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The Best Irish Bar in All 50 States

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You can find an Irish pub in just about every town in America, but when St. Paddy’s Day rolls around, where should you celebrate in true Celtic fashion? We’ve gathered together 50 of the best Irish pubs in America to help you figure it out. Below are our picks for the best places to grab a perfect pour of Guinness in every state. Sláinte!

1. ALABAMA // CALLAGHAN'S IRISH SOCIAL CLUB

Location: Mobile, Alabama

Callaghan’s is worth the visit for more than just the beer. It’s been named the best bar in America by Esquire magazine, one of the best small music venues in the south by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, and one of America’s best places to get a burger by Travel+Leisure, among others. Located in a historic neighborhood, it’s been open since 1946, when, according to the current owner, it was a private lounge where you had to either ring a buzzer or have a key to get in.

2. ALASKA // MCGINLEY'S PUB

Location: Anchorage, Alaska

Irish pubs are few and far between in Alaska, but McGinley’s Pub in Anchorage is always a steady place to grab a Smithwick’s or a Jameson. The bar has an extensive menu that places Celtic favorites like soda bread alongside creative interpretations like tacos stuffed with corned beef and cabbage. The bar hosts live music regularly, including traditional Irish music, as well as events like limerick contests.

3. ARIZONA // RÚLA BÚLA IRISH PUB

Location: Tempe, Arizona

To get a sense of Rúla Búla’s vibe, just look at its name: the phrase is taken from a Gaelic expression for "uproar and commotion." It’s got a popular patio, live music, and some of the best fish and chips in the Phoenix area. The vintage relics imported from Ireland that line the walls give it an authentic Celtic feel, even for a bar located in a 19th-century saddle shop.

4. ARKANSAS // DUGAN’S PUB

Location: Little Rock, Arkansas

Dugan’s Pub is a neighborhood joint perfect for grabbing a beer and watching the game. Besides serving "proper" pints of Guinness and Smithwick’s (20 ounces instead of 16), Dugan’s has an extensive cocktail list (both warm and cold) and serves three meals a day. It comes highly recommended as a weekend brunch spot, so there’s really no reason to ever leave.

5. CALIFORNIA // TOM BERGIN'S

Location: Los Angeles, California

During the 1800s, Irish immigrants flocked to California in search of Mexican land grants and gold. Tom Bergin’s, which holds one of Los Angeles’ oldest liquor licenses, has been operating since 1936 and claims to have brought Irish coffee to America (years before a San Francisco bar claims to have done the same). The ceiling of the bar is famously covered in cardboard shamrocks bearing the names of regulars from over the years. Bartenders have to vote unanimously to award a regular their shamrock, and if you make it up on the wall, you’ll join a celebrity list that includes Kiefer Sutherland and Cary Grant.

6. COLORADO // THE IRISH SNUG

Location: Denver, Colorado

Denver’s Irish Snug harkens back to the historic Irish institution of a "snug," a small, private room in a public bar that had frosted windows so patrons couldn’t be seen inside. You paid more for drinks inside the snug, but you wouldn’t be seen carousing, either. The Irish Snug has a spacious front bar, but it also has a traditional snug—you can go inside the tiny room and order your drinks by ringing a buzzer, just like those 19th-century Irish women who didn’t want to be spotted drinking in public. Out in the main room, the bar has European soccer playing all day every day and weekly Irish music sessions where you can take part in traditional jigs and reels.

7. CONNECTICUT // ANNA LIFFEY'S

Location: New Haven, Connecticut

The bartenders at Anna Liffey’s pour a certifiably perfect pint of ale, according to its award from Guinness’s St. James Gate Brewery in Dublin. The bar was founded in 1997 by Patrick Mansfield, who grew up cleaning tables at his father’s pub in Ireland (which was attached to their house). The Liffey has since become a local institution. It has been voted as the best pub in New Haven, with an award-winning bar menu, and fans describe it as the city’s version of Cheers.

8. DELAWARE // KELLY'S LOGAN HOUSE

Location: Wilmington, Delaware

Kelly’s Logan House in Wilmington is the state’s oldest Irish bar, and its proprietors claim it’s the country’s oldest continuous family-owned Irish bar. The pub is housed in a three-story brick building, originally built in 1864 as a hotel called the Logan House. (Gangster Al Capone and gunfighter "Wild Bill" Hickok are rumored to have been guests.) Two Irish immigrants, John D. "Whiskers" Kelly and his wife, Hannah Golden Kelleher Kelly, purchased the building in 1889 and converted its ground floor into a tavern. Passed down through family generations, Kelly’s Logan House is today owned by John D. Kelly’s great-grandson, Michael Kelly, along with his mother, Loretta Kelly.

9. FLORIDA // MCGUIRE'S IRISH PUB

Location: Pensacola, Florida

McGuire’s Irish Pub serves standard Irish food and drinks (and was once named Steak House of the Year). But what really sets the restaurant apart is the story of its founders, McGuire and Molly Martin. The Martins established their bar in 1977, with McGuire serving as cook and bartender and Molly, a talented singer, entertaining guests by singing classic songs in addition to working as a waitress and hostess. In 1982, the pub moved to its permanent location inside an old 1920s firehouse and became famous among locals, thanks in part to the Martins' warmth and hospitality. Early on, Molly established one of the restaurant’s most iconic traditions: After receiving her first tip, she signed her name onto the dollar bill and pinned it to the back bar. Today, the bar says it has more than one million dollar bills, signed by people of Irish descent, covering the restaurant’s ceilings and walls [PDF]. Just make sure you don't get sticky fingers after polishing off a few pints.

10. GEORGIA // KEVIN BARRY'S PUB

Location: Savannah, Georgia

Last year, the Irish Pubs Global Federation—an international professional network for Irish pub owners and managers—honored Kevin Barry’s Pub as the "Most Authentic Irish Pub" in the world. Even though Savannah is thousands of miles away from the Emerald Isle, the choice is apt: Instead of simply celebrating leprechauns, shamrocks, and all things lucky, Kevin Barry’s wall decorations pay homage to Irish revolutionaries, heritage, and history. The bar is named after Irish freedom fighter Kevin Barry and was founded November 1, 1980, on the 60th anniversary of the 18-year-old's execution. Any given night of the week, patrons can enjoy authentic live Irish music, played by visiting entertainers.

11. HAWAII // MURPHY'S BAR & GRILL

Location: Honolulu, Hawaii

The island of Oahu is a far cry from the rainy Old Country, but Murphy’s Bar & Grill in Honolulu keeps the motherland’s spirit alive. The saloon/eatery opened in 1987, inside a historic 19th-century hotel that’s rumored to have once counted King Kalākaua and writer Robert Louis Stevenson among its guests. While Murphy’s offers patrons an assortment of classic Irish beers (in addition to Irish and American foods), the establishment’s real draw is its annual St. Patrick’s Day block party, which reportedly draws thousands of people each year.

12. IDAHO // MICKDUFF'S BREWING COMPANY

Location: Sandpoint, Idaho

There’s nothing quite like a perfectly poured pint of Guinness, but if you live in Idaho and want to expand your horizons (or palate), try visiting the Irish-themed MickDuff’s Brewing Company. Located in the lakefront city of Sandpoint, MickDuff’s—named for its founders, brothers Mickey and Duffy Mahoney—offers pub food and microbrews. Swing by their separate production hall and tasting room to sample some local brews like the Idaho Arm Curl, the Tipsy Towhead Blonde, or the Irish Redhead.

13. ILLINOIS // CHIEF O'NEILL'S PUB

Location: Chicago, Illinois

Chicago is particularly proud of its Irish-American heritage, and Chief O’Neill’s Pub & Restaurant pays homage to Chief Francis O’Neill, an Irish immigrant who served as the city’s Chief of Police from 1901 to 1905. (O’Neill also founded the city’s Irish Music Club of Chicago, and collected, transcribed, and published thousands of traditional Irish tunes to help preserve the art form.) In addition to Irish food and drink, the pub frequently offers live Irish music, hosts a popular weekly pub quiz, and is decorated with memorabilia from the Old Country, courtesy of co-owner Siobhan McKinney, who still has relatives in County Cork.

14. INDIANA // THE IRISH LION RESTAURANT & PUB

Location: Bloomington, Indiana

Bloomington resident Larry McConnaughy opened The Irish Lion Restaurant & Pub in 1982 inside a restored 19th-century tavern, hotel, and—according to legend—brothel. Today, the bar serves up classic Irish dishes like mutton pie and corned beef and cabbage, in addition to more modern fare like burgers, salads, and club sandwiches. As for the Irish Lion’s drink menu, it lists more than 160 small-batch bourbons, Irish whiskeys, and Scotches—and patrons aren’t the only ones enjoying the goods: The Irish Lion is reportedly haunted, and come closing time, bartenders are asked to leave a shot of whiskey at the end of the bar to appease any lingering spirits.

15. IOWA // SULLY'S IRISH PUB

Location: Des Moines, Iowa

Irish brothers Jerry and Kevin Sullivan opened Sully’s Irish Pub in 1977. Since then, the bar has changed hands through several different owners, but save a few minor renovations, it still maintains its original appearance. Each St. Patrick’s Day, Sully’s erects a giant, heated tent and hosts a party for hundreds of town residents, complete with bagpipes, drums, drink specials, and more. But if locals simply want to swing by for a pint or two, Sully’s door is quite literally always open: The establishment stays in operation 365 days each year.

16. KANSAS // MARFIELD'S IRISH PUB

Location: Leavenworth, Kansas

Before Marfield’s was a pub, the building served as the carriage house for a local mansion in the late 19th century before being converted in 1903. Today, Marfield’s serves Irish classics like bangers and mash and corned beef and cabbage (and nearly every brunch entree comes with a side of potatoes O'Brien).

17. KENTUCKY // THE IRISH ROVER

Location: Louisville, Kentucky

Pub owner Michael Reidy isn’t the only Irish import patrons will find at The Irish Rover (they boast that "the owner's brogue comes direct from County Clare"). The bar serves a handful of authentic Irish beers on tap, including Harp Lager, Smithwick’s Irish Ale, and Guinness Stout, as well as dozens of varieties of Irish whiskey. As for the menu, items like the Shanagarry Fish Cakes take their recipe straight from the Irish Ballymaloe Cookery School, and locals recommend ordering a scotch egg with your pint.

18. LOUISIANA // FINN MCCOOL'S

Location: New Orleans, Louisiana

Named after the legendary giant of Celtic folklore, Finn McCool’s has been offering booze and grub in a genuine Irish setting since 2002. The pub is a popular neighborhood spot for watching soccer games taking place in the U.S. and overseas (they have both indoor and outdoor screens, and post full game schedules on their site). It also hosts regular trivia nights, Scrabble tournaments, and Irish dancing performances. Still not convinced that Finn McCool’s is the real deal? In 2015, The Irish Times named them one of the world’s top 10 Irish bars outside of Ireland.

19. MAINE // BLACK BEAR CAFE

Location: Naples, Maine

Irish native John Bohill brought a piece of his home to Naples, Maine when he opened Black Bear Cafe there in 2002, and each year he takes a group of American tourists to Ireland to see the sights and drink in the atmosphere. The pub evokes the feeling of the "public houses" of southern Ireland, with perfectly poured pints of beer, a bar stocked with whiskey, and live Irish music on the weekends. And you can't miss the establishment’s signature dessert—a chocolate orange cake made with Guinness.

20. MARYLAND // THE JAMES JOYCE

Location: Baltimore, Maryland

The James Joyce Irish Pub and Restaurant is as authentically Irish as the writer it’s named after. The structure itself was designed and fabricated in Ireland before it was shipped to Baltimore in 2002, and the pub prides itself on being "Baltimore’s Home of Irish Hospitality." It’s a great spot for enjoying traditional Irish fare—like the beef and Guinness stew or the Irish lamb stew—or for enjoying discounted booze on "Wednesday Whiskey Nights."

21. MASSACHUSETTS // PLOUGH & STARS

Location: Cambridge, Massachusetts

Plough & Stars is one of the hippest literary landmarks in the Boston area. Philip Roth drank there, the founders of the journal Ploughshares used it as a meeting place, and even famous Irish poet Seamus Heaney paid regular visits. Writers and non-creative types alike will enjoy the hearty food, refreshing pints, and nightly live performances the pub has to offer.

22. MICHIGAN // CONOR O'NEILL'S

Location: Ann Arbor, Michigan

Conor O’Neill’s is the place to go in Ann Arbor for a foamy pint of beer. Their draft menu alone includes 23 selections, six of which are imported from Ireland, like the Kilkenny Cream Ale or the Magners Cider. Also imported from Ireland? The entire front of the pub, which was designed as a traditional "pub shop," where locals would pop in to buy local eggs and milk while grabbing a beer with friends.

23. MINNESOTA // RED'S IRISH PUB

Location: Swanville, Minnesota

Retirement didn’t last long for high school sweethearts and Swanville locals Kelly and Bryan Allen. The couple used their newfound free time to open Red’s Pub five years ago, and it’s since become the most beloved Irish bar in the state. The establishment is a popular spot for playing indoor bar games and nursing beers on the patio during the summer months.

24. MISSISSIPPI // FENIAN'S PUB

Location: Jackson, Mississippi

A lively atmosphere and solid drink selection have made Fenian’s a local favorite for years. What sets it apart, though, is a food menu that offers traditional Irish dishes made with locally sourced ingredients—and often, with a twist. Never had Cajun-spiced corned beef and cabbage, or Irish chicken curry with Delta Blues rice? Here’s your chance.

25. MISSOURI // JOHN D. MCGURK'S

Location: St. Louis, Missouri

What began as a one-room pub in 1978 has expanded into a 20,000 square-foot celebration of Irish food, drink, and culture, right in the heart of St. Louis's downtown Soulard bar district. McGurk's slings more Guinness than any bar in the state, and patrons can usually count on live music direct from Ireland (plus, rumor has it the musicians tend to sleep above the bar, so they rarely stick to the usual set time limits). There’s also an enormous outdoor garden area that offers a more contemporary setting in which to enjoy brews and traditional Irish dishes like the potato soup and soda bread (though you'll also want to order a plate of the toasted ravioli, a regional delicacy).

26. MONTANA // CELTIC COWBOY

Location: Great Falls, Montana

Located in a former livery stable that dates back to 1890, this bar honors one of Great Falls’s pioneering citizens, Robert Vaughn, a.k.a. the "Celtic Cowboy," the first European immigrant in the region. Stay over in the adjacent Hotel Arvon (named for "R. Vaughn"), then come back the next morning for some Corned Beef O’Brien or Irish porridge.

27. NEBRASKA // BRAZEN HEAD PUB

Location: Omaha, Nebraska

The name Brazen Head Pub derives from Dublin’s oldest bar (which dates to 1198 CE)—a place that was frequented by soldiers and revolutionaries for centuries. In order to capture some of the spirit of its namesake, Omaha's Brazen Head was designed in Dublin and constructed in Wexford, then shipped to the U.S. where its installation was overseen by Irish joiners. After marveling at all the history, make sure to order a cold brew and a boxty, a traditional Irish potato cake.

28. NEVADA // CEOL IRISH PUB

Location: Reno, Nevada

"It’s traditional, not trendy" is Ceol's mantra, and it holds to that ideal with a robust selection of Irish whiskeys—from Two Gingers to Yellow Spot to a brand called, simply, Feckin. There’s plenty of beer on tap, too, and spirited service that’ll keep your drink filled, whatever your fancy. Naturally, a place named after the Gaelic word for "music" has plenty of live acts, including many traditional Irish performers.

29. NEW HAMPSHIRE // MAY KELLY'S COTTAGE

Location: North Conway, New Hampshire

Old world to its core, this small-town pub hosts weekly seisiuns, or sessions in which traditional Irish musicians come from far and wide to play together. Enjoy a cold Guinness while you watch the jam each Sunday, or head out to the back deck and marvel at the view overlooking the Saco River while eating calves liver with onions or a ploughman's dinner steak.

30. NEW JERSEY // MCGOVERN'S TAVERN

Location: Newark, New Jersey

In 1936, County Cavan native Frank McGovern opened this Newark establishment as a place for Irish immigrants to meet up, dance, and enjoy a pint or two. Back in the day, he even enforced a strict dress code on the men, ensuring they were wearing suits and ties before heading to back rooms to converse with the ladies. Eighty years later, McGovern’s is still known as a gathering place, where construction workers, college students, and business suits converge and enjoy some beers and pub grub.

31. NEW MEXICO // TWO FOOLS TAVERN

Location: Albuquerque, New Mexico

The Two Fools name jokingly refers to the two owners after their years-long quest to build an authentic Irish pub in New Mexico—and one with a fireplace, no less. After enjoying the craic (say, a stout and some fish and chips, accompanied by "the merriment of friends"), though, you’ll probably think they’re pretty smart. And naturally, they offer some Breaking Bad themed merchandise, which is also pretty smart.

32. NEW YORK // AN BEAL BOCHT CAFE

Location: Bronx, NY

Called "an oasis of creativity and music" by The Irish Times, An Beal Bocht embodies the Irish spirit of community and welcome. The bar takes its name (Gaelic for "the poor mouth") from the title of a classic novel by Flann O’Brien and has become a hub for local artists, offering an art gallery and theater space in addition to live music.

33. NORTH CAROLINA // TRA'LI

Location:  Brier Creek and Morrisville, North Carolina

Helmed by County Galway-born chef Eamonn Kelly, Tra’Li prides itself on its relaxed, friendly atmosphere, its top-rate drink menu, and, of course, its satisfying food. Kelly has perfected pub standards and Irish classics alike, from the Irish Egg Rolls, filled with corned beef and cabbage, to the Molly’s Sister—chicken cutlets stuffed with bacon and herbed cream cheese and served with a Tullamore Dew sauce.

34. NORTH DAKOTA // BLARNEY STONE PUB

Location: Bismarck, North Dakota

Patrons looking for a livelier evening can’t miss the Blarney Stone Pub in Bismarck. The bar’s dark wood furniture, hearty bar food (their peasant soup—or soup of the day—is served in a sourdough bread bowl), and friendly atmosphere can get rambunctious in the evenings as the volume gets turned up on conversation and music alike.

35. OHIO // THE HARP

Location: Cleveland, Ohio

A homey bar with a lovely view of Lake Erie, The Harp is the place to go for good music, good conversation, and good food. Weekly live music performances, an Irish brunch, and a wide drink menu have earned it spots on multiple lists of the best Irish bars in the country, and its large outdoor seating area makes it perfect for savoring a mixed draught (like a Snakebite—part Angry Orchard Cider and part Harp) on a fair-weather day.

36. OKLAHOMA // KILKENNY'S IRISH PUB

Location: Tulsa, Oklahoma

If St. Patrick’s Day has got you longing for rustic, hearty Irish fare, look no further than Kilkenny's in Tulsa. In addition to an extensive drink selection, the pub offers an impressive heart- and belly-warming menu of Irish classics like cottage pie, corned beef and cabbage, and an Irish breakfast, as well as more creative options like a Tullamore Dew cheese torte and Oysters Graiguenamanagh (good luck ordering that on the first try!).

37. OREGON // KELLS IRISH RESTAURANT AND PUB

Location: Portland, Oregon

Kells Irish has four locations, but its Portland Pub is the only one with a cigar room hidden in the city's infamous Shanghai Tunnels underneath the main pub. It also boasts of Pacific Northwest twists on classic Irish food and the region's largest selection of single-malt Scotches and whiskeys, making the pub (and its rumored resident ghost) particular favorites.

38. PENNSYLVANIA // BILLY MURPHY'S IRISH SALOON

Location: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

There are hidden gems, and then there’s Billy Murphy’s Irish Saloon, tucked happily into a mostly residential neighborhood in East Falls, Philadelphia. The community favorite, which is now run by Billy's wife and his son, melds a friendly Irish atmosphere and drinks menu with standard local fare like cheesesteaks and hoagies.

39. RHODE ISLAND // DOHERTY'S EAST AVE IRISH PUB

Location: Pawtucket, Rhode Island 

You could try a new beer a couple of times a week at Doherty’s East Ave Irish Pub and it would still take months to get through their selection. With 83 different varieties on tap and another 80 bottled options, plus a hearty bar menu full of wings, steak tips, and chili made with Murphy's Irish Stout, the pub knows how to satisfy its patrons.

40. SOUTH CAROLINA // DUNLEAVY'S PUB

Location: Sullivan’s Island, South Carolina

Family owned and operated for over 20 years, Dunleavy’s continues to stand out in a sea of chain "faux" Irish pubs in the tourist-friendly beach area of Sullivan's. Stop in and you might get a chance to overhear the pub’s "Liar’s Club," a group of regulars who come in for drinks and to tell increasingly outlandish stories in an effort to top one another.

41. SOUTH DAKOTA // MCNALLY'S IRISH PUB

Location: Sioux Falls, South Dakota

Home to some very solid pub burgers, McNally’s succeeds in bringing the small details of a conventional Irish pub to South Dakota. Fireplaces adorn the premises, and private rooms allow small parties to socialize over drunken mussels away from the noise. They’re also renowned for knowing exactly how to pull a draft of perfect Guinness—when you’re not ordering one of their original brews, that is.

42. TENNESSEE // MCNAMARA'S

Location: Nashville, Tennessee

Established in 2010, McNamara’s has quickly garnered national acclaim for its devotion to the classic Irish look and feel of a watering hole. Check out its historic photographs, live music (heavily curated by owner Sean McNamara, who spent years as a traveling musician and fronting local house bands), and menu full of classics like bangers and mash and bread pudding (which also includes a "Leprechaun Menu" for any wee lads and lassies).

43. TEXAS // FADÓ IRISH PUB

Location: Austin, Texas

Who says Irish pubs need to be frozen in time? A popular destination for Austinites, Fadó (which is Gaelic for "long ago") combines a classic Irish pub food menu with sustainably caught cod from Iceland and custom-cut meat fresh from Vermont. You’ll also find four distinctly designed areas inside, including an ornate Victorian pub and space inspired by the general-store element of classic Irish hangouts.

44. UTAH // PIPER DOWN

Location: Salt Lake City, Utah

The owners originally wanted to name Piper Down "Temple Bar," after the famous Dublin neighborhood, but encountered tense resistance from Mormon locals who opposed using the word "temple" to denote anything other than a house of worship. But since 2003, Piper Down has emerged as Utah’s most respected Irish-themed destination. Plus, they offer a sizeable vegan menu, alongside their beer-battered Alaskan fish and chips and various wraps and salads.

45. VERMONT // RED FOX INN

Location: Bondville, Vermont

Conceived as a "bed and brew," the Red Fox Inn has been a Vermont institution for decades, serving up pints in a nine-room inn that was once a three-story barn. Their famous apple pie has been hailed as the best in the state and can be enjoyed along with braised lamb shank. The Inn is said to move more Guinness in Vermont than any other pub.

46. VIRGINIA // SAMUEL BECKETT'S IRISH GASTRO PUB

Location: Arlington, Virginia

With a surplus of actual Irish employees, owner Mark Kirwan boasts of having the most authentically Irish pub in the state. Backing him up is the fact that virtually every piece and fixture of Samuel Beckett’s was purchased in Ireland and shipped over in 42 containers. Kirwan and his family also spent time working for Guinness, ensuring a healthy knowledge of how to deliver the best beer.

47. WASHINGTON // MULLEADY'S

Location: Seattle, Washington

In the mood for a Guinness beef pot pie? Mulleady’s has you covered. The gastro pub focuses on seasonal ingredients for their food menu to complement their drink selection. Once you’ve imbibed, you can check out their regionally famous urinal, which was rescued from an old Seattle theater circa the 1920s. (Women can ask a staff member to accompany them for a viewing. Seriously.)

48. WEST VIRGINIA // THE IRISH PUB ON WASHINGTON STREET

Location: Lewisburg, West Virginia

With its no-frills approach to pubbing—it doesn’t even bother with a clever name—The Irish Pub has been voted the best in the region time and again in reader and media polls. Open seven days a week, it hosts a popular trivia night and features some surprising Louisiana flavors like hot sauce on its corned beef hash or red beans and rice listed right next to potato leek soup: its owners are originally pub owners from New Orleans.

49. WISCONSIN // COUNTY CLARE IRISH INN AND PUB

Location: Milwaukee, Wisconsin

With gorgeous stained glass surrounding its "Saint's Snug," a burning woodstove, and a massive wood bar, County Clare serves up the perfect Irish ambiance to go along with their standout Guinness—they pour so much of it that it’s always fresh. Or, if you prefer beer cocktails, they serve six variations, including the Lady Guinness (Guinness and Chambord) and a Black Vanilla Bean (Smirnoff Vanilla and Guinness).

50. WYOMING // PAT O'HARA BREWING

Location: Cody, Wyoming

Named for a 19th-century trapper who met the town's namesake, "Buffalo Bill" Cody, on at least one occasion, Pat O’Hara Brewing serves up 15 craft brews from the region. Soak it up with the local-favorite Irish sandwich, piled high with corned beef. Patrons can even watch the brew tanks churning on the main floor.

By Michele Debczak, Kirstin Fawcett, Shaunacy Ferro, Kate Horowitz, Jake Rossen, and Jeff Wells.

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iStock // Ekaterina Minaeva
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Man Buys Two Metric Tons of LEGO Bricks; Sorts Them Via Machine Learning
May 21, 2017
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iStock // Ekaterina Minaeva

Jacques Mattheij made a small, but awesome, mistake. He went on eBay one evening and bid on a bunch of bulk LEGO brick auctions, then went to sleep. Upon waking, he discovered that he was the high bidder on many, and was now the proud owner of two tons of LEGO bricks. (This is about 4400 pounds.) He wrote, "[L]esson 1: if you win almost all bids you are bidding too high."

Mattheij had noticed that bulk, unsorted bricks sell for something like €10/kilogram, whereas sets are roughly €40/kg and rare parts go for up to €100/kg. Much of the value of the bricks is in their sorting. If he could reduce the entropy of these bins of unsorted bricks, he could make a tidy profit. While many people do this work by hand, the problem is enormous—just the kind of challenge for a computer. Mattheij writes:

There are 38000+ shapes and there are 100+ possible shades of color (you can roughly tell how old someone is by asking them what lego colors they remember from their youth).

In the following months, Mattheij built a proof-of-concept sorting system using, of course, LEGO. He broke the problem down into a series of sub-problems (including "feeding LEGO reliably from a hopper is surprisingly hard," one of those facts of nature that will stymie even the best system design). After tinkering with the prototype at length, he expanded the system to a surprisingly complex system of conveyer belts (powered by a home treadmill), various pieces of cabinetry, and "copious quantities of crazy glue."

Here's a video showing the current system running at low speed:

The key part of the system was running the bricks past a camera paired with a computer running a neural net-based image classifier. That allows the computer (when sufficiently trained on brick images) to recognize bricks and thus categorize them by color, shape, or other parameters. Remember that as bricks pass by, they can be in any orientation, can be dirty, can even be stuck to other pieces. So having a flexible software system is key to recognizing—in a fraction of a second—what a given brick is, in order to sort it out. When a match is found, a jet of compressed air pops the piece off the conveyer belt and into a waiting bin.

After much experimentation, Mattheij rewrote the software (several times in fact) to accomplish a variety of basic tasks. At its core, the system takes images from a webcam and feeds them to a neural network to do the classification. Of course, the neural net needs to be "trained" by showing it lots of images, and telling it what those images represent. Mattheij's breakthrough was allowing the machine to effectively train itself, with guidance: Running pieces through allows the system to take its own photos, make a guess, and build on that guess. As long as Mattheij corrects the incorrect guesses, he ends up with a decent (and self-reinforcing) corpus of training data. As the machine continues running, it can rack up more training, allowing it to recognize a broad variety of pieces on the fly.

Here's another video, focusing on how the pieces move on conveyer belts (running at slow speed so puny humans can follow). You can also see the air jets in action:

In an email interview, Mattheij told Mental Floss that the system currently sorts LEGO bricks into more than 50 categories. It can also be run in a color-sorting mode to bin the parts across 12 color groups. (Thus at present you'd likely do a two-pass sort on the bricks: once for shape, then a separate pass for color.) He continues to refine the system, with a focus on making its recognition abilities faster. At some point down the line, he plans to make the software portion open source. You're on your own as far as building conveyer belts, bins, and so forth.

Check out Mattheij's writeup in two parts for more information. It starts with an overview of the story, followed up with a deep dive on the software. He's also tweeting about the project (among other things). And if you look around a bit, you'll find bulk LEGO brick auctions online—it's definitely a thing!

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Nick Briggs/Comic Relief
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What Happened to Jamie and Aurelia From Love Actually?
May 26, 2017
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Nick Briggs/Comic Relief

Fans of the romantic-comedy Love Actually recently got a bonus reunion in the form of Red Nose Day Actually, a short charity special that gave audiences a peek at where their favorite characters ended up almost 15 years later.

One of the most improbable pairings from the original film was between Jamie (Colin Firth) and Aurelia (Lúcia Moniz), who fell in love despite almost no shared vocabulary. Jamie is English, and Aurelia is Portuguese, and they know just enough of each other’s native tongues for Jamie to propose and Aurelia to accept.

A decade and a half on, they have both improved their knowledge of each other’s languages—if not perfectly, in Jamie’s case. But apparently, their love is much stronger than his grasp on Portuguese grammar, because they’ve got three bilingual kids and another on the way. (And still enjoy having important romantic moments in the car.)

In 2015, Love Actually script editor Emma Freud revealed via Twitter what happened between Karen and Harry (Emma Thompson and Alan Rickman, who passed away last year). Most of the other couples get happy endings in the short—even if Hugh Grant's character hasn't gotten any better at dancing.

[h/t TV Guide]

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#TBT
THE PRESIDENTS
WORDS
RETROBITUARIES