“Ree-Rah.” Pronunciation and location are all you really need to have some good craic (“crack,” sociable fun) at Rí Rá Irish Pub, opening March 17 in the Shoppes at Mandalay Place. Beer, whiskey, Irish vittles and live music will be served up day and night in an environment so authentic you can still smell the ink on the staff’s visas.
But look deeper—Rí Rá is stacked to its antique rafters with salvaged material from all over the Emerald Isle.
Borrowed from the Gaelic rí rá agus ruaile buaile (playful mischief and merriment), Rí Rá embodies the vision of partners David Kelly, Ciaran Sheehan and Jay Luther. This 12th location carries on Rí Rá’s tradition of sourcing authentic and often historic Irish materials and meticulously reconstructing them here. The whiskey display? A jewelry case from 1911 Dublin. The parquet floor? Harvested from Belfast’s Harland and Wolff shipyard, cradle of the Titanic.
Tasked with sourcing is Stuart Cellars, a sort of Irish “picker” who spends his time rooting around Ireland’s barns and theaters like a truffle hound on the make.
Alongside the U.S.’s first official Guinness brand store, Rí Rá guests find the Pub Shop. “This would be your quintessential country pub,” says Sheehan, with a bar on one side, a post office or general store on the other. Rí Rá’s Pub Shop features a bar (from his own aunt’s West Cork pub), cozy seating and displayed treasures—soaps, marmalade, distemper powders.
Farther back, the elegant Victorian bar features the Harland and Wolff floor, refined chandeliers, a Kilkenny limestone bar, reclaimed tile, and highboy chairs and tables. Rí Rá’s patron, St. Patrick, lives here, too, rendered in plaster at least 150 years ago, or so they say, and rescued from the back of a barn and a holdout former owner. “It took us a couple of ‘social sessions’ to agree on a price,” Sheehan says.
Next comes the Whiskey Bar. Rí Rá’s 130-label collection is believed to be the largest collection of Irish whiskey in the country, including a bottle of Knappogue Castle 1951. Here, a small stage awaits traditional Irish musicians and beyond, the formal dining room—outfitted in millwork from theaters including Dublin’s Olympia—flips late night to welcome live bands.
Lastly, a side room called the Parlor evokes Ireland of the late ’60s through ’80s through bric-a-brac, mod furnishings and retro posters. TV screens are everywhere—some even retract into the ceiling—perfectly outfitting Rí Rá for sporting events. One thing you will not see at Rí Rá is the news. Because a proper pub should offer “liberation from all the madness of the outside world,” says Sheehan, no news is good news.