Every superhero, super-villain and super-sports fan needs an underground lair to call home. Tucked safely below street level, these sought after underground dominions are the perfect place to plan the overthrow of evil, plot world-domination or to ponder the perpetual ineptitude of the Chicago sporting landscape. And when it comes to super sports bars in Streeterville there are none better than Timothy O’Toole’s.
Family-owned and operated since 1992 by Humberto & Sara Martinez, O’Toole’s is the granddaddy of the fast-changing Streeterville bar scene. My own informal survey of the neighborhood can find no longer running establishment in the area. Sixteen years might not seem like a long time, but in the hyper-competitive world of restaurants and bars, it is a sign that the proprietors are doing something right. For further perspective on this, check out the ever-growing list in the Chicago Bar Project’s Gone but not Forgotten section.
O’Toole’s, located downstairs at the corner of Fairbanks and Ontario, has absolutely everything a sports bar aficionado could want. After a few minutes inside, the numerous attractions and distractions will make the absence of any windows a complete after-thought. A sum total of 45 TVs, including two big screens and 13 plasmas, cover the full spectrum of local, national and international sports. For recreational pursuits, O’Toole’s has Golden Tee (advertised as the cheapest in the city), electronic darts, NTN Interactive Trivia, free WiFi, an electronic jukebox with over 100,000 songs, and three pool tables. If you can’t find something to watch or do at O’Toole’s, you’re simply refusing to try.
Local fans are sure to find the Cubs, White Sox, Bears*, Bulls and Blackhawks on the screens, but one of O’Toole’s strongest points is the attention they give both the Transplant and the Traveler. Just moved to Chicago from Philly? You can find a section of the bar devoted to (the always well behaved) Eagles fans. On a business trip from Memphis? You can watch the Grizzlies miss the playoffs, again, from a comfortable stool or table. If, by chance, your favorite team is not already showing, just ask one of the managers to tune it in and, if the Satellite Gods are pumping the signal, O’Toole’s is always happy to accommodate your request.
O’Toole’s adds to the experience with a very competent menu of appetizers, salads, wraps and sandwiches, including eight different takes on the traditional burger. Every year, Timothy O’Toole’s also hosts a table at Wing Fest. Weekend brunch adds a 30-ingredient Bloody Mary bar, giving Fireside a run for their money. You won’t find any surprises on the drinks menu, but O’Toole’s carries a solid selection of 24 beers on tap and another two dozen by the bottle. In addition to rotating monthly specials, O’Toole’s has on-going drink specials seven nights a week. And for budget-conscious students of Northwestern’s downtown campus, there are $2 domestic drafts every day with ID. Now that’s a deal.
My one and only criticism of O’Toole’s concerns their bathrooms. It has nothing to do with the cleanliness or the condition of the commodes, but there is the conspicuous presence of bathroom attendants on-duty most evenings and even during Sunday brunch. In my humble opinion, bathroom attendants have about as much business in a sports pub as a can of tuna in a sushi bar. But maybe that’s just me. Take note, Red Ivy and Cubby Bear.
“Since August 1992, Timothy O’Toole’s has:
Poured over 4 million Pints of Beer
Mixed over 175,000 Pints of ‘Holy Water’
Served more than 7,000,000 Wings
Made more than 20,000 Gallons of Wing Sauce
Served over 1,000,000 Burgers
Shown more than 500,000 Sporting Events
Played over 1,000,000 Songs on the Jukebox
Had over 1,000,000 Pool Games played here
Hosted more than 2,000,000 patrons and counting!”– from the Timothy O’Toole’s website
Timothy O’Toole’s is every bit the equal of other sports bar mainstays like Gamekeeper’s, McGee’s or Justin’s. It’s a great place to catch a game, enjoy some quality comfort food or just to stop in for an after-movie drink as O’Toole’s is located just one block from AMC’s River East 21 movie theater. For more information, check out the Timothy O’Toole’s website. In the Chicago sports bar scene, Timothy O’Toole’s is a winner. Take note, Cubs.
* Bears fans take note: O’Toole’s offers round-trip shuttle service to all Bears home games for $10. Space is limited, so phone ahead.