You know that feeling you got when you thought you completely failed a test, but somehow ended up getting the best score in the class? Me neither, but I bet that’s something like what South Boston pub Croke Park is feeling right about now.
Croke Park, also known as Whitey’s Pub among locals, somehow snuck its way onto Esquire’s prestigious list of the 18 Best Bars in America.
To help you understand why this honor is slightly shocking, here’s one testimonial from the bar’s actual website:
“People in the know tell me this place has gone downhill since the original owner – Whitey McGrail died. And he was shot one day while bartending. So, apparently this place has “gotten much worse” since the days when customers would walk in and shoot the bartender. Good times.”
Or this glowing appraisal:
“I don’t want to say this is the worst bar in the world because I’ve never been to places like Bangladesh, Rwanda, or Haiti. But I can say with 100% certainty that this place is, by far, the worst bar in Boston.”
Croke Park describes itself as “Boston’s #1 Dive Bar.” The place isn’t what you’d call…swanky. In fact, in Esquire’s David Wondrich’s own words, visitors to the establishment should expect “nothing fancy.” How did Whitey’s Pub make the cut, then?
Wondrich’s description of his decision-making process sounds like a perfect storm of Southie shenanigans.
“I do my best to exercise good—okay, goodish—judgment when I’m touring barrooms, but every once in a while, a gear slips a tooth and dosages get miscalculated. Whitey’s is a slipped tooth, a place I was introduced to by some Boston bartenders. I have dim memories of having an excellent time—doing big shots of Irish whiskey, writing on the walls, rolling dice, joking around with the regulars.”
That sounds like a night in South Boston to me.
Seriously, though, go check out Croke Park. It may be a dive bar, but there’s free pool, cheap drinks and you can bring your own food. Yes, for real. Their website actually suggests that you grab some Burger King grub across the street.
It just goes to show you that sometimes all you need to be world-class is a good bunch of people, a welcoming atmosphere and maybe a little bit of gritty local flavor.