Keenan O’Malley’s

2125 N. Roscoe St. (3400N, 2100W) Chicago, IL 60618 R.I.P.

As a precursor to present-day Irish pubs like the Irish Oak, Celtic Crown, Johnny O’Hagan’s, and The Grafton (just to name a few), Keenan O’Malley’s served as Roscoe Village’s only Irish pub. Roscoe Villagers today can head over to Finley Dunne’s or Mulligan’s for some quasi-Irish shenanigan’s but the trailblazer that was Keenan O’Malley’s is sadly gone.

According to the late great Roscoe Village historian Chuck Hadley, the building housing Keenan O’Malley’s was Johnny Weigelt’s Catering Hall which played host to hundreds of celebrations. Weigelt’s then relocated to Damen and Byron and the property was purchased by Andy Zerbes, who transformed it into Europa House, a German-style restaurant that lasted well into the 1970s. Zerbes then retired and the restaurant shifted from the continental to the Celtic when it was sold to Chris Creswell, who established Keenan O’Malley’s. While Keenan O’Malley’s predates the Chicago Bar Project by quite a bit, I ran across this well written synopsis of the place:

“A newcomer to the scene is Keenan O’Malley’s. We are told that this place is named after Keenan O’Malley, ‘legendary Irish patriot and folk hero who was a poet, historian, warrior, statesman, gourmet chef, inventor, musician, author and painter.’ The proprietors Jack Keenan and William P. O’Malley say, ‘it is to this giant among men that we, his progeny, humbly dedicate this saloon.’ This is a large place which includes a hall capable of holding 400 people, it has a 4 o’clock license, and for the neighborhood it stands out for its size and scope. O’Malley’s offers live entertainment, specializing in 1950’s and 1960’s rock n’ roll, as well as showing films. All sporting events are shown here, although they are kind enough to turn the sound down during entertainment. These fellows write everything in green ink, the decor is Chicago Irish and an outline of the map of Ireland is part of their logo. When you go to O’Malley’s, bring some blarney with you.”

-Dennis McCarthy, The Great Chicago Bar & Saloon Guide (1985)

While they poured a mean Guinness and put on a good show, Keenan O’Malley’s yielded to become Bedrocks/Concrete Jungle. Today, the venue is now inhabited by a branch of the Union Insurance Group. Considering the popularity of Roscoe Village, especially with the Village Tap, Riverview Tavern and the Four Moon Tavern, it is unfortunate that Keenan O’Malley’s is no longer around as it would be sure to attract hordes of Emerald Isle enthusiasts.