Where: 51 SE First Ave., 561 / 338-7566
The lowdown: How do you know that you’ve walked into a college bar? When there’s a guy sitting at the entryway carding everyone who walks through the door. I haven’t had to reach into my wallet before hitting the bar in years, and yet here I was, presenting this bouncer with my ID as I made my way into O’Brian’s Irish Pub.
O’Brian’s has been a part of the Boca bar-scene for quite some time, and it definitely shows. The interior is worn and dingy, and there is nothing that comfortable or inviting about the atmosphere.
The crowd reminded me of a high school cafeteria with different cliques taking up various spots throughout the small area. A group of guys in cowboy hats and boots played darts in one corner, while two young couples played oversized Jenga in another. A table filled with college-aged students overzealously ate and drank at a round table off to the side, occasionally shouting at the basketball game playing on the big-screen TV. Two heavily tattooed girls in ripped jeans talked quietly over a few beers, and a pack of middle-aged men took over the high-top table located front and center.
There is certainly no sign of Lily Pulitzer or Tommy Bahama within these walls, and that “Boca” essence is nowhere to be found. Smoke fills the room. Yes, customers at O’Brian’s are permitted to smoke. Ashtrays play the role of table centerpieces; the air reeks of cigarettes and salty fried food.
The intangibles: There is a full menu available including typical bar food: mozzarella sticks, french fries, quesadillas and onion rings ranging from $4 to $9. There are salads and sandwiches, burgers and wraps and “O’Brian’s World Famous” chicken wings, available in 10-, 20- or 50-piece portions. Wings come with celery and blue cheese, and your choice of hot, medium, mild, barbecue, teriyaki, honey or garlic sauce.
For the small amount of $175, you can order The Lucky Irishman: 20 wings and a bottle of Dom Perignon, though I’m not sure the surrounding clientele was the type to spend $175 on champagne and wings.
Seats at the bar were hard to find, but despite appearing busy, the all-female bar staff acknowledged us quickly and proceeded to ask for our IDs. Again?! There is no shortage of beer here, which is to be expected; it is an Irish pub after all. Favorites such as Fat Tire and Angry Orchard are on tap, among many other varieties. Tuesdays are a popular night for the college crowd; $2 drinks and a beer pong tournament with prizes throughout the night. Fridays are reserved for “Drunken Karaoke” and the infamous Liquor Pitchers for only $7.
If you can handle the smoke-filled, drab atmosphere, maybe you won’t mind O’Brian’s. But for me, one second of breathing in cigarette-filled air is one second too many.
For more on bars in Boca Raton, click here.