Jun 5, 2014

Finding Fenian’s in Jackson, Miss.

When looking for things to do in Jackson, Miss., an Irish bar is probably not the first place that comes to mind.  But, my friends and I dare to be different, so in our quest to keep our first night of vacation going after dinner at Burgers and Blues, we discovered Fenian’s Pub.  And I am glad we made this stop on the way back to our hotel – Fenian’s was a real find.

Sofa Kings (Jackson, Miss. version)
And to find Fenian’s, you kind of have to know where you’re going if you’re from out of town.  It’s on Fortification Street in Jackson’s Belhaven neighborhood, just a few minutes west of Interstate 55 and one block east of U.S. Highway 51/State Street, which still serves as one of the main arteries going through downtown. 

Our purpose in going to Fenian’s (other than the obvious one of having a nightcap, or several) was to check out a band called the Sofa Kings.  We wanted to see if it was the same band that plays sometimes in our home base of Springfield, Ill. (it wasn't).  Nonetheless, we enjoyed the music. 

Back bar at Fenian's
The stage area was set aside in Fenian’s back barroom.  Needless to say, we also enjoyed the back bar quite a bit, too.  And although the waitress could clearly tell we weren't regulars and seemed a little out of place, she and the back bartender made sure we were well attended to.           

Since opening in 1996, Fenian’s has been dedicated to being the most Irish place in Jackson, Miss., and it shows.  It has that great dive bar feel that makes you think it’s been around forever.  One notable example is its layout.  As you approach the stairs to the bar entrance on the second floor (the first floor is apparently where the kitchen is), you walk past an ample outdoor seating area. 

On the night we arrived, a diverse group of locals were mingling outside and enjoying the pleasant spring night.  As is turns out, with its location just a few blocks away from the capitol, Fenian’s attracts a fair number of politicians, lobbyists and state employees, and I imagine a few of all of the aforementioned were there that night.      

Apparently, demand is exceeding supply.
The next thing you notice as you walk past the entrance is Fenian’s display of its premium whiskey selection, safe under lock and key.  While there was plenty of space to add to the collection, you could tell that whether it was Scotch, Irish whiskey or American whiskey or bourbon, Fenian’s takes its responsibilities as an Irish bar quite seriously. 

The busy main bar at Fenian's, and a peekaboo through to the back bar.
The main barroom seems to be devoted more toward the dining crowd, or at least that’s who it was the night we were there.   Still, the main bar is set up quite well to control most of the action, as it’s connected to the back bar by a partition in the center.  

In the back barroom, there are several nooks and crannies in the back barroom for various amounts of privacy or quieter conversation.  Despite a small but lively crowd being entertained by the band, other groups were taking advantage of these spots which were almost out of our view. 

I predict a blurry future for many patrons here.
In addition, the walls at Fenian’s are fully decorated with signs, plaques and other decorations that remind you of an Irish pub, as if the constant pours of Guinness and Jameson passing by on the waitress’ tray didn't convince you.  My favorite wall decorations were the mounted stone tarot cards.  Whoever want to use those better be ready for some heavy lifting.      

I should also note that while we did not eat, the menu looked amazing and the smells coming up from the kitchen made me actually think about trying something in spite of the huge meal I had had earlier.  If I do make it back to Fenian’s, I definitely want to come for the pub grub.

I hope the locals in Jackson enjoy the dive bar atmosphere and homey comfort of Fenian’s, because even though it’s a little off the beaten path for most, the word is getting out.  This commoner is just a small fry in the blogging world, but when sites like the Thrillist start to notice you, you’re definitely doing something right.   Do like I did, and put Fenian’s on your short list of places to try when you go to Jackson.

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