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Bad to the Bone: An Irish Pocket in Prenzlauer Berg

By Brendan Power . March 9, 2016

With the annual Irish piss-up  cultural celebration that is Saint Patrick’s Day just around the corner, we thought maybe it was time to shine some light on a little Irish-tinged Berlin enclave in Prenzlauer Berg that not all of our readers may be familiar with, namely the Badfish Bar on Stargarderstr and its close-by culinary chum, Salt and Bone on Schliemannstrasse.

Perhaps the secret to these relatively new establishments’ success is that, unlike their more obvious Celtic brethren in Berlin (read: awful Irish pubs), you probably can’t tell that they are Irish run and owned premises at all. Apart from on St. Patrick’s Day, there is none of the usual green tack and faux-Irish schmalz festooned on the walls, no constant loop of diddly-aye music, but, what is present each and every time you walk through the doors is a genuine and heartfelt Irish-style welcome and convivial atmosphere, aka “having the craic”.

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Badfish Bar
Opened in 2012, Badfish has already achieved the honour of being one of a few Berlin watering-holes to make it into the World’s Best Bars list, and with a no-nonsense attitude, fantastic selection of craft beers and spirits, free popcorn and friendly staff, it’s easy to see why. In January 2015 they even hosted a masterclass by owners of the world-renowned NYC bar, The Dead Rabbit, which attracted bartenders and mixologists from all over Berlin.

Owner, Dubliner Morgan Smyth (above), explained to us that leaving his newly settled surroundings of Kreuzberg after two years, and opting to open a bar in Prenzlauer Berg, felt like a bit of a risk at a time when seemingly all the late-night action, particularly with younger ex-pats, was to be found on the other, grungier side of town. Smyth also explained how this Brooklyn style bar, known for its great beers and cocktails, became such a firm local favourite, but it wasn’t always the case to begin with:

We had some very loyal regulars from early on but the first year was hard, I must admit. We were met with a frosty reception from some (but not all) of the other bars, restaurants and businesses in the area and even had notes and posters left on our door saying “scheiss Ausländer” and stuff like that.

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“However, we soon found that this was not the general consensus of the neighborhood and when we got people in the door they loved the place – even local Germans. Word of mouth started to spread and we have snowballed since. For the most part the other businesses have realised that we are bringing more business to the area which is good for everyone.”

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Smyth also told us how he knew the area was on the up and up when his fellow North Dubliners decided to open a restaurant just a few blocks away:

When Andy and Becky announced that they were going to do their own place nearby, we knew that it would be great for Badfish and the neighborhood to have them there […] and that whatever they were going to do would raise the bar and draw people in.”

“Since Salt n Bone opened last year it has been amazing – having a group of Irish mates around the corner, being able to help each other out when we’re in a tight spot, sending customers back and forth (“Bad to the Bone and back again”), or even just to have some friendly faces to share a feierabend beer with, it feels quite unique and special.”

“In the past two and a half years, lots of great places have started opening up in the area and Prenzlauer Berg is no longer just thought of as being full of coffee shops and Kinderwagen, but somewhere you can get a variety of kick ass food and drinks. I firmly believe that rising tides lift all boats, and we do our best to help out any new cool businesses in our area and I think we are on our way to having a real sense of community that you would get back home, of people from all over doing all sorts of cool shit together.”

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Salt n Bone
As mentioned above, Salt and Bone is the second Irish-run location to open in this part of Prenzlauer Berg. Owner, Andrew Costello, told us that the concept behind the premises was to open a fun kind of place that falls half-way between a restaurant and a bar, with the food focusing on classic pub dishes which are then elevated to the higher standard one would expect from a quality restaurant. Like the nearby Badfish, their bar is also well stocked with 6 rotating beer taps and 30 bottles, ranging from American craft to smaller local beer, while the spirit selection focuses on whiskey and gin, with homemade syrups and liqueurs for their excellent cocktails.

Lamb Shank

When asked why he and his business partner, Rebecca Lynch, decided to set up shop in this particular area of Berlin, Costello had this to say:

“We have both lived in the area for the past 7 years and thought that the gastropub concept would work well here. Seeing how well Badfish was doing, we knew the area was ready for something new. Ourselves and Morgan had known each other for years, we come from the same part of Dublin, and I had actually gone to school with Morgan’s siblings, but we only met in Berlin for the first time.

“The thought of being able to open a place close to the Badfish was really appealing, as we knew that both concepts could feed off each other well. And they really have. We get lots of people in for food who are looking for bars to go afterwards, and Badfish gets lots of people in for early drinks, who are then looking to move on to a nice place to eat. We now find that we share a lot of the same customers.”

Half Rack of Ribs

“I think what both places have really shown the locals is that there is more to Irish-run establishments than the typical Irish pub. Both Badfish & SnB in my opinion represent more the kind of place you might find in Ireland rather than an Irish pub you see outside of the country.”

If you want to join in the fun on the most of Irish day of the year, join the Badfish St. Patrick’s Day shenanigans here!

Badfish Bar
Stargarder Str. 14
10437 Berlin

Salt n Bone
Schliemannstraße 31
10437 Berlin

2 thoughts on “Bad to the Bone: An Irish Pocket in Prenzlauer Berg”

  1. Hi Brendan as a person permanently living in Berlin I am looking for a decent Irish bar in the city (loved Barry Mc Cormacks (McCormacks) bar in NYC so you know the type) I was delighted to be directed in the direction of the Badfish Bar and the Salt n Bone Bar (my own lifetime “locals” in Dublin are O’Briens on Sussex Terrace and Smyths on Haddington Road). I’ll visit in the next few days but was curious as to if they are “Smoking Bars”,hopefully not but can you let me know and do you show the 6 nation Rugby matches ?
    Thank you

    Mel

  2. Hi Mel, as you may have gathered I’m very rarely a fan of the “traditional” identikit foreign Irish Pub, and Berlin doesn’t have many that change that opinion, but if that’s what you want Blarney Irish Pub is probably the best of a bad bunch and should be showing the rugby. Sadly for those who value their lungs, most bars in Berlin are smoking, especially after 10pm. Hope you have fun in Berlin!

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