Grace O'Malley's (or Gracie's, as the locals call it) is located on Duncan Street, a stone's throw from Adelaide and John streets. Gracie's is a chain with three different locations, serving lunch and dinner. After dinner hours, the pub amps up the bar atmosphere, playing classic rock and offering beer in ad hoc ice buckets.
I arrived around 11:30 pm on a Saturday night. There was a moderate line snaking around the block, which seemed like a good sign. If scantily clad teenagers were willing to wait in November temperatures just to enter this establishment, I deduced that it must be quite the "hidden" gem.
Prior to Saturday night, I did some research on Grace O'Malley , the namesake of the pub. Interestingly, she was a pirate and leader of her clan in 16th Century Ireland. As an Irish Canadian, I was anxious to discuss the implications of the name on the atmosphere of the bar. As I reached the front of the line, I asked one employee, "To what extent does the story of Grace O'Malley, or Gráinne Ní Mháille, cutting off her hair in somewhat of a rejection of the Electra complex affect the discourse surrounding dating or "picking up" at this bar?"
"Fourteen dollars cover," he replied.
Upon entering the bar, I was struck by the sea of plaid as well as the sheer humidity let off in an enclosed space filled with what seemed like hundreds of hot, hormonal bodies. Trudging to the bar through miniskirted girls taking Myspace-style selfies and bros yelling unintelligible comments took what seemed like hours (probably 5-10 minutes).
I asked the bartender what paired well with stale cigarette smoke and pizza breath and settled upon a shot of vodka as well as a vodka soda. Five shots of vodka plus a vodka soda totaled $38, a fair sum for six drinks in this part of town.
The vodka shot was full-bodied with just a hint of nail polish remover flavor. I couldn't place the country of origin by taste, but the aftertaste was reminiscent of a Smirnoff or possibly Absolut. The vodka soda was superb. A perfect balance of vodka and soda water, topped off with a maraschino cherry and a little sword I took from the bar, blending alcohol and whimsy.
I left soon after finishing my drink. The music was good, mixing Jackson 5 with Big and Rich, but the humidity and the crowd were simply too much. To answer my initial query, the main thing that sets Gracie's apart is the $14 cover for an Irish pub with occasional live music.
Overall, Gracie's is a fun place if you're in your early 20s and like noisy, humid bars with lots of unintentional groping, but it's nothing to write home about.