It’s pretty safe to say that there are more Irish bars than Starbucks in the Windy City, and during St. Patrick’s Day season that number easily quadruples. Everyone’s Irish, after all, so even the most non-Irish tavern transforms for the occasion. That's completely normal around these parts considering that Chicago's famous for turning the Chicago River green.
Since we’re all about honoring the authentic, of course, we’ve gathered six of Chicago’s top Irish bars where you’re guaranteed a great Guinness pour and more.
Francis O’Neill was Chicago's top cop at the turn of the 20th century. If he were alive today, we’d like to think that he’d be the life of this annual St. Patrick’s Day party. It’s a stretch away from the downtown bar scene, but this event is well worth the hike (take public transportation).
The three-day affair, which happens over St. Patrick's Day weekend, attracts thousands and is partially held under a heated tent. The festive crowd is known to be well behaved, so parents should feel comfortable bringing children into the mix. They’ve even dedicated a section for face painting, etc. The big draw, of course, is the entertainment, which starts at 10 a.m. and ends when the venue closes. Irish bands and performers take the stage and there’s plenty of room for getting your Shamrock "shake" on.
Watch the Chicago River go green, then head south on Michigan Avenue for this Irish-owned restaurant and cocktail lounge’s annual fete with live music. The chef-driven destination attracts foodies and revelers for its offbeat accents to classic Irish dishes such as the corned beef sandwich of pumpernickel, Guinness-soaked Swiss and remoulade; wood-fired Irish salmon with bacon-leek jam, crisp potato farl and horseradish cream; and braised lamb Shepherd’s pie. 24 S. Michigan Ave., 312-372-4243
The Irish-born owners and executive chef mix tradition with modern touches in Kerryman’s atmosphere to attract a well-heeled clientele. St. Patrick’s Day celebrations are always lively, but never rowdy. Similar to The Gage’s team--but at a much lower price point--they’ve updated a number of favorite Irish dishes such as a corned beef hash Reuben; black Angus ribeye & chips; and Galway seafood chowder with root vegetables, potatoes and fresh herbs in roasted fish stock and heavy cream.
Named after the famed Irish author, the Andersonville-based eatery and cocktail lounge pays homage to its Irish heritage in more subdued fashion. But that’s not to say that its annual green theme is any less festive than the others. You’ll still find strolling bagpipers, but the real draw is the impressive Irish whiskey selection, which is said to be the largest in the Midwest.
LG’s bar staff traveled all over the globe to assemble the more than 300-plus, international whiskey list, but the Irish choices are most prominent. Beer enthusiasts will be especially thrilled with the selection of craft, ales and seasonal suds.
Another pub in close proximity to the downtown Irish parade, Timothy O’Toole’s celebrates the season each year with an intensely festive four-day event. It’s so intense, in fact, that it holds a “practice” St. Patrick’s Day party every year a few weeks before the main event. Timothy O’Toole’s is one of many Irish bars serving green beer on draft for the occasion. If that’s not enough kitsch for you, there will also be Leprechauns, beer-chugging contests, bagpipers and Irish apple martinis.