Chicago Irish Bars: Your Guide to St. Patrick’s Day Drinking
If you’re headed to the Second City for St. Patrick’s Day, you’ve made a great choice. Chicago is known for its Irish bars and festivities that run all weekend long. There’s only one caveat: most Chicago Irish bars are bound to be full on St. Patrick’s Day. If you’re willing to brave the crowds (and quite possibly the cold), you’ll be rewarded with rivers of beer and Chicago camaraderie.
Feeling a little intimidated by the crowds? We’ve created a basic St. Patrick’s Day guide to help get you in and out of the bars without too much Irish luck.
ST. PATRICK’S DAY GUIDE
If you’re planning on coming to Chicago for St. Patty’s Day, you’d better do a little planning. St. Patrick’s Day in Chicago is kind of like New Year’s Eve in NYC. People come from miles around to see strange sights. For one, the Chicago River runs green. There’s a parade. And yes, it can still be obscenely cold out (although it sometimes can be over 50, which makes things extra crazy). But if you’ve still got the chutzpah to get your buns out here anyway, you’ll be a true Chicagoan at heart.
Note that St. Patrick’s Day is always celebrated on the preceding Saturday, or on the actual day if it falls on a Saturday (e.g. if March 17th falls on a Tuesday, St. Patrick’s Day will be celebrated on Saturday, March 14th; if the 17th falls on a Saturday, that is the day). There is an extra caveat that the South Side Irish Parade falls on the preceding Sunday each year.
Some of the most popular events of the day include:
- Dyeing the river green
- Attending the many St. Patrick’s Day Parades
- Drinking beer and eating Irish food
- Attending the many St. Patrick’s Day festivals
- Running the Shamrock Shuffle
All these activities are bound to be mobbed on the day of, but you can bet your bottom dollar that Chicago Irish bars will be the most crowded of all the St. Patty’s Day activities.
HOW TO GET INTO CHICAGO IRISH BARS ON ST. PATRICK’S DAY
We’re not gonna lie to you: getting into Chicago Irish bars on St. Patrick’s Day ain’t gonna be easy. You’re gonna need to fight dozens to hundreds of other thirsty clients for a spot at the bar. But if you make it, you’ll have a great time.
Try to get to the pubs as early as possible — as soon as they open. You might need to skip other St. Patrick’s Day activities in order to secure your spot.
Luckily, once you’re in, you’re in. Your only worry? Losing your stool at the bar should you need to run to the bathroom…
The pub has been around since the 1980s, but like most other pubs in Chicago, its building has seen plenty of history. You’ll probably recognize this spot from some of Hollywood’s most iconic movies, including “Uncle Buck,” “Backdraft,” “Oceans Eleven” and “Oceans Twelve.” Known for being a hangout for fireman, and being close to another Chicago staple, Richard’s, this is a great place to stop in for a pint.
Harrigan’s has been a Chicago fixture since the 1980s. If you want a truly authentic Irish pub experience, head here. They have some seriously great Irish and Irish-inspired beers on tap, including a pint of perfectly-poured Guinness (duh). You can, of course, order local craft beer or a cocktail, too. The often feature karaoke, so you may be able to sign that Irish ballad you never knew had in you after 10 beers.
Chief O’Neil’s is a bit more off the beaten track than most of the other bars listed, so you may have a bit more luck getting in. A huge space with a massive back patio, this spot is owned by two Irish musicians and has an authentic air. There are plenty of Irish beers and spirits to satisfy the most thirsty of customers along with good solid pub food.
Beer tends to be the main event at an Irish pub — not necessarily the food. We love Paddy Long’s because both the beer and the food get equal attention here.
The extra star player on this pub’s menu is the bacon. In fact, these guys offer beer and bacon tastings to help expand your bacon-and-beer palate. Their main dish is called ‘The Bomb,’ 5 pounds of ground beef, hugged (we’re talking the biggest bear hug you’ve ever gotten) in brown sugar bacon. On St. Paddy’s Day, they feature a more limited menu of their favorites and some traditional Irish dishes, too.
For a truly authentic experience, head to Shinnick’s in Bridgeport. This is a bare-bones, no-frills Irish pub that dates to the 1880s and has been owned by the Schinnick family since the 1930s.
If you want to drink like a true Chicagoan, this is the bar to check out on St. Patrick’s Day.
Yes, it is a national chain, but Fado still packs a hearty Irish punch. A large space with multiple levels in the easy-to-access River North neighborhood, these pros know what they are doing. Plenty of Irish and other European ales are on draft, and they sometimes feature music, too.
For those of you wearing fancy pants (you know who you are: you’d rather be watching Lady Edith and Lady Mary duke it out over a bunch of drunk pub goers), head to Lady Gregory’s.
This upscale Irish restaurant and bar has a great whiskey menu, tons of fancy cocktails and farm-to-table fare.
They open bright and early on St. Patrick’s Day (10 a.m.) and offer celebrations all weekend.
Located in Lincoln Park, Galway Arms often features Irish singers in a warm, appropriately lit pub and restaurant. The food is good, and there is a large patio perfect for the warmer days…whenever they may come.
OTHER WAYS TO ENJOY BEER AT IRISH BARS
If you’re starting to feel a little apprehensive about stuffing your body into a tiny room with hundreds of other revelers, you can always do what many old souls do: skip the Irish bars on Saturday and head there the actual St. Patrick’s Day. The amateurs will be all beer’d out.
Finally, if you really want an authentic Chicago Irish experience, we’d love to have you on our Bacon & Brewing Beer Tour. We head to Harrigan’s Pub and Paddy Long’s (two of the Irish pubs on our list). While we don’t tour on St. Patrick’s Day Saturday due to the craziness, we do most other Saturdays during the year. Until we see you, Sláinte!