Editor’s note: Gunther Murphy’s merged with the infinite in 2007 and is now The Pony.
Feel like heading out to see some live music but don’t know what you want to hear? Or, perhaps you feel like a black & tan, maybe a pub quiz or a bit of chat? Possibly both? If so, head over to Gunther Murphy’s Public House where you’ll find friendly Irish bartenders, cutting-edge live music, and what could be the perfect pint of Guinness.
Located just east of the Bungalow, west of the transient Ambers Motel and the enormity of the Lincoln, Belmont and Ashland intersection, Gunther Murphy’s is Roscoe Village’s most authentic Irish pub (sorry Mulligan’s). With its Celtic script and new coat of beige paint with black and red trim, Gunther Murphy’s has taken a step beyond its past as “Gunther’s” German Restaurant when its fa?ade consisted of faux shingled roof, German-styled lanterns and crisscrossing wooden beams. However, the name remains to pay homage to its heritage as well as its ability to pour a mean pint. Push your way through the old wooden door, flash your ID at the doorman and welcome to a little slice of Irish Chicago.
The interior of Gunther’s is best described as “non-descript.” A long wooden bar with green beveled glass and a large television (often silent) at its north end runs down the west end of the room, across from several green booths. Random posters of Ireland round out the d?cor. While more of a dive bar that tries really hard, the air of Irish authenticity comes more from the people and atmosphere. As noted in a recent article by the Pint Police: “When we walked into Gunther Murphy’s, we found 28 beers sitting on the bar. All but two of them were Guinness. At least 20 people (out of 30) spoke with an Irish accent. Two guys playing darts wore their finest Guinness T-shirts. Sinead O’Connor and U2 blared from the jukebox.” Here at Gunther’s locals mix with Chicago Irish, when they’re not hanging out at the Irish Oak, and a crowd of music lovers that changes nightly adds an interesting dynamic. As far as the black stuff goes, Shecky’s Bar Club & Lounge Guide 2002 boldly proclaims that Gunther Murphy’s offers the “best pint of Guinness in the city.” The Pint Police were somewhat more critical: “Gunther’s shorted us on head but gave us a full-pint pour. The only thing un-Irish about this Guinness, sadly, was the temperature: a chilly 40° F.” Whatever your verdict, The Official Chicago Bar Guide (1994) recommends, “getting to be pals with the owners, which is as tough as befriending insurance salesmen.”
Just beyond the front room is a smaller area filled with small wooden tables and a plethora of uncomfortable, tiny wooden stools ala Hidden Shamrock. During warmer days, a ceiling fan cools patrons with blades that barely descend through the black drop-ceiling, while a stone fireplace compliments the Guinness in winter to warm your bones. A cork dartboard and portrait of the kilt and lederhosen-clad “Gunther Murphy” hanging above the fireplace stand opposite the bathrooms (featuring a ceramic piss trough filled with ice for the guys – now, that’s something to look forward to). Keep walking through this area and you’ll find the entrance to the back room.
“A recent facelift has transformed the facade of Gunther Murphy’s into one reminiscent of a true Irish pub, while the interior is more ‘authentic Chicago dive’ – although bartenders occasionally from the old country do pour a mean pint of Guinness. The backroom, styled after your parents’ basement, provides the latest from the local rock/alternative music scene for $7-$10 a head.”
– yours truly as featured in Time Out Chicago
In addition to the Guinness, patrons come to Gunther’s for their endless, eclectic array of live alternative and rock bands that jam from Thursday through Saturday on a modest wooden stage with black drapes as a backdrop. The level of talent matches that found at nearby Beat Kitchen, Elbo Room, Coyle’s Tippling House, and the now-defunct Thurston’s. The bands primarily consist of unknown local and regional performers seeking to make it big. The cover charge generally ranges between $3 and $6 and you get to see three bands. When perusing the listing of upcoming bands playing at Gunther’s, odds are you’ll never recognize the names. As the band plays on, patrons observe from two long, worn wooden benches that line both sides of the room, and at a few tables with banquet hall chairs near the stage. Enjoyment of the music is facilitated by the small back bar, which offers a few beers on tap and more in bottles. It was here that I once saw a free WXRT show featuring Peter Stuart, former lead singer of Dog’s Eye View. This one-man-show was great and was highlighted by Pilsner Urquell’s sponsorship, consisting of a giant, glowing, inflatable beer bottle up front and somewhat smaller cardboard version on stage – comprising “the band” according to Stuart. When the stage falls silent, private parties tie it on from Sunday through Wednesday, and if that’s not enough entertainment for you the front bar offers a pub quiz every other Monday.
“A great venue for intimate musical adventures”
– Illinois Entertainer (December 3, 2000)
Some feel the place had more charm before they started offering music, but Gunther Murphy’s is still a great place to enjoy a quiet pint of Guinness, kick back in front of the fireplace or get to know the regulars and staff from the auld sod. Otherwise, if you’re feeling adventurous, check out some new bands. While Gunther’s doesn’t serve food, check out River Kwai Seafood II afterwards for some late night Thai curry if you get the munchies. Slainte.