Food & Drink

Review: At Mick O’ Shea’s in Mt. Vernon, The Emerald Isle Meets Baltimore

A mainstay for decades, O’Shea’s is a wonderful blend of traditional Irish pub and Charm City neighborhood bar.
A cold one on tap at Mick O'Shea's. —Photography by Justin Tsucalas

While Baltimore residents tend to think there’s only one Baltimore, across the Atlantic sits a village on the southwest coast of Ireland with the same name. If one of those County Cork Baltimoreans somehow wandered into Mick O’Shea’s in our fair town, we think they’d love the place for the same reasons we do.

A mainstay in Mt. Vernon for decades, O’Shea’s is a wonderful blend of traditional Irish pub and Charm City neighborhood bar. Harp is on tap along with local favorites like Peabody Heights. On a shelf on the back wall, above where the requisite Guinness advertisements hang, stands a row of Orioles bobbleheads. Fish and chips and shepherd’s pie emerge from the kitchen, but so do burritos and cheesesteaks. There are maps of Ireland on the mirrors behind the bar. A Ravens banner hangs in front of one.

“What we try to do is take the best from what we understood an Irish pub to be, which is a friendly, relaxed atmosphere,” says co-owner David Niehenke. “We’re not pretentious, we’re nuts and bolts. It’s like an old pair of blue jeans. It’s never going to be the coolest thing, but it’s always solid.”

Niehenke and his sister, Stephanie Webber, bought the bar in 2002 from Mike O’Shea and a group of investors who opened it in the mid-1990s. Before that, it was called McGinn’s and was where former Mayor and Governor Martin O’Malley used to perform with his band. In all its incarnations, it’s been a favorite for a mix of downtown workers, residents, tourists, people on their lunch break from jury duty…you get the idea.

“I don’t think I’ve ever been here without doing a Bomb,” one neighbor at the bar declared on a recent Sunday afternoon, referring to the drink in which a shot of Jameson whiskey and Bailey’s Irish Cream is dropped into a glass of stout.

Another time, at lunch, two lawyerly looking men to our right discussed an ongoing court case, while a woman to our left lamented the state of her relationship.

“We have a big group of regulars, but we also get a lot of travelers and people coming into town for sporting events,” Niehenke says. “You can always find nice company here.”

And good food and drink. The menu, which has standard Irish fare along with burgers, wings, and the like, also features more adventurous entrees like jambalaya. Whiskey and beer are usually the drinks of choice here. Predictably, on St. Patrick’s Day the place is packed and the Guinness flows. The prior Sunday, when the city’s St. Patty’s Day Parade marches down Charles Street right past the front door, business is even brisker.

Those days are fun, for sure, but they can be overwhelming. We prefer to grab a stool at the bar during a slower time, when we can order a Reuben, wash it down with a Smithwick’s, and strike up conversation with a fellow patron.

That’s an experience a Baltimorean from anywhere can appreciate.