Bar review: Delia Foley's is Irish all the way

New South Baltimore watering hole has all the fixings of a typical Emerald Isle-themed pub

February 10, 2011|By Erik Maza, The Baltimore Sun

The bar at 1439 S. Charles St. has gone by different names over the past couple of years.

Until 2008, it was the Fort Charles Pub. Then, it was Taps. When they started renovating it in November, its new owners were going to call it Catherine's Pub.

But a month later, they switched permanently to Delia Foley's. What kind of bar is it? What else could it be but an Irish pub?

As a concept bar, it works. From its name to its decor, it plays the Irish pub role so well it practically belongs in a Jim Sheridan movie.

So well, in fact, it's almost like the owners were grooming it to sell, lock, stock and concept. And — surprise! — they are: Just three months after they bought it in August, they started putting ads on Craigslist, offering the bar at $75,000 more than they paid for it.

The downside, of course, is that once (or if) they do sell, we'll all have to learn a new name for it. For now, let's just call it New Taps, and stick with that.

Anyone in the market for a movie-perfect Irish bar won't have to make any changes here. New Taps looks and sounds like a prototype, which is a good thing if you're looking for an Irish Olive Garden, and a bad thing if you're looking for something more personal.

The new owners — Chris Reda and Marc McFaul, who also run Ropewalk Tavern and Stalking Horse — bought the bar in August for $450,000, renovated it and quietly opened it in mid-January.

Originally, they said, they were going to just remodel the exterior. But from the looks of it, they went further, as if they wanted to out-Irish the city's many longstanding pubs.

Housed in South Baltimore in a hulking building called the Craftsmen Club that dates to 1920 — according to property records — its exterior was painted in a light shamrock green and a few Irish motifs.

Inside, the ceiling is covered in the (reproduced) flags of Irish infantry brigades from the Civil War. Save for a mural in the center of the bar, the interior is two-toned: The long hall-like space is flanked by one green wall and one orange.

On tap are the usual suspects: Guinness, Kilkenny, Smithwick's; there are also $3 Jameson shots and drinks on Wednesdays. In other words, there's nothing here that you won't find at Mick O'Shea's or James Joyce, despite the owners' best efforts.

One distinction might be the crowd, which is young — the kinds of people whose favorite pastimes include drinking Bud Light, listening to jam bands and grading girls in line for the bathroom.

The owners seem to want it that way. They've outfitted the place with three TVs, loud music and tiny restrooms.

At one point last Friday, there were at least 10 young women waiting to use the john, within eyeshot of the arcade games and dart board at the end of the bar. There are also tables, but it's doubtful you'd be able to hear what anyone's saying over the music.

Beer at the bar seems to be in keeping with collegiate tastes. This is not the bar for craft beer snobs; the trash cans were filled to the rim with bottles of Natty Boh and Bud.

Though the bar has a rotating menu of 16 taps that includes local microbrews as well — Heavy Seas and Flying Dog, among them — when I visited, nothing local was offered. Neither was National Bohemian on draft, by the way.

Prices are in keeping with the neighborhood — $5 for a 16-ounce glass of Yuengling. During happy hour, Bud Light and Yuengling can be sold for as little as $1.50, depending on the day of the week. Some history: That's what a bottle of domestic beer cost in the days of Fort Charles Pub.

If you liked the old Taps, you'll probably like this one, too. Much of the old spirit remains. The new owners have just made it more customer-friendly with the new paint job, the spiffed-up Irish decor and large selection (25) of chicken wings.

Just don't get attached to the name.

If you go

Delia Foley's is located at 1439 S. Charles St. Hours are 4 p.m.-2 a.m. Mondays through Fridays; and noon-2 a.m. Saturdays and Sundays. Call 443-682-9141.

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