I’m sorry, but I feel like I have to say this every year. I can’t really handle St. Patrick’s Day. I guess if you own a bar, it’s, well, a leeetle post-spring-break boost in revenue, but, geez, the number of total amateurs who put on their green attire and show up can be a real nightmare. I asked a bartender last week if the Irish pub he worked at was doing some kind of St. Paddy’s Day blowout. Yeah, he said, but he wasn’t too thrilled. “I guess we’ll have a meeting,” he mused. “I kinda hope we keep it low-key.”
I laughed. The barkeep’s name was John, and it was his first night working on his own at Hooligans Pub in Arlington. Open for nearly 15 years, Hooligans is an Irish pub in what passes for Arlington’s downtown section, and if you’re of a certain mind, that probably doesn’t sell you on it very much, which I think is kind of unfair. Sure, it’s an Irish pub and, as such, is practically wall-to-wall in dark-stained oak, and there’s probably a good chance that if you go next St. Paddy’s Day, some drunk idiot will ask if you’re Irish and then tell you how his older brother Sean had season tickets to the Celtics one year and then make you do some slurred Bennigansian Irish blessing. If those sorts of things make you feel as if you’re at some corny Shamus O’Barfigan’s or whatever, I can’t do anything for you. But what about a nice, impeccably clean, nonsmoking bar with 16 taps of carefully curated beers and a robust selection of delicious brown liquor? If I throw in some inventive burgers, will that work?
Hooligans has all of that and more. John (who at one point worked at The Flying Saucer on Lake Ray Hubbard) and I talked beer, but I was more interested in the shelves of whiskey behind him. I was stoked to see, among lots of other labels, bottles of Rebecca Creek and Old Forester bourbon and Aberfeldy scotch (as if I drank scotch). Above the liquor shelves were a couple of TVs, one with boxing on it, the other with hockey. It was the kind of programming I’d expect to see in an Irish pub in Boston but without having to hear about Curtis Stevens’ (or Shawn Thorton’s) wicked-awesome fight.
Up a narrow flight of stairs is a loft of sorts overlooking the rest of the room through a low railing. I could see some more TVs, and though Hooligans advertises pool and foosball, I saw neither. The men’s room, though — wow. Super-clean. And quiet. Right up there with The Abbey Pub’s.
Along with best bar bathroom in our annual Best of Fort Worth issue, Hooligans could make a run at best burger. I’d eaten a huge bowl of pho at Pho 95 earlier, so even thinking about eating again made me sleepy. But I perused Hooligans’ menu, anyway, and the first thing I saw was the Pimp My Fried: essentially every fried item on the appetizer menu dumped into a basket, possibly one with an experimental subwoofer or a Playstation 2 embedded inside and possibly served by Xhibit. The pub serves burgers with names like Enough Said (topped with cheddar, bacon-ranch sauce, and potato chips), the Sexy Hawaiian (jalapeño-jack, teriyaki sauce, pineapple salsa, and prosciutto), and the Bacon Bomb (self-explanatory).
After drinking a Jack and water, I sipped on an Old Forester neat. I could see how this place could potentially clog with ding-dongs wanting Jäger Bombs and blood, but, man, for a quiet drink of something nice on a weeknight, Hooligans far exceeded my expectations. Even if I had to spend my second-least-favorite bullshit holiday there, I’d still probably have a good time. Fookin’-A, right? — Steve Steward
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