Few cultures are as synonymous with lively drinking and hospitality as Irish culture. Much of that is thanks to the ubiquitous nature of the Irish pub with its characteristic deep mahogany wood, food that sticks to your bones, beer on draught, and friendly bartender always ready with a bit of craic. That type of pub can be found around the country, but Chicago, it could be argued, is in a league of its own when it comes to pubs full of Irish charm.
If you’re in Chicago this St. Patrick’s Day (or any day, for that matter), make sure you don’t end up in some wannabe Paddy O’Fakey’s. Instead, choose from the best Irish bars in Chicago.
1. Emmit’s Irish Pub
Sometimes you just want a good dive bar, and that’s exactly what you’ll find at Emmit’s. With a true Chicago history that includes its share of gangsters escaping through subterranean tunnels, this place is a city institution. It’s also extremely photogenic and has been featured in numerous films and TV shows. Today, it’s owned by a couple of firefighters who do good pub grub and solid drinks, pretty much exactly what you want in a place like this.
Where: 495 N Milwaukee Ave, Chicago, IL 60654
2. Shinnick’s Pub
Chicago was one of the top cities that Irish immigrants came to when they arrived in America, and no neighborhood here saw as many arrive as Bridgeport on the Southside. For a real Chicago Irish (please don’t call it ‘Chirish’) experience, head down to Shinnick’s Pub, a great little dive that’s been run by three generations of the Shinnick family since 1938. Due to its location just a few blocks from Sox Park, it gets packed on game days. The rest of the time, you’ll find family members and a dedicated crew of regulars that’ll include a lot of cops, firemen, and other assorted Southside Irish (and honorary Irish) characters.
Where: 3758 S Union Ave, Chicago, IL 60609
3. Chief O’Neill’s Pub & Restaurant
A pub named after an Irishman who became a 19th-century Chicago Police Chief is a good sign. A pub owned by two Irish musicians is an even better one. Chief O’Neill’s has everything you could want in an Irish pub, including live Irish music on Sunday nights, a great selection of Irish whiskeys, and terrific food. A huge outdoor patio makes it a great summer hangout while a roaring fireplace makes it perfect for those cold winter days.
Where: 3471 N Elston Ave, Chicago, IL 60618
4. The Atlantic
The Atlantic is a Lincoln Square Irish pub where Chicago soccer fans go to drink and watch the game. This is the official bar of the Chicago Fire, so it tends to get packed during away games, as well as during any big European matches. The bar does solid pub grub, pours a proper Guinness, and offers a $6 PBR with a shot of Tullamore D.E.W. every day of the week. Sláinte!
Where: 5062 N Lincoln Ave, Chicago, IL 60625
5. O’Shaughnessy’s Public House
A favorite for people in the Ravenswood neighborhood, O’Shaughnessy’s Public House has a respectable selection of Irish whiskeys and some good Scotches, as well. Along with the standard Guinness, O’Shaughnessy’s has 13 other Irish and English draught beers and ciders, and a bottle list that includes some Belgian ales. The food is exactly what you want from an Irish pub. Don’t miss out on the full Irish breakfast, which is one of the best in the city.
Where: 4557 N Ravenswood Ave, Chicago, IL 60640
6. The Grafton Pub
If you want to find that pub with the Irish bartenders that you could just sit and listen to all day, The Grafton in Lincoln Square is the place to go. With a warm interior that succeeds in being modern Irish without being hokey, a whiskey list that runs 90 bottles deep, and a solid selection of craft beers, you won’t want to leave here. The burger is one of the best in the city, and the rest of the menu of Irish comfort foods is just as good. The Grafton is also one of the city’s best pubs for Irish music due to both scheduled performances and impromptu jams from students of the Old Town School of Folk Music located next door.
Where: 4530 N Lincoln Ave, Chicago, IL 60625
7. Cork and Kerry
The Far-Southside neighborhood of Beverly has always had a large Irish population. That’s still true today though now most residents are only Irish by ancestry. That doesn’t mean they’ve lost their Irish pride, though, and the place to go if you want to see that is Cork and Kerry. This place is a neighborhood institution, which means its a family-friendly place — especially on summer weekends when the huge patio fills up with locals, kids and all. The atmosphere will make you feel like you’re family, too. They don’t do food but often have food trucks at events.
Where: 10614 S Western Ave, Chicago, IL 60643
8. The Galway Arms
Lincoln Park has as many fake Irish pubs as just about any neighborhood in the city, but there’s one emerald in the bunch: The Galway Arms. With live traditional Irish music four nights a week, there’s a warmth and conviviality here that seems imported straight from Ireland. It helps that most of the staff are themselves Irish. The traditional food is great, the Guinness is always perfectly poured, and everyone’s always ready for a bit of craic.
Where: 2442 N Clark St, Chicago, IL 60614
9. Mrs. Murphy and Sons Irish Bistro
You might wonder what a bistro is doing on this list, but Mrs. Murphy and Sons Irish Bistro has earned its spot by doing some of Chicago’s best Irish cuisine. And lest you think this is just a restaurant, there’s a beautiful bar area with dark wood and green leather where you’ll want to sit and drink Guinness for hours. The bar has a very solid list of beers, wine, and Irish whiskeys.
Where: 3905 N Lincoln Ave, Chicago, IL 60613