The Blarney Stone

216 Carrall Street, Gastown
B $$$
Menus

The Blarney Stone is one of those permanent fixtures in the Vancouver night scene. Located in the heart of Gastown, it is a staple for university students partying downtown. While the crowd is usually fairly young, it is generally a blend of personalities ranging from the relaxed pub go-er to the hyperactive club dancer. This mix creates a welcoming and energetic atmosphere, allowing pretty much anyone to feel comfortable while there. Unless, of course, you are over 25 in which case you just feel old.

The line at The Blarney Stone is usually quite formidable if you do not arrive before 9. The stone faced security do a fantastic job at keeping the peace, though sometimes they can be a little too thorough. The gentleman that inspected my ID insisted that it was a fake since the picture, taken five years and three hair colours ago, looked nothing like me. It took a few more pieces of ID for me to pass through the dark wooden doors. Once inside there was a woman at a desk, to which one payed their cover ($10), and another gentleman checking stamps. One large circular bar sat right at the entrance and another in the back by the stage and the dance floor. The security force were positioned strategically around the pub to ensure that people wouldn’t dally in bottleneck areas, giving the bar an eerie slaughterhouse feel.

The drinks were fantastically over priced. After hearing an announcement for 2 for 1 shots, my friend and I went to go get some. I asked for a light one and the bartender shot me a judgmental look before pouring, from what I can tell, a shot of juice with some alcohol sprinkled in it. What was truly appalling was the $12 price tag. They had a rather good selection of beer on tap, however, the beer that was on special still came out to $5.50 a sleeve. They seemed to have some drink specials, though they were fairly arbitrary and were not posted anywhere. The bar-tending was amazingly quick, however, despite the crowd.

The music scene was an interesting mix. There was a cover band that would play around five or six songs at a time before giving way to the DJ. Generally the music was an odd mix between 90’s rock and modern top 40. The dance floor was generally full all night, and had a more of a group vibe than a meat market one. Overall, The Blarney Stone was a great place to go after you’ve had a couple drinks to dance and socialize. Don’t expect to be able to sit and chat, and don’t drink there unless you’d like to break the bank.

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The District

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13 Lonsdale ave
B+ $$$$
Menu

The District is one of the new swanky bars at the bottom of Lonsdale. After the city decided to renovate the dockyard area around lower Lonsdale, and develop much of the unused real estate into fancy condos, a few of these trendy social spots have popped up. The District seems to be the most popular of these new places, as every time we decide to stop by the place is packed and there is a waiting list. Luckily, the place lives up to the excitement.

Walking into the District one instantly feels a sense of claustrophobia. Since the restaurant is always busy, you can’t help but be jostled around as you are led to your table. The light wooden walls and high ceiling in the first room help to alleviate that feeling. However, if you are sat in the second room, with the long table, the decor changes to a dark wood and low ceiling. A small booth a few feet away from the long table houses to DJ that plays fairly terrible remixes. Thankfully, the music plays second to the chorus of conversation.

Parties under three are squeezed onto the “social table”, a high long table through the middle of the room. On busy nights the table is packed so closely that you could dunk your elbow in your neighbors food. This wouldn’t be terrible, the space not the dunking, if the bar was set in an urban neighborhood, where people are used to tight quarters, but in the ‘burbs people are used to large amounts of personal space. We got a few up-turned noses as we sat down next to two pristine blonds in their late Forties. The clientele was mostly comprised of similar people, wealthy mid-lifers desperately clinging to youth. Unfortunately, this usually reminds one of drinking with their parents. Thankfully, this also means that the menu is catered to people with taste and experience.

The food and drink at the district is quiet excellent. Fresh seafood and imaginative pub fare result in tough choices that have always left me satisfied. The district offers its patrons a full, and ever changing, charcuterie menu. The seasonal plates and drinks are written on the wall in chalk and change frequently. They have a large selection of micro-brewed and craft beers as well as hand crafted cocktails. While the food and drink are far from reasonably priced, at the District you defiantly get what you pay for.

The Metropole

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320 Abbott Street
Menu

As a fair warning before I start on this review, I am a little biased when it comes to The Met. This pub is my group of friends’ weekly stomping ground. For the last two years we have been coming here at least once a week. This, of course, resulted in us befriending the bartenders and DJ. After so many good nights in one place it is hard to write a fair handed review.

The food at The Met is really nothing special, however, the prices are what are extraordinary. The Met has a scaled food menu, the cheapest set of food options starting at $2.50 and the most expensive being $8. It is all typical pub food (pretzels, garlic fries, burgers, etc). Food specials, such as the $6 burger and beer, are common every day. While the food is not fantastic, it is not the over-greased and fried and salted food that you get for much more at other pubs.

The Met, like most pubs, have daily drink specials. They’re fairly simple, singles doubles and sleeves of beer, but they also have month long killer specials. For example, last month it was $3 September; all well drinks, lager, and certain hard bar were only $3. They also have nightcap, or just starting out, specials such as the beer and a shot for $8. On Tuesday the Met has it’s famous $2 beer night, which can understandably get a little rowdy. Other than the specials it’s nothing fancy.

The atmosphere at the met is very relaxed and casual. It is a neighborhood pub in a humble neighborhood on the edge of downtown so you could get anyone from a suit grabbing a beer after work to grubby punks rolling in around midnight. The DJs are all very friendly and take requests. The two regular bartenders are great guys but dislike “bros” so be warned. On slower nights they have a super Nintendo and an N64 hooked up to a couple TVs for people to play as well as free shuffle board. On weekends they clear out most of the tables to create a makeshift dance floor.

What I love about The Met are the characters. I have seen people from every class and creed in that dark little pub, however, I’ve never seen a fight. I have never seen someone teased, or shoved out of the way in the drink line, or threatened. People there just want to have a good time, and that’s why I go back there every week.

Raglan’s

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15 Lonsdale ave
C- $$$

Raglan’s is a bit of a North Shore legend. So much so that since I had moved to North Vancouver I had heard about it so many times I had to see what the fuss was about.

The exterior instantly let the patron know that this was a themed pub. The patio was surrounded by a bamboo gate and covered with thatched roofing, giving the impression of a beach-side bungalow. The bamboo theme carried on inside where fake palm trees, tiki masks, and surfboards welcome you. A large projection screen plays surf videos on the back wall and beach murals cover the walls. The menus are made out of a woven substance and the text is painted on.

There are really only young adults in this bar and the menu reflects it. Jäger is served on tap there and there are drink specials every day, displayed on a bamboo framed chalkboard on the wall. The food is your usual pub fare (burgers, sandwiches, pizza) with an “island” theme. What doesn’t reflect the youthful atmosphere are the prices. With $8 drinks and $12-18 appetisers, this bar would only be affordable to teens with too much money or carrer-ers (30-40).

Unfortunately, the prices do not reflect the quality of the food. The food is generally quite greasy and flavourless, over-fried and over-sauced. There are very few vegetarian options and all of the plates are overloaded with meat and starch, leaving you feeling bloated and disgusting. This place would be great as a hangover dive, if not for the prices.

What Raglans is most famous for are their fruit drinks. They come in three sizes: squall (single), hurricane (double), and monsoon (bowl). Once the kitchy appeal of a bowl of fruity alcohol had worn off, it was quite apparent that the drinks were made up of mostly concentrated fruit juice, sugar, and a bit of alcohol. These cocktails are tasty, but more than one or two will leave you with a terrible sugar headache. They have a very basic selection of beer, a list of which can be found on the wall rather than on the menu, all in bottles rather than on tap.

I’ve never stumbled upon a bar that was so well spoken of, yet so horribly disappointing. I’ve been to this pub three times now, each time on recommendation of different friends, and each time I’ve left with a sore stomach and an empty wallet.

Browns Social House (Lonsdale)

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1764 Lonsdale ave
C $$$   Menu

I wasn’t expecting anything when my fiends suggested that we go to Browns Social House. I had passed the Lonsdale location a few times on the way to work, and the sleek exterior and the large bold face luminescent sign instantly branded it as one of the new “trendy chic pubs” popping up around Vancouver. I haven’t seen them in any of the other cities I’ve been to, but I’m sure they’re around: the ones with the 18 year old female servers squeezed into a tight black dress and stilettos, flat ironed hair and abundant makeup. The same uninspired American-fusion menu with one or two items that make you go “huh?” And the overpriced drink menu with silly names and cocktails with more fruit and sugar than alcohol.

That’s where Browns got me though. While their drink menu was fairly standard, they had a pretty solid specials list. All day, every day they have a selection of drinks for $4: a lager, a belini (slurpee with booze), and a highball. They also have red, white, and pink sangria by the pitcher for $20. This, in my experience, is a rarity in Vancouver. A friend and I split the pink sangria and it was fantastic! They used a rose and mixed it with fresh citrus fruit and an orange/grapefruit juice.

The drink specials were really the only highlight of Browns. The food deserved an indifferent shrug, and not the $19 I payed for it. The atmosphere was a strange mix of young adults going for a drink with their friends, teenagers hoping not to get carded, and families with rambunctious children. I think it’s mostly the location that detracts from what Browns could be; the restaurant tries very hard to market itself as a pub, which is very difficult to do when the location is smack dab in the centre of suburbia.

With the overpriced food and the odd mix of clientele in the pub I would only go back if it was only for a couple of cheap drinks from their specials menu before moving on to a better place.