We slide across buttery leather benches into a cocoon of beveled glass and mahogany that reaches 16 feet overhead. A snug. Apart from the bar. But somehow a part of it.
Kieran Folliard, one of the owners of The Local, settles back and stares into the distance. “It was a gray November day in 1995.” He squeezes his chin. “I’m pretty sure it was a Thursday.”
The words come out like a uncertain, foggy memory. But it feels true. True as gravity. As though every legitimate Irish pub must trace its origins back to a gray November Thursday.
Folliard nods toward the office towers across Nicollet Mall. “None of those buildings were there. It was just these low, gray, two-story structures.” He points. “I stood at the corner there and looked across at this building and thought: ‘That would make a great place for an Irish pub.'”
For an Irish pub, there is a distinct lack of shamrocks and leprechauns and other insults to our intelligence.
Instead we get long, convenient stretches of nicked wood surfaces on which to rest a pint. We get stained glass, stout barstools, a soaring bar back carved and curved and grooved and dotted with green bottles of Jameson Irish Whiskey. We get nooks and crannies carefully configured for hiding away from the expectations of spouses and supervisors. We get a man alone at the bar with the day’s newspaper folded in one hand and a beer in the other. Authentic Irish details.
Our pints arrive and a bit of beer sloshes over the lip as they land. The table shrugs it off as it has a thousand times before. An aged slab of wood supported by a gnarled, curled iron base that seems as though it’s taken root in the terrazzo floor.
Folliard palms his Guinness and eyes the ceiling impossibly far above us. “The roof had literally fallen in. The windows were these rickety old things. Everything was higgledy-piggledy.”
In the rubble were two chandeliers caked in dirt. Rather than toss them in the nearest dumpster, Folliard took them to be cleaned up. The man who restored them offered him $7,500 to take them off his hands. “I told him I’ll call him if things get really bad.” He presses his eyes into a devilish squint and smiles. “I still have his card.”
We passed under the chandeliers when we walked in.
“The doors opened in December of 1997, and we’re still hoping to be here. That’s all we can say.” There’s plenty of wood to knock on but Folliard settles for rapping his knuckles on his head.
The Local is the number one seller of Jameson Irish Whiskey in the world, four years running. To commemorate this there are nondescript solid brass plates cemented directly into the terrazzo floor. One for each year.
Nothing here is easily removable. Nothing is built to be temporary.
There’s a pervasive sense of permanence here. As though the pub has stood for a hundred years and will stand a hundred more. A constant comfortable refuge for our grandchildren’s grandchildren to duck into on some gray November day.
Probably a Thursday.
BEST BET: The lines are cleaned obsessively here, so a Guinness served in a 20-oz. “pint” glass is guaranteed to please. But the Big Ginger is their trademark drink. Literally. It’s trademarked. According to the menu: “Jameson with ginger ale, served over ice with a lemon & a lime.”