The scene: Set on an otherwise desolate section of Elston Ave. on the northwest side, the cozy and amiable Chief O’Neill’s was recently voted one of the best Irish pubs in the world, according to Ireland of the Welcomes magazine. A roaring fireplace, Irish antiques, old photos, dark wood, stained-glass windows and elevated booths give the front bar plenty of character. Beyond the bar lie a spacious dining room, private party space upstairs and an alluring beer garden, offering patrons the best of all worlds. A casual vibe dominates — you’re just as likely to see a family of five having dinner as a group of friends toasting pints.
Food and drink: Imagine the typical menu you’re used to seeing at an Irish pub in Chicago, and then toss that notion out the window. Growing up, chef/co-owner Brendan McKinney spent many a summer visiting — and cooking — with family in Ireland, and it’s clear he takes some pride in his creations. The baked crab-stuffed clams and spinach artichoke goat cheese fondue are out of this world, and the grilled Faroe Island Atlantic salmon, encrusted with green apple, roasted shallot and Irish bacon also comes highly recommended. Not to be forgotten is this specialty: Guinness-infused meatloaf, consisting of a combination of caramelized beef, veal and pork wrapped in bacon and served with mashed potatoes, sautéed season vegetables, onion hay and mushroom demi-glace.
What caught our eye: Unquestionably, one of the best (and biggest) beer gardens in all of Chicago will be calling our name once the weather turns. It is a fabulous, fenced-in oasis perfect for spending a Saturday with friends or grabbing a pint after work. … A children’s menu with options for $6 is a nice touch.
We’ll be back because… O’Neill’s boasts all the charming, authentic qualities you look for in an Irish pub. Then add on a huge dining room, beer garden and an extensive menu of hearty goodness that rivals most fine restaurants, and you can’t help but want to plan another visit.
Where it’s at: 3471 N. Elston Ave.
By Trent Modglin
Article courtesy of The Real Chicago Magazine