When walking the streets of Dublin near Trinity College, turn onto Grafton Street and you’ll be greeted by the bronze statue of legendary 17th century fishmonger, Molly Malone. A character from the late 19th century song Cockles and Mussels, Malone was a beautiful but impoverished woman who made her living by walking the streets of Dublin selling shellfish from a cart. Though she is popular and good natured, at the song’s climax Molly dies from fever in the streets of Dublin.
With its nostalgic setting and easy to remember chorus, Cockles and Mussels’s been sung for the past hundred years and become the unofficial anthem of Dublin. Installed by the mayor for the 1988 Millennium celebration, the statue of Molly Malone provoked a slight outrage as Molly’s corseted bust was rather ample with many feeling this was an allusion to Molly’s other possible work as a prostitute. Although Cockles and Mussels, makes no mention of this occupation, this duality of selling shellfish by day and working the streets at night is part of the legend that has grown up around Molly Malone and remains part of her story to this day.
These worldly feelings of joy, sadness, venality and tradition (essentially all that makes a good Irish pub) are alive and well at forty year old Molly Malone’s on Fairfax. Malone’s doesn’t do food past 2:00 so the folks that assemble in the afternoon and evening are there to drink and drink they do. The bartender is an old hand at the game, pours Guinness the fast way, but is quick with the Jameson as well. The decorative scheme skews classic pub, wood paneled and knick-knacked, but also featured are portraits of Irish and American figures from history painted in a way that suggests the divine. Sharing a pint under JFK’s stern and iconographic visage can cause groups to pause and reflect…but mostly on who is going to buy the next round. These thoughts are fitting considering the building is rumored to be one of the first in Los Angeles to secure a liquor license after prohibition!
Though it appears unassuming at first glance, there is a real community that assembles nightly at Molly’s and thankfully the community is very open and welcoming. Folks from all walks sit at the bar, creating a rich conversational exchange that always seems to end with new friends buying each other drinks. Sometimes employees from the nearby Page Museum, LACMA or LAMOTH roll in after work, happy to have an adult beverage or three after a day of wild children and crotchety docents. As the evening marches on, a small band or single guitarist might set up to provide mellow music to help wash down that last beer or glass of whiskey. With a goodbye to new friends (sometimes an exchange of numbers), a nod to the bartender, and a tip of the hat to Molly Malone’s itself, a pleasant evening out is ended and plans for another at the same place already begin to formulate.
With so many “Public Houses” and the like sprouting up, Molly Malone’s is the authentic product and does what it does well. Molly herself would surely be proud of the camaraderie that she has helped inspire and hopefully will continue to inspire for years to come. Slainte!
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