The Old Stand is one of Dublin's most favoured social haunts.
While my visit to the Old Stand was brief (20 minutes, to be exact), I am certain to return upon my next trip to Dublin. As one of the stops on the Dublin Literary Pub Crawl, the Old Stand is unique in that the bar is actually two bars with a split down the middle: the Old Stand on one half and the Select Bar on the other. The Old Stand is a great place to take a load off and enjoy a quiet pint on one of their many comfortable couches, while the Select Bar is a great place to have a chat with the locals and to absorb Dublin's vibrant pub culture. Whatever your preference, the Old Stand delivers and is especially tough to beat when the rugby's on.
The Old Stand is located at the corner of Exchequer Street and St Andrew Street, just across from the International Bar. Step in through gray wooden façade on the St Andrew Street side, past the signpost featuring a rugby ball and the crests of Ireland, England, Scotland, and Wales, and you'll find a wooden, horseshoe-shaped bar with its old-fashioned green lamps hanging over it that anchors the Old Stand. Grab a stool at the bar or, if one's free, take a seat at one of the plethora of comfortable couches around the room with their small wooden tables and tiny little stools placed in front of them. Otherwise, standing in the narrow aisles can be a challenge. As you're enjoying a pint o' the black stuff and waiting for your order of food, take in the track-lit paintings by Fergus Ryan and photographs of auld Dublin that hang around the room upon rose-colored and dark wood-paneled walls. One of these photos depicts the pub taken in July 1927 as the funeral cortage of the assassinated Minister for Justice, Kevin O'Higgins, was about to pass the premises en route to Glasnevin Cemetery.
A short staircase leads down from the Old Stand into the black & white tiled Select Bar. Here, an ornate gold-framed mirror hangs from mint-painted wall amongst more paintings of old Dublin and a plaque depicting a spoon. Red flower-like lights are mounted on the wall between large plate glass window with "Select Bar" written upon one and thin black columns hold up the ceiling. Another u-shaped wooden bar juts out from the north wall and is surrounded by padded wooden barstools. From this vantage point, check out the ancient, intricately carved bar back that holds ornately decorated china, bottles o' booze, and a somewhat newer cash register. Additional seating can be found at the padded benches up against the dark wooden-paneling that runs around the perimeter of the room. Also of note is the 1996 Ireland vs. Scotland rugby football signed by the Irish national team, which is mounted in a glass case in the northwest corner of the room at the top of the stairs leading down to the rather scary men's loo. The much nicer women's bathroom can be accessed from the Old Stand, back up the stairs. The ball is your first clue that this is the place to watch international rugby matches and Gaelic Football.
Hungry? You're in luck. The Old Stand offers a good variety of steaks (6 oz, 12 oz, ham, chicken, and salmon), salads, and sandwiches (prawn, smoked or fresh salmon), served from lunchtime through the evening. As for the crowd, it's a mix of business people, diners, theatre-goers, and a few tourists. Large rugby crowds consisting of fans and players converge on game days, so you might need a thick skin at these times. In fact, the name "Old Stand" is derived from a now demolished rugby stand on the Lansdowne Road. While the Old Stand website promotes, "a location which is enhanced in a location which is the epicentre of the Dublin ragtrade, attracting probably a wider female clientele than most city pubs," the DublinPubs.net website has this to say: "Fairly quiet pub. Small groups or couples dominate. Serves very much as a stepping stone pub. One drink and your gone, though that doesn't mean it's bad. Scoring: No way." I'd go with the latter for advice.
According to the Old Stand website, large crowds were initially attracted to where the bar now stands to listen to the wit and cynicism of John Travere who espoused from his shoe stand, at first for his patrons but then for the benefit of whoever happened by the "old stand." John Cox took over in the Victorian days of 1885, and decided that there was more money to be made from drink than food, as the premises had served as both grocery store and bar; people invariably paid for their pint but were somewhat slower and more reluctant to pay their grocery bills. Some years later, the premises became known as "The Monico" a name which remained until the 1930's. The Old Stand his since come under the ownership of the Doran family, who also owns the legendary Davy Byrnes.
Today, the Old Stand and Select Bar is a stop along the Dublin Literary Pub Crawl. Here, they claimed the Brendan Behan drank there when he wasn't at nearby McDaids – or at least that's what they said and, hey, us tourists will believe everything. They also noted that Irish revolutionary Michael Collins worked nearby and patronized the pub regularly and held informal meetings of the outlawed IRB (Irish Republican Brotherhood). In recognition of its notoriety as a fine Dublin pub, the Old Stand was recommended by Georgina Campbell's Jameson Guide to Ireland 2000 and noted for its food in Egor Ronay's the 1997 Jameson guide. The only thing that somewhat disturbs me about the Old Stand is its moniker: "Possibly the oldest public house in Ireland." While the stand is indeed old by over 300 years, the Brazen Head is clearly Dublin's oldest pub having been established, almost inconceivably, during the middle ages (!!!) in 1198. Regardless, whether its the food, rugby or craic, the Old Stand is a great pub and worth a visit. For more information, check out the Old Stand website. Go Wolfhounds!
"We eventually picked a place at random, making a call upon The Old Stand Public House at 37 Exchequer Street... Our first pints were consumed, immediately realizing that the Guinness does taste different over there... a bit smoother, with a lingering finish..."