Formerly a Polish bar possibly called Bisaca but better known for its bright white and green Special Export sign above the door, Keenan O’Reilly’s Pub was opened recently by a few of the bar’s regulars. The place has become a welcome addition to the neighborhood with its cheap beers, relaxed atmosphere and lack of the crowds and yahoos found just to the east along Southport and further east towards Wrigley Field.
Keenan O’Reilly’s is located on the west side of Ashland across from Ten Cat Tavern and Ginger’s Ale House a little further south, and is just south of Irving Park Road and the Long Room. The new ownership, with a nod to tradition, have kept the aforementioned Special Export sign—one of the few left in existence—above a green-painted wooden door with narrow slats for windows.
Step through the door and you’ll find a good-sized room with hardwood floors, a white drop ceiling and a worn wooden bar that arcs well out into the room, taking up much of the space but leaving enough for the clientele. Keenan’s doesn’t have any beer on tap but they’ve got a decent selection in bottles, usually one of which is on special for $2. Keenan’s doesn’t have a kitchen but might be able to throw a frozen pizza in the toaster oven. Two flatscreen televisions deliver your SportsCenter fix and, if that doesn’t do it for ya, there’s a Golden Tee in southeast corner and the back room features a pool table and darts. Keenan’s also offers WiFi access and I actually saw a guy in there at midnight on a Saturday with a Macbook. I hope he bought the extended warranty…
You’ll find a laid-back atmosphere at Keenan’s, even more so than both Ginger’s Ale House (rowdy) and Ten Cat Tavern (Bohemian), with a primarily male crowd drawn from the condos in the neighborhood, in a manner similar to that of nearby Cork Lounge, Cody’s and Millie’s Tavern. I’m glad they kept the Special Export sign but the Irish name is a stretch as there’s nothing notably Irish about the place, but it’s a good, regular bar.
Because of its location midway down the block between Byron and Irving Park, Keenan O’Reilly’s is a place you’re likely to miss as you pass by unless you’re looking for it. I wasn’t sure what to expect upon my first visit, considering its somewhat uninviting exterior typical of the old-man bars it once was, but I was quite happy with what I found inside and will be back for more soon. For more information, you’ll have to call the bar because they don’t have a website. In the meantime:
May your glass be ever full,
May the roof over your head be always strong,
And may you be in heaven
Half an hour before the devil knows you’re dead.
– Irish toast