-Grubbing in Chicago
Where the locals drink/eat.
It's amateur weekend in Chicago. Which is funny because I've always wondered how the biggest celebration of the year for the Irish people, who also happen to be professionals at the drinking game, turned into being called amateur night. But I guess when your city celebrates March 17th as hard as any other, Dublin included, your going to get some morons that come with it. So let me ask you this, where do you plan on spending your St. Pat's day this weekend? Is it in a bar with a vomit covered floor in Lincoln Park? Rather let me ask you this, where do you go when you want a Guinness poured right with some good old English/Irish pub food? Chief O'Neill's might not of been your answer before but these days it should be.
On Elston ave in Chicago's Avondale neighborhood
Opened back in 1999 by two Irish musicians who also happen to be husband and wife their vision was to create a pub to celebrate the life of Chief O'Neill. The Chief aka Francis O'Neill was an Irish born American police officer who was a passionate collector of traditional Irish music. During his time in America, the Chief met a young lady from Bloomington, IL whom he later married and then moved to Chicago with. As far as looks, feel and authenticity of a classic pub which is what they recreated, I must say, they've done a-ok. Lets start off with what must be right if you want to be an accurate example of a classic Irish pub. If so you better pour me a Guinness properly and it better be in the only glass one should ever be poured in, a Guinness pint. This my friends is the only way.
The Chief has always offered up food and is known for their legendary brunch sessions which go thru more corned beef and Guinness than the rest of Elston ave combined. However just a little while back the kitchen at Chief O’Neill’s was taken over by a buddy of mine from the food world, Chef Alan Lake. I met Chef thru LTH and he does some great stuff for the Salvation Army doing cook outs which I've been lucky to help out at. A chef might not look at the job at Chiefs to be anything special. I mean after all, most people realize Irish food isn't at the top of the culinary chain when it comes to world cuisine. But Chef Lake has had previous experience at the famous Shelbourne in Ireland. So his goal was to elevate the food from your average bar food to more locally sourced ingredients in dishes that raise the "bar" when it comes to Irish eats.
The 'Banger Burger'
The burgers at the Chief are a sign of what Chef has done. You can get your normal burger charred up with lettuce, tomato, onion etc or you can try the Banger seen up above. Its their regular burger, cooked to your liking, topped with sliced bangers (Irish sausage) caramelized onions demi-glace and gravy. It comes with real mashed (not from a bag) potatoes and is a monster of an eat. It was like a Sheboygan brat burger meets a Hawaiian loco-moco. Much enjoyed. Other bar food options like a chicken breast sandwich with bacon, onions and Swiss cheese will please.
Jenny's Chicken Breast Sandwich
I'm a big fan of corned beef and a bigger fan of the reuben sandwich. One of the first things that caught my eye when Chef Lake took over was the switch to cured in house corned beef. The menu has an entire section dedicated to 'Emerald Isle Favorites' which includes the house corned beef with cabbage or you can also get it sliced and served on a sandwich. I have to say this is some of the best corned beef south of Milwaukee that I've come across. Chef said he prefers not using a leaner cut but even so this was full of flavor and had the perfect consistency to it. I now have a go-to spot for a Reuben sandwich when in need.
Reuben sandwich from Chief O'Neill's
As good as all this food we've gone thru is, theres something I cant enough of over here. I fell in love with fish and chips on a vacation to Ireland and Scotland with my moms side of the family back in 1996. It's one of my favorite dishes period. I love flaky cod breaded to perfection and doused with lemon and malt vinegar, so let me tell you people something. Chief O'Neill's has the best fish n' chips in Chicago. The cod is fresh and the batter and frying job are perfect but what separates this version from the rest around town and maybe even the world is the use of beef tallow. Yep they fry the fish in beef tallow.
Chief O'Neill's fish and chips "Best in City"
Using beef tallow in frying is a practice that's almost disappeared since McDonald's stopped frying their fries in it. Remember how good those were? The only other place around town that still uses tallow is Top Notch Beefburgers and they have the best fries in the city for a reason. So folks if you love fish and chips as much as me or you eat only fish on Fridays during lent, get your ass over to Chief O'Neill's. I don't know if you'll go to hell for eating fish fried in beef tallow but if so it's worth it. I'm happy to be able to have this place within a short ride and will be visiting during most months of the year and not just March. Check them out.
Chief O'Neill's Pub
3471 N. Elston Ave
Chicago, IL 60618