Blackthorn Restaurant & Irish Pub

651 North Michigan Ave, Kenilworth, NJ 07033


Blackthorn Restaurant & Irish Pub offers a great atmosphere and a true Irish experience. They ask on the bar’s homepage “What makes a good Irish Pub?” I love their answer: “It is the Guinness, the fish and chips, the Shepard’s Pie, the atmosphere, the entertainment, the patrons, the warm and friendly welcome, the conversations or the craic… Actually, it is all of the above and more. If you really want to understand Ireland and it’s culture, then go to the Blackthorn Restaurant & Irish Pub in Kenilworth, New Jersey.”

I cannot agree more. Irish immigrants own the Blackthorn and pride themselves on providing a genuine Irish pub as if it were plucked from the Irish countryside. A huge pub, the Blackthorn in Kenilworth, has a bar in the main entrance, a dining room, a smaller dining room upstairs and a huge deck for the warmer months. The bartenders, imported from Ireland, have mastered the perfect pour that Guinness brewers strive for, including the European 20oz pint glasses that Guinness SHOULD be served in. The bartenders, waitresses and managers keep their promise of a warm and friendly welcome. They treat every patron as if they are family, an Irish touch that cannot be replicated.

Blackthorn's Primary Dining Room

The dining room, located to the left of the bar, is in another room, but patrons can still hear entertainment from the bar and vise versa. The fireplace serves as the focal point of the room and, in the winter months warms the patrons to the core, sheltering them from the harsh New Jersey winters. A beautiful mural, painted above the mantle, depicts the Irish countryside. When staring at it, you feel like you are in Ireland looking out the window of a pub.  The decor matches real Irish pubs to a tee, especially the booth that runs parallel to the fireplace.  It is a bit cushier than most booths in Ireland, but I don’t think anyone would complain about a little more padding.

The Irish cuisine served at the Blackthorn is just grand, but my favorite entree is their Celtic Burger. Cooked to your liking, the Celtic Burger is served with cheddar cheese, sauteed onions, barbecue sauce and Irish bacon. Irish Bacon, cut thicker and wider, looks nothing like our bacon, but is still delicious. Despite favoring the Celtic Burger, ordering the same thing every time I go is never an option. The food at the Blackthorn is some of the best  I’ve had.

The Blackthorn's Bar

The atmosphere and patrons are as warm as the fireplace. If you are looking to meet people, simply sit yourself at the barand introduce yourself. One of the friends I met there looked like he could be a nasty S.O.B. but, as a person who talks to everyone, I introduced myself and discovered looks can be deceiving. I really enjoy talking with the bartenders. They will gladly share stories about the homeland, where they’re from and how or why they came to America.

The Blackthorn offers entertainment multiple nights a week and appeals to people of all ages. DJs and bands frequent the Blackthorn and not only Irish music is played. Younger bands such as The Benjamins played there this past December. Like McDonagh’s, The Willie Lynch band frequents there, but the Round the House Band, another great local band, performs there as well.





2 West Front Street, Keyport, New Jersey



The first pub I chose to blog about is the first in my heart, McDonagh’s Pub in Keyport, NJ. I have been going to McDonagh’s for about six years and fell in love with the place the first time I went. A five and a half foot wall tastefully splits the interior in two, separating the bar from the restaurant, allowing a family friendly atmosphere on one side and a great bar on the other. The next thing that should catch your attention should be the left wall.

McDonagh's Pub "Irish Street" Wall

Constructed after a typical street in Ireland, the wall features storefronts with doors and windows, including a bookstore with a display case of Ireland’s most famous authors. In addition to the street wall, pictures of the Irish countryside and Irish patriots occupy the other walls, enhancing the great atmosphere.

McDonagh's Bangers and Mash

My favorite Irish dish is Bangers and Mash. It is pork Irish sausage, served over mashed potatoes with brown gravy and onions drizzled on top- incredible, if done right. If you’re looking for a simple burger, McDonsgh’s burgers are out of this world and offer a wide variety of toppings. They also offer an incredible thin crust pizza. In the seven years I have been going to McDonagh’s, I never heard of anyone I went with having a bad meal.

McDonagh’s offers a variety of live entertainment. Bands and DJs frequent McDonagh’s and when they have nothing going on, their surplus of flat screen tvs make it an ideal place to sit with friends and watch a game. If you really wan the full blown Irish experience, then go when the Willie Lynch Band plays and I assure you, you will love it.



A Modest Introduction

Hi everyone,

My name is E.J. Campbell and if you’ve read my “About Me,” you know that I love my Irish heritage and, in particular, pub life. I had the pleasure of touring Ireland twice and have “studied” in countless pubs along the way. While I do not consider myself an expert, I thought this blog may help people looking for an authentic Irish experience without the plane ride.

A few things I will be discussing in my blog will be the atmosphere, food appearance and entertainment of each pub.

Thanks for reading,