Hands down, Dublin’s is our favorite place on that first warm, sunny Spring day for a long lunch, thanks to its small but sought after sidewalk cafe. Though its authentic “Irish-ness” is limited to a well-pulled pint of Guinness, corned beef & cabbage and neon shamrocks, the joint just happens to be the only neighborhood bar in the area with a kitchen that is open until 3am, every day.
Dublin’s anchors the west end of the Viagra Triangle, formed by Bellevue, State & Rush, named thus because of all the middle-aged men that flock to Tavern on Rush and related nightspots surrounding the triangular Mariano Park, and the women that—ahem—love them. Perhaps as an infuriation to real estate moguls, Dublin’s humbly stands in all of its one-story glory in the Gold Coast, the most posh area of Chicago, in front of Morton’s. A green-painted, wooden plate-glass door matches the trim on the otherwise white-stuccoed structure. And, for the record, the address is 1050 N. State..
Step into its laid-back lair, and you will find a smallish, single room with a low ceiling, and dominated by a wooden island bar in its center with high-backed wooden barstools. Green-padded booths with white linen tablecloths line the room’s perimeter and a television is never out of your line of sight, giving the place a sports bar feel. A pair of recently renovated, one-seater restrooms also used by the staff are located in the south wall.
In warm weather, the sidewalk cafe is accessible through a door in the north wall, through which you’ll find about a dozen green plastic tables and chairs all fenced in with a black-painted, wrought iron railing. The best spot is the two-top at the extreme east end, where you can observe the action in the Viagra Triangle and along Maple Street. Now that Melvin B’s and Cactus are long gone, Dublin’s takes the reins as the best outdoor seating in the entire Gold Coast.
Even better than its sidewalk cafe is that Dublin’s is the only casual neighborhood bar an area filled with meat markets—of the sleazy Division Street variety or the “upscale” Viagra Triangle variety, alternating between Sugar Daddies and creepfests—and over-priced cocktail lounges and piano bars (Zebra Lounge being a notable exception). As such, the crowd consists of actual Gold Coasters mixing with the great unwashed, in the form of those of us from the North Side, suburbanites, tourists, and conventioneers. Industry folks descend after their shifts end. Chicago Bar Project note: don’t be surprised if they ask you to move to the bar after your meal if you tarry during busy times, particularly if you stop drinking. Also, keep your eye on the tab if you just ordered drinks at a table, or ordered doubles or shots – in the latter case, you may want a fellow patron that just walked in to look at it…
Dublin’s serves up an admirable selection of pub grub, of which the signature dish is the corned beef & cabbage. The corned beef is thickly cut and superb, though it is almost entirely covered by a somewhat comical, 1/8 of a head of cabbage. As you eat it, you may feel those sitting around you silently pleading for you to stop before the air quality degrades… Dublin’s also serves beer-battered fish & chips (?!?) and a selection of pastas. You’ll also find an upscale menu of appetizers, homemade soups, sandwiches, salads, as well as an array of steaks and chops (presumably to fit in with nearby Gibson’s, Morton’s and Carmine’s). The kitchen stays open to an hour before its late-night close, every night of the year.
Once Arnie’s Cafe in a former life (named after Arnie Morton, from which Morton’s Steakhouse takes its name), Dublin’s Bar & Grill is owned by the people behind Bijan Bistro (located a little further south on State). You might guess by the lack of subtlety in the name, but Dublin’s offers more of a “Chicago Irish” feel than actual Irish, in the spirit of nearby Butch McGuire’s, Emmit’s Pub (River West) and Chicago Blarney Stone (Wrigleyville). Regardless, Dublin’s is one of the first bars in Chicago where I darkened the doorstep, and one of my oldest favorites, especially after a few drinks at some of the higher priced alternatives in the area, when I find myself having to stop into Dublin’s to “cleanse my palate” with a Guinness. Go n-ithe an cat thu is go n-ithe an diabhal an cat (Gaelic: may the cat eat you and the devil eat the cat).