cheese steak.
Although it’s not always on the menu, the baked ziti is a huge hit, says hostess Chloe Hegel: “It’s very good. When we make it, it goes quick.”
A new location is larger to accommodate more diners. And though the pub doesn’t host weekly events, the relaxed environment offers a comfortable space for conversation. It’s also a great takeout option.
10370 Moncreiffe Road—Brier Creek
3107 Grace Park Drive—Morrisville
Trali’s head chef, Eamonn Kelly, trained in Galway, Ireland, and takes pride in making traditional Irish dishes using locally-sourced food.
“We do a nice version of Shepherd’s Pie with grass-fed ground beef,” says co-owner Martin Mahon.
The seasonal menu changes every six to eight weeks and is more upscale than traditional pub fare. One recent menu included Chapel Hill Creamery Brie with crostinis and strawberry preserves as an appetizer. Another favorite: the $10 Rasher Stacker with Irish rashers, turkey, ham and cheddar on Sourdough.
On Mondays, all N.C. beers are $3, and Wednesdays offer half-price bottles of wine while Thursdays bring $5 Irish Whiskey. Catch Pub Trivia on Monday’s at 9 p.m. (with a $100 prize).
909 Spring Forest Road
You wouldn’t think to pair Mediterranean and Irish fare on the same menu, but it works! Try the traditional Fish & Chips or Bangers and Mash or go for the beef kebab, hummus, gyros and Tzatziki Dip. Bartender Courtney Scharinger says the eclectic menu offers dishes from other regions as well.
“The Bourbon Street Medley is my favorite,” she says. “It’s got a Cajun cream sauce, three-cheese tortellini, chicken, kielbasa sausage, mushrooms and onions.”
Daily specials include $3 pints; live music draws a crowd on Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights as does Tuesday’s Open Mic night. Get there early. The dog-friendly patio with fire pits is a great option any time of year. S&S just added a bottle shop, and it’s a big hit with patrons.
“We really get to know our regulars,” says Scharinger. “Most people want to keep drinking after they leave a bar; instead of having to stop at the store, you can check out the craft bottle shop before you head out.”
8304 Falls of Neuse Road
Owner and chef Dan Hurley says there’s one thing you won’t find on The Piper’s Tavern menu: Kale.
“We’re pretty much carnivores, and our menu is old-school,” says Hurley. “We roast all our meats in house, I grind all my own sausages, I corn my own beef, I smoke my own pastrami—a lot of things from scratch. Gluten runs free up and down my menu.”
Serving traditional food in traditional ways is a strategy that’s worked for 17 years. On Tuesday nights, Hurley makes international or regional cuisine. He’s a stickler for genuine dishes.
“Whether it’s German or low country or Chinese, it’s all authentic, and it’s all high end,” says Hurley. “By doing that, I teach myself, and I teach my cooks. We educate ourselves and hopefully get a little treat to the public.”
There’s always something going on at Piper’s, whether it’s live music, Sunday brunch or Sunday Trivia with “Big Slow Tom.”
“He packs the place,” says Hurley. “Between Sunday brunch buffet and this trivia, we’ve turned Sundays into a fantastic day.”