No airport bar should have the amount of stories behind it that I have on Tigin’s Irish Pup in DFW Terminal D. Just for safety concerns alone, you would think it would be bad for ANY airport bar to have ANY story. There are bars I’ve been too with better stories, there’s been airports where there are better stories, but when to splitting hairs over ‘airport bars’ Tigin’s takes the cake.
Dallas-Fort Worth airport has been a hub of some sort through most of my traveling days, and only in the last three years have I waned in my visits. Most of my years of travel happened when I lived in Wichita – and when your airline of choice is American, you have two directions to go, DFW or Chicago (which let’s all admit – anyone who likes Chicago is either on drugs or should be … and I am not just describing the airport). When I moved to Alaska, I had more choices, but I tended towards the 7 hour monster flight from ANC to DFW to get to the lower-48. Only when I could get direct flights in and out of Boston-Logan and LAX did my travel to DFW slow down.
If you never been to DFW, it is actually a really well designed and well managed airport. They built the first few terminals in identical semi-circles to make walking in them between gates easy and make aircraft movement open. The first four terminals (A, B, C, and … erm … E) are identical in that nature. But in the early 2000s, DFW eyed a new International terminal and a new design. Sometime around the end of July 2005 my plane landed at this new open and bright place that is called Terminal D. I remember the first time I was there, it was so new that there was literally no one there but maybe four or five people.
I can’t be sure when I first visited it, but one of the first places that settled in there was Tigin’s Irish Pub. As Irish Pubs Go, it probably isn’t the most authentic, but for airport bars go, it couldn’t get more authentic. Good Irish beer. Fish & Chips. Old school carved bars. Irish whisky on the cheap. It still is the benchmark for me for Bangers and Mash, until they pulled it from the menu sometime around 2011. Honestly, the fish and chips went through some changes over the years too. Big wedges to regular fries to back to wedges. Long single filets, to overly pankoed roughness, to chunks that are small but rich with flavor. It’s rare that you find a bar that automatically serves malt liquor with fish and chips, and they have it on the table … right next to the even rarer HP Sauce. The only thing not worth your time is the cole slaw. 10 years and you think they would figure out how to make cole slaw. While I prefer bellied up to the bar, the knurled wood community table stands in the middle as it has for over 10 years untouched.
The stories, though, are what I remember. Tame for bars, they are still legendary to me. From hanging with co-workers as we departed or arrived together or separate. To meeting up with random people on a layover to great trips. I ate there on my own layover on route to Alaska to live there. I ate there when I passed through the tens of times I needed to.
My old judging friend, Kehan Knapp and I would plan our layovers to meet at Tigins. We would be out in the fall judging marching bands, usually judging at shows in completely different states – and while I would be heading back to Kansas, he was heading back ot Minnesota. Still, we knew that a Sunday morning meant returning home – so we would plan that layover to do just that. We would pull a Smittys and have a proper English.
Probably the greatest story was maybe the greatest sports story I can remember. It was 2010. Our team had a three hour layover at DFW after a morning flight from Kansas – our destination was Singapore, by way of Tokyo-Narita. I was just coming off of a protein shake diet, and hadn’t had an unhealthy meal or a beer in over 9 months. I intended to have the first real ‘cheat’ meal to be at Tigins. As it happens, the layover lined up with a World Cup Soccer match between the USA and Algeria. It must have been somewhere around 9am, because the place was mostly quiet folks having a quiet breakfast when we walked in. Encouragement from us soccer fans, the sound was raised up and the game went on full. As the game progressed, the place filled with soldiers laying over both off to the fight or coming back. But as the game progressed, the result was starting to look dire. We were down, and started to sniff at the real potential of getting kicked out of the tournament only two games in. We needed a goal. As the game grew late, the bar, now packed with people who barely knew how to spell soccer, lived and died on each play. Then in the dying minutes, a USA break away, a shot missed and saved by a goalie, but a rebound wide open … and the back of the net. Tigins Irish Pub, a small bar stuck in an airport terminal, EXPLODED. It was the last kick of the game, a defiant stand by the team, and a room full of people, some of which willing to die for their country, hugged, danced, and chanted USA from thousands of miles away from the game.
There are more stories, many more. Way too many.
But as I sat at that knurled wood table and raised my Smittys to my lips, I toasted them all. I had the fish and chips, with malt liquor & HP Sauce. And I remembered all those stories.
But I skipped the cole slaw.