Pub(lic) Indecency: The Chronicle’s guide to St. Patrick’s Day

By Amanda Murphy

Let’s face it: Chicagoans know how to throw a St. Patrick’s Day celebration. Sure, they may stray from the Irish holiday tradition of going to Mass and picking a shamrock for good luck. But Windy City residents have never been known for doing anything in a mediocre manner, especially when it comes to being loud, proud and creating excuses to drink. The problem is with so many bars in the city promenading as the best little pub around the corner, it’s hard to narrow down the top places to spend your St. Patrick’s Day after the downtown parade ends. But with careful research, The Chronicle has highlighted some of the bars that will get you closest to the Emerald Isle, feed you the most authentic food and bring the silliest shenanigans of the day. Sláinte!

Schaller’s Pump: 3714 S. Halsted St.

You don’t get more traditionally Chicago than this South Side watering hole. Schaller’s Pump takes the title of the oldest bar in Chicago, pouring its first beer in 1881 and still having a peephole in the door from the bar’s Prohibition days, something Betty Jo Schaller said she still gets a kick out of showing those who come in. Now on its fifth generation of Schallers, this place has long been a favorite for Irish American Chicagoans, including former Mayor Richard M. Daley’s brother John and his family. But don’t expect any bells and whistles from this bar. This isn’t the place for drink specials, Irish car bomb shots or a raucous band. Schaller said they will serve green beer, corned beef, split pea soup and that the live entertainment will be the occasional Irish music group who stumbles in off the street. Although Schaller’s Pump might not put on all the glamour and glitz of other bars or offer the most traditional Irish fare, it’s difficult to get closer to the city’s history at any another bar. “We have generations of people who come in here,” Schaller said. “We have people who come in and say, ‘My father or grandfather used to come here and drink.’ So that really says a lot about our history in Chicago.”

Abbey Pub: 3420 W. Grace St.

Since its opening in 1973, this establishment has built a reputation as Chicago’s best bar for authentic Irish music. Straight from the Emerald Isle, owner Bridget Looney said she has made it a point to make the Abbey Pub as authentic an Irish bar as possible, and it’s worked. Once, members of U2 stopped by to watch a soccer game during one of their many trips to the States. “We’ve had some of Ireland’s most recognizable folk and rock groups play here at the Abbey,” Looney said. This St. Patrick’s Day, they will serve a traditional Irish breakfast at 8 a.m., complete with sausage, black pudding and fried potatoes and will later have a trolley in the parade. Back at the Lakeview location, the rest of the day will be filled with performances from Irish dancers and bands playing a variety of Celtic music, from renowned Irish flutist Larry Nugent to Kevin Flynn and the Avondale Rambler’s more traditional sound.

Timothy O’Tooles: 622 N. Fairbanks Ct.

This place is known for putting on a party. With a plethora of rankings including one of Chicago’s best sports bars, Timothy O’Tooles has gained a reputation for throwing one heck of a St. Patrick’s Day celebration, or as owner Humberto Martinez would say, the best St. Paddy’s Day party in the city. “We pour rivers of green beer and serve mountains of corned beef,” Martinez said. Still not convinced? He said every year, people call more than six months in advance to book reservations, a promise O’Tooles cannot make. On top of the St. Patrick’s basics of corned beef, $6 jumbo beers and $5 Jameson shots, this year O’Tooles will feature bagpipers, Joe the Leprechaun and beads galore. Martinez said it’s an incredibly lively time with people dressed to the absolute nines in the most ridiculous getups they could manage. If you’re the type of person who grows happier as a bar grows more crowded, then O’Tooles is the place you want to be for the holiday. Just be careful with their signature cocktail nicknamed Holy Water. With 12 different liquors and three juices, it’s likely to get you closer to passing out on the sidewalk than into heaven.

Celtic Crossings: 751 N. Clark St.

Having been said by many to be the best pint of Guinness in town, Celtic Crossings prides itself on being as close to a pub straight out of Dublin as it can. No shamrocks, leprechauns or pots of gold will be seen on the walls, no beads will be given out and absolutely no green beer will be served. “The way the pub is set up with the wood, stained glass, the artifacts and the photos, it’s all traditionally Irish,” said manager Larry Watanabe. Started by Irish gentlemen who wanted to bring a piece of their home to the streets of the Windy City seven years ago, Celtic Crossings offers Chicagoans an intimate experience for this St. Patrick’s Day. And you know their pint of Guinness must be good. According to Watanbe, it pours the second highest annual amount of Guinness in the city. This year, the bar will open earlier, at 10 a.m., and serve corned beef sandwiches. And though no live bands will play nor drink specials will be given, Watanabe said Celtic Crossings offers the most traditional Irish gathering in the city.

The Irish Oak: 3511 N. Clark St.

Located right in the heart of Wrigleyville, Irish Oak proclaims itself as the most aesthetically traditional Irish bar and with good reason. Most of the bar’s interior was imported from the small green island. The website states the bar has been lucky enough to receive genuine artifacts from Irish men and women who happen to wander in. The bar also features a signature whiskey still room and almost every kind of the “water of life,” as the Irish would put it, you could imagine. Claiming that the bar is just as authentic as its Guinness, Irish Oak is another traditional Irish pub to celebrate in if you want to stay as true to the holiday as possible.