Seamus McCaffrey's continues to offer a taste of Ireland, 25 years and counting

Seamus McCaffrey’s Irish Pub and Restaurant has been a downtown Phoenix landmark for 25 years. The bar offers patrons a small taste of Ireland, from classic old country staples like fish and chips and boxtys to live Celtic music on the weekends. Seamus’s would be nothing without its perfect pints of Guinness.

The bar’s story began with its previous owner and namesake, Seamus McCaffrey, who opened the bar near Monroe and Central in 1991 with its first general manager Frank Murray, both of whom came from the Dubliner, another Phoenix pub.

“Seamus was the first man to import Guinness into the state,” said current general manager Mealidia Kennedy, who is also Murray’s granddaughter. “About 15 years ago, he decided to sell the place and go build Rosie McCaffrey’s. So he offered the place to Frank, and he bought it.”

The pub’s walls are covered in patches from different law enforcement agencies from across the country. Kennedy said Murray’s father was a policeman in New York and initially hung patches that were close to him.

“As people would come in through the years, they’d want theirs hung,” she said. “We literally get them in the mail now almost every day. We got people ripping them off their jackets and handing them to me.”

Kennedy said before Murray passed away in 2011, he brought on longtime bartender Andrew Martich as a partner and co-owner. She said Seamus McCaffrey’s is a “bartender’s bar” because the people who ran the pub were always current or former bartenders.

“All we’ve had running the place are former bartenders,” she said. “When I’m not here, my managers are the bartenders. Anything happens that they can’t handle, they call me, but other than that, they take care of it.”

Seamus McCaffrey’s employs some of the most experienced bartenders around, including Randy Morris, who has been tending bar for 22 years. Morris demonstrated the proper way to pour Guinness from the tap, saying an improper pour can degrade the beer’s taste.

“A traditional Guinness pour takes about five minutes,” he said. “You have to wait for it to turn black to get the right consistency.”

Morris waited until the pint became entirely black with the perfect amount of foam on top. He then used a trickle of beer to draw a shamrock in the foam.

“The shamrock, it looks cool, but it also lets you know that I know what I’m doing by pouring it,” he said. “If it’s not poured correctly, it’s going to taste different.”

Although Seamus McCaffrey’s has the best pints of Guinness in Phoenix, the pub offers much, much more. Aside from beer, the bar offers almost every kind of cocktail imaginable as well as a wall-to-wall, international selection of whiskey. The menu is an extensive selection of traditional pub favorites, including the obligatory fish and chips, boxtys and shepherd’s pies.

Ultimately, Seamus McCaffrey’s succeeds in replicating the cozy atmosphere of an old Irish public house. Everyone who comes in feels at home, from the after-work crowd looking to unwind, to students from ASU’s nearby downtown campus (“before and after each test, and sometimes during,” Kennedy joked).

Even after 25 years, Seamus McCaffrey’s continues to be cherished by those sitting at the bar and by those working behind it.

“I love it,” bartender Nissa Murphy said. “I come from Wisconsin, and it reminds me of any pub back home, more so than any other place I’ve worked (in Phoenix).”

Seamus McCaffrey’s Irish Pub and Restaurant is open 365 days a year from 10 a.m to 2 a.m.

Related links:

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Reach the reporter at idickins@asu.edu or follow @sailormouthed92 on Twitter.

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