“#1 Soccer Bar in the USA for 2003, 2004, 2005 & 2006”
Since 1992, Ginger’s has been a great place for a bit of craic, having a well-poured pint of Guinness, and to get exceedingly inebriated while watching a sporting event. They even have a pub quiz every Sunday night at 8pm. Ginger’s Ale House is unique not just because they repaint the exterior in different colors each year, but also because it is one of the last outposts along Ashland Avenue for good drinking (props to Ten Cat and Keenan O’Reilly’s, which are the last until you hit the Edgewater Lounge further north at Bryn Mawr). In this, and several other ways, Ginger’s Ale House is much like Chief O’Neill’s on Elston, as they are both friendly Irish pubs located along unsuspecting strips of streets not known for their nightlife. However, Ginger’s has a leg up on the Chief for gamers with its pool room, Golden Tee machine and plethora of projection televisions and big screens (Ginger’s used to have real cork dartboards, but that has gone the way of the Cubs’ World Series hopes of 2003). In this way, Ginger’s is like a cross between the amusements of Cody’s, the Irish feel of Cullen’s, and the laid back atmosphere of nearby Toons.
Ginger’s is rather spacious, especially following its recent expansion by owners Tony Griffin and Jamie Hale. The front room houses a long wooden bar with wooden high-backed chairs, exposed brick walls, plenty of tables and chairs, a high ornate tin ceiling, and a big projection screen against the east wall where the two regulation dartboards used to be. Ginger’s logo depicting an attractive barmaid (depicted in the logo seen above) is etched into a large mirror behind the bar, next to a large chalkboard detailing each of their selection of 34. These fine brewskies go well with Ginger’s mixture of traditional Irish and English fare, including: fish & chips, shepherd’s pie, chicken curry, Irish stew, bangers & mash, full Irish breakfast (served all day), and other pub grub all detailed in the Guinness pint-shaped menu. Unfortunately, Ginger’s Irish specialties are a bit hit and miss and not as good as at fado, Cullen’s or Chief O’Neill’s. I was there recently and the chicken curry was overflowing with peas, which are not served with a proper chicken curry, and a friend of mine received a partially melted square of Kraft-like, processed, supposedly cheese to top of his shepherd’s pie. For those of you not into this type of food, or are perhaps frightened by it – fear not. Ginger’s has a good selection of American appetizers, sandwiches and pizza to choose from. Just wash it down with a pint of Guinness or Harp and you’ll be right as rain. All selections are available between 11:00am and 1:00am. Seating is available at wooden benches under the two stuffed leprechauns hanging over the front door, and at a smattering of what can only loosely be described as cocktail tables with their thick, worn wood.
In additional to pub enthusiasts, Ginger’s also caters to sportsman of the armchair variety by offering a bevy of televised events on over 16 televisions, and a big screen dedicated to showing all televised English Premier League, Scottish Premier League, UEFA Champions League, UEFA Cup, Internationals, and MLS soccer games as well as American college football and the NFL. One will also find all Cubs games broadcast here as Ginger’s is less than a mile from the friendly confines of Wrigley Field, to be sure.
When they still had it, the darts area at Ginger’s Ale House rivaled those found at Cody’s and the Cork Lounge. Two real cork dartboards hung between boards for scoring. Bright lights (big city) ensured that there was no way possible for your triple one to be construed as a triple twenty. The worn wooden darts landing gave throwers plenty of room, even with the broken-down ATM off to the side. A brass railing held patrons in, but did not deflect errant darts from the nearby throng. Those drinking nearby had to beware… While the landing offered separation from careless inebriates, it did not prevent all of the distractions like the pulsing garbage bag that covered a vent leading to the outside, or when a member of the kitchen staff would periodically ring a bell to alert waitresses that orders needed to be picked up in a manner that made any Salvation Army volunteer proud. Here, the Windy City Darters would regularly compete – guys who could hit a triple-twenty with their eyes closed. Their results were posted along the far wall.
In addition to serving as a room for private parties, the back room offers a pool table, a Golden Tee machine, and an impressive array of signage and posters affixed to a red cork ceiling (including one of the Ginger’s logo). You’ll also find additional seating in booths along the side, at cocktail tables in the middle that have replaced the tables with barrels for your kiester, and in front of the window overlooking Ashland Avenue in the well-padded bench seats. An opening in the north wall leads to the recent annex, which serves as the private party room at Ginger’s. In it, there is an additional bar in the southeast corner, cocktail tables and a big screen. In summer, Ginger’s opens its sidewalk cafe but the plethora of exhaust fumes on Ashland usually render the area fairly empty. Ladies, when Mother Nature calls let the pink neon sign in the front room guide you towards the bathroom in the back. And guys, as you’re taking a leak in the porcelain trough, don’t let the fruits of the condom machine tempt you into something you may regret in the morning…
Ginger’s frequently sponsors local sports teams, and boasts a large number of resulting trophies on the wall. One of the teams sponsored is the Chicago Swans Australian Rules Football Club, which is one of two Chicago teams that play Australian “footy.” They also hold the Swans’ annual end-of-season party in the back room, which turns into a typical Aussie drunk-fest where the word “feck” is herd more times than Ginger’s has repainted their facade. In addition to the Australians and occasional Irish lads, the crowd consists primarily of unpretentious, younger locals and some drunk Cubs traffic in the summer. While not being known as a live music venue, Ginger’s often hosts local bands on Friday and Saturday nights (expect a $5 cover), and open-mic improv on Monday nights.
Ginger’s is a great pub to hang out in anytime during the week or on the weekend, for a bit of sport and craic. Just mind the potato-eaters, Pommies, those from the Land of Oz, and all the other shifty characters you’ll find in there (including yours truly). If you like Ginger’s Ale House, you may also like Harrigan’s, located just north of Diversey on Halsted, which is under the same ownership. For more information and to see the word “proclivities” used in a sentence, check out the Ginger’s Ale House website. T’anks a million, Ginger!
The 2002 look:
The old look: