I’ve only been there twice, but I’m a little smitten with Tara’s Tipperary Tavern right now.
Before I get started, I want to warn you that this isn’t a place you can keep paleo (unless you order the obligatory salad).
That’s not what this is about. There are things that sometimes trump food choices. Traditional Irish pubs with a community feel are a key part of my 20%.
My cousin Diana was in town. She’s from LA and had never had a clam cake. We were down at the beach in Matunuck, and stopped by Tara’s on the way home. I’d seen the place before—a beachfront bar next to the (in)famous Ocean Mist—and they had clam cakes and chowder. Perfect.
While waiting for our take-out, I got a little gumption and decided to test their claim as a “family” pub. We sat down with my 2-year-old son, Desmond, and ordered three drinks—two beers and an orange juice. I had the juice. Ha ha no I didn’t.
I’m generally pretty happy in Irish pubs, if they at least try to be authentic. I’m not really into shamrocks and car bombs (well once in a while is ok). Tara’s is great though—welcoming, friendly waitstaff; a regular, diverse clientele (not just college kids or sports guys or whatever); and a good pour of Guinness. A real neighborhood watering hole, hang-out spot, even “community center” if you’re feeling particularly poetic.
And Desmond loved it. He had a great view and ate it up: the action at the bar, the adjacent patrons, the singer-guitarist perched on a stool high above and behind the bar…
And the staff and other patrons ate him up. He got so much attention, which made him even happier. People fawning over and even tussling his hair is standard wherever we go but here his bright ginger hair melted even more hearts. People talked to him and smiled at him and smiled at me, and I didn’t get one dirty look or questioning stare.
We took out our take-out, and the clam cakes were an exciting lunchbox addition for a couple of days.
When the two of us went in one Saturday afternoon, it was packed. The two tables by the door were free, though, so we grabbed one. Desmond was again immediately comfortable and therefore charming. He made BFFs with the waitresses again, and turned heads as he waltzed up and down the bar, with me in tow.
As he was goofing off by the steps to the forbidden back door (they are still recovering from hurricane damage), I read a bit of a newspaper article framed on the wall. It talked about how Tara’s—then Joyce’s Family Pub—had won Best Irish Coffee in Rhode Island. It made me wish I’d gotten that instead of my pint of Guinness. I read about Tara, raised in Ireland, in South County since her teen years.
Walking back to our table, a woman began to chat up my kid, and I saw that it was Tara herself. I told her very quickly about my upcoming trip to Ireland (I find it hard to not talk about it), and she told me about her own upcoming trip there.
She sat with us, coloring on a placement with Desmond. Well, she colored on a placement and tried to get Desmond to join her, but he was getting punchy and in no mood to do anything as prosaic as color on a placement… Dump over the box of 64 crayons and frantically scatter them about? Yes, that was more his speed.
I told Tara about my test of the “family” claim. “Oh yes, I love it when kids run around here!” she said. “You missed it, sometimes there’s like five or six of them.” She said that’s what she wanted it to be like—a traditional family pub—because that’s what it was like when she was growing up in Ireland.
Mission accomplished. Tara told Desmond to come back. He will, certainly. We will. I might even like to go there without him some night.
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