The 12 Best Irish Pubs in Chicago for St. Patrick's Day

Raise a pint to the Republic these bang on Irish pubs, for St. Patrick’s Day and beyond.

On St. Patrick’s Day in Chicago, the opportunities for booze-fueled bad decisions are, quite simply, endless. From drinking your dinner to trying to take the train to the parade to venturing anywhere near the pub crawls going down at Kelly’s and McGee’s, there are innumerable ways your annual celebration of Celtic pride can devolve into amateur hour if you’re not careful. Luckily, not all of Chicago’s Irish bars are terrible come St. Patrick’s Day weekend, and some are actually pretty damn decent. So slip on your most festive green attire, gear up for some jig-inducing live music, and down your pints with confidence. Here are the best Irish bars in Chicago, from the Loop to Lakeview, from Galway to Shannon, and back again.

Fado Irish Pub

River North
$$$$

Sure, it might be an international chain. Sure, it might be a tad on the corny side. But damn if this multi-story River North tavern isn’t a tried-and-true good time. Sidle up to the ground floor’s polished horseshoe bar and drink your way through their standout whiskey collection, or grab yourself a pint of perfectly poured Guinness and cozy up in the traditional Irish snug upstairs. You might be surprised to learn that much of the space’s decor and furniture actually come straight from the Emerald Isle, elevating this Chicago institution from an EPCOT-level imitation to a bonafide drinking den with old-world roots.
How to book: Stop by for first come, first served seating.

Galway Arms

Lincoln Park
$$$$

This lively Lincoln Park mainstay is immediately recognized by its massive outdoor patio on Clark, typically bustling with thirsty patrons enjoying a cold one in the sun (or whatever the weather may be) along with typical pub fare such as Sausage Rolls and Chicken Pot Pie. Live traditional Irish musicians four nights a week provide added ambiance as you tangle with cocktails like the Irish whiskey-spiked Dublin Donkey or try to figure whatever the hell it is they’re watching on TV. (Hint: It could be Six Nations Rugby, with England taking on Ireland on St Pat’s Saturday.)
How to book: Stop by for first come, first served seating.

Available for Delivery/Takeout

Cork & Kerry

Beverly
$$$$

If you’re claustrophobic, you may want to stay away from this iconic Irish hang on St. Paddy’s Day. But any other day of the year makes for a fine time to step inside this Western Avenue hideaway to knock back a few cold ones with locals and Beverly newcomers. With a second location inside Guaranteed Rate Field and a more-than-solid beer garden, Cork & Kerry is a popular pick for happy hour when you can drink away your workday troubles with 20 beers on tap along with another 40 in bottles and cans and—in their words—“tasteless conversation.” Clinging to its working class roots despite gentrification and tourist inflows, this one joint to proudly cross off your Chicago bucket list.
How to book: Stop by for first come, first served seating.

There will be a long wait on St. Patrick’s Day, this is true. But stand your ground and you’ll be rewarded with a douche-free, authentic Irish oasis best known for its massive breakfast spread, which is basically a food bomb of bacon, bangers, eggs, black and white pudding, baked beans, and white toast. What comes after said Irish breakfast? Irish Slammers, naturally. On non-holidays, sip a Maple Old Fashioned and wonder why you don’t come here more often.
How to book: Stop by for first come, first served seating or order takeout via Toast.

Lady Gregory's

Andersonville
$$$$

Lady Gregory’s is almost too classy for St. Patrick’s Day in Chicago. Don’t believe us? Check out the “library room” for proof. In addition to offering sophisticated opportunities to fake-read Irish classics, this spot is also highly regarded for its brunch and firelit vibe that makes a perfect spot for awkward Tinder dates. If you are dating on St. Paddy’s Day, expect bagpipe players and the least amount of annoyance in town—depending, of course, on your date.
How to order: Order takeout via Toast.

Available for Reservations

Brehon Pub

River North
$$$$

A River North bar on St. Paddy’s day?! We know it looks bad, but Brehon’s location stashed away on Wells helps it avoid the usual St. Pat’s pitfalls. Yes, it’s crowded, but not horrendously so. Yes, there’s corned beef and green Jell-O shots. But no, you won’t have to fight any meatheads sporting green mohawks to get your hands on some. And if all else fails, there’s always Golden Tee. Any other week, expect to chill with locals and reminisce about the era when the Sun-Times and Better Government Association used the bar to set up corrupt city inspectors in a sting operation.
How to book: Stop by for first come, first served seating or call 312-642-1071 for takeout and delivery.

Emmit's Irish Pub

River West
$$$$

Depicted in such illustrious films as Backdraft, Uncle Buck, Ocean's Eleven, and US Marshals, this firemen-owned hangout was once a prime location for mobster shenanigans. Today, Clooney himself claims to be a fan, but if he were to show up on St. Paddy’s Day, he would find long lines (although he’s Clooney, so not really), bagpipe players standing atop the bar, and corned beef sandwiches to pair with SoCo and lime shooters. There are worse ways to spend St. Pat’s in Chicago. Much, much worse.
How to book: Stop by for first come, first served seating.

If you want a classic, you go to Chief O’Neill’s. The back patio tent is one of the city’s top locations for the St. Patrick’s Day experience, where Irish dancers and buffet eats mingle with a more diverse crowd including families, the middle-aged, and beer-chugging young hooligans. You can argue whether or not Chief O’Neill is, in fact, one of the Top 10 Irish Bars in the World as their website claims (without attribution), but you can’t argue with their flawless Guinness pour.
How to book: Reserve online.

No frills. No gimmicks. No BS. The Grafton is just a good time. Where else can you sip boozy delights over homemade Beef and Guinness stew while listening to live music throughout the week in one of the city’s top fireplace bars? We think you know the answer. On St. Paddy’s Day, it’s got everything you need but—perhaps more importantly—nothing that you don’t. Lively without being soul-crushing, the Grafton walks the line as fine as any bar in Chicago.
How to book: Stop by for first come, first served seating or order takeout via Toast.

Shinnick's Pub

Bridgeport
$$$$

While everyone in Beverly might flock to Cork & Kerry on St. Paddy’s, this friendly neighborhood dive’s laid-back digs present a tamer option—and also happens to be one of the oldest bars in the city. It went down in history as “Little City Hall” thanks to all the shady political deals that went down in the smoke-filled back room, and today, you can ask one of the remaining members of the Shinnick family manning the vintage Brunswick bar all about it. The pub sits a mere couple blocks from Guaranteed Rate Field, information which should come in handy later this spring (God willing).
How to book: Stop by for first come, first served seating.

Opened by the children of late, great Murphy’s Bleachers owner Jim Murphy in 2005, this affable North Center neighborhood hang offers not one, not two, but 17 days of St. Patrick’s Day festivities with traditional Irish music, Six Nations Rugby, and hearty Irish breakfasts every day leading up to the big holiday. Far enough removed from the post-collegiate epicenter of North Side debauchery yet close enough to throw out a lively, slightly more grown-up vibe, this joint also houses a market stocked with some hard-to-find Irish goods like imported cheeses and biscuits. Just try not to spill your Tullamore D.E.W. all over your trousers, ya’ bodach.
How to book: Reserve via Tock or order takeout via Toast.

The Fifth Province

Irving Park
$$$$

While there’s some debate about whether or not this is a quote-unquote secret bar, it sure as hell ain’t easy to find. Located in the south wing of the Irish American Heritage Center, the covert tavern is completely hidden away from plain view. The building looks very much like a local high school, so finding a fully fledged bar inside really makes it seem like you’ve stumbled upon a Freemason lair. In addition to hearty pub fare and pints of Guinness, expect live music after 9 pm. Hit up the Friday Fish Fry and after a few stouts, stumble around the center to check out Irish art and photography exhibits. They even host their own St. Pat’s Fest, which is a very nice touch.
How to book: Stop by for first come, first served seating.

Jay Gentile is a Thrillist contributor and he is never too classy for St. Patrick’s Day in Chicago. Follow @innerviewmag.