Located on one of the quietest blocks of Halsted on the North Side, is one of the best, least known Chicago bars. Harrigan’s is the name and, if you can look beyond the cliché shamrocks and other Irish memorabilia, American style, you’ll find an excellent watering hole. Though nothing in particular stands out at in the physical sense, the atmosphere at Harrigan’s is extremely conducive to having a few pints, chatting with friends and taking in some local R&B without loud, irritating dance music and uncomfortable tiny stools ala Durkin’s and the Hidden Shamrock, respectively, located steps away.
Harrigan’s, often mistaken as Harrington’s which is the name of the previous incarnation of the bar, can be found on Halsted Street, just north of Diversey. The recently redone, wooden façade, painted in black with gold trim, is often covered by the current beer special and is framed by twin Guinness signs and Irish flags that flap in the wind. A modest wooden sign hangs above from a metal pole that pierces this one-story, brick building’s circular stone emblem. Pass through the door and you’ll find a narrow barroom featuring a black & white checkered floor, old-fashioned ceiling fans that hang from green-painted tin, floor-to-ceiling wooden paneling filled with photographs and mirrored beer signs, and high-backed, wooden chairs that line the long bar running along the south end of the room. If you see a spot at the bar, grab it. There’s only a few seats in the back and it’s standing-room-only across from the bar. Harrigan’s no longer has a foosball table but does have a Golden Tee machine and darts in the back, as well as a few televisions around the room for your entertainment. It was on one of these TVs that I first heard the news that Lady Diana had died in a horrific car crash. Not even the great vibe could counter the sorrow we all felt that night.
On a lighter note, local R&B and rock bands like Phat Time take up the tiny “stage” – otherwise known as the 4′ by 8′ space just in front of the windows overlooking Halsted – around 10 p.m. on the weekends. Karaoke, that often fun to do yet foul to hear pastime, is featured on Thursday nights as well as comedic hijinx on Wednesday nights. Feeling a bit peckish? Harrigan’s doesn’t have a kitchen but instead offers a menu featuring steaks, burgers, and barbecue ribs from the Select Cut Steak House, located next door. The average entree ranges between $8 and $15 and can be washed down with one of 18 beers, including Schlitz from the can.
Overall, Harrigan’s, not to be confused with the lesser known Harrigan’s Girl on Clark or Harrigan’s Pub & Eatery in Batavia, is a classic Chicago bar not only with comfortable surroundings, but also a friendly atmosphere. It’s the type of place where the bartenders will buy you a drink if you’ve been there for awhile, and you’ll not have to worry about Parkway Meatheads or the Lincoln Park Trixies. The only thing you will have to worry about is making your way to the can when the place is packed like the El at rush hour and when two guys are kicking a plastic Santa around, as observed in the Official Chicago Bar Guide in 1994 and 2001, respectively. Next time you feel like a quiet pint in the afternoon or would like to check out a good local band without paying a cover, head over to Harrigan’s. They might not know your name, but you’ll feel like George Wendt may pull up a stool at the end of the bar at any moment. For more information, check out the Harrigan’s MySpace page. Cheers.
Everywhere there’s signs
Blocking up the scenery
Breaking up my mind
Do this, don’t do that
Can’t you read the sign?”– Five Man Electrical Band
(not Tesla or Creed!!!)