Following the Irish Oak, and located only about a block away, Johnny O’Hagan’s is one of Wrigleyville’s most recent Irish pubs. O’Hagan’s offers an upscale, authentic, prefabricated Irish pub experience with scores of rowdy patrons, Guinness, Irish music, and bar merchandise for sale. Johnny O’Hagan’s is a far cry from the Siam Corner Thai restaurant that it replaced.
O’Hagan’s opened in the year 2000, and is located on Roscoe, in the triangular area between Sheffield and Clark – just two blocks south of Wrigley Field. It is easily spotted with its bright red façade if you’re coming from further north or east along Roscoe. Otherwise, if you’re coming south along Sheffield or Clark, O’Hagan’s is somewhat more difficult to spot as the bar faces north. Because of its location, and its plethora of stumbling drunks coming out of the bar, the City of Chicago recently added a four-way stop sign at Roscoe and Clark to prevent accidents.
Unlike pubs in Ireland, when you step up to O’Hagan’s you’ll be promptly carded – giving you time to gaze at the O’Hagan’s merchandise in the doorway. The main room when you walk in is only slightly wider than that of the Matchbox, Chicago’s smallest tavern. There is just enough room for an elegant mahogany bar on the left and some table seating (with those tiny, irritating stools) to your right. Frosted windows with Harp advertising look out onto Clark from this seating area, giving you a nice view of Club Eden. The middle of the front room is a huge bottleneck. This is where busy waitresses hustle between the bar and patrons, while stopping briefly to enter their orders into the cash register. Because patrons have nowhere else to stand (one has a snowball’s chance in Hell of getting a stool at the bar), the waitresses have to shove there way through – frustrating everyone in the process. This makes the service area conundrum at Southport Lanes seem like a non-issue. More table seating is available in an even smaller room in the back. Bands play from Tuesday through Sunday on a tiny elevated stage all the way back there, on the west wall of the pub. I have seen both Irish music and a Beatles cover band play at O’Hagan’s.
There is an enormous old-fashioned, stone fireplace in the back room for cold winter nights, and a sidewalk café complete with wrought iron railing, red-wooden planters, and several plastic tables and chairs, in the summertime. The sidewalk cafe offers patrons a bit of fresh air but, because O’Hagan’s is wedged between both the Red and the Brown Line El tracks, it is just a bit. And, on Saturday nights, don’t be surprised if the smell of urine wafts around the corner from drunks peeing under the El tracks on either side of the bar. It was under the Brown Line El tracks that the “Sheffield Incident” occurred of which I was personally involved and which also involved urination – but beyond that, like Gary Condit, I have no comment.
The food is on par with the Irish Oak and fadó; it has upscale appeal and is rather good. Notable items include Harp-battered onion rings, Carroll’s Sandwich (rashers, bangers and cheddar cheese), Clareman’s Grilled Rib-Eye with whiskey sauce, and Irish curry chips, in addition to old favorites with fancy names, like Killybeg’s fish & chips, Carva’s corned beef, Fields of Athenry potato skins, Lizzie’s Irish Stew, Dublin bangers and mash, and Irish breakfast served all day. Chicken tenders, bruschetta and hot dogs for the kids are also available. Beer on tap includes all your Irish favorites: Guinness Stout, Caffrey’s, Harp, and Murphy’s.
Also in the same vein as the Irish Oak and fadó, is that all of the interior furnishings and exterior adornments were built in Ireland and imported into the US by Gemmil, Griffin, & Dunbar Ltd., where they were then reassembled. Bookshelves around the room display Irish antiques, copper kettles, musical instruments, and a variety of jugs. The story of the Claddagh ring, symbolizing love and friendship, is written on the wall. Downstairs, via the front room, are the bathrooms and the private party room. Some have told me that this room is open to the public during busy times, but I have yet to see this happen during my many visits.
For the international sporting fan, O’Hagan’s shows live Six Nations Rugby competitions on Saturday and Sunday mornings like at Sedgwick’s and the Abbey Pub. And also like at Sedgwick’s, you’ll pay a stiff cover charge for the privilege.
O’Hagan’s attracts the same clientele as every other bar in Wrigleyville: a mix of young professionals, suburbanites, and out-of-towners that come to watch Cub games. While Redmond’s across the street on Sheffield and Roscoe seems to avoid drawing hordes of drunken Cubs fans, O’Hagan’s picks up the slack. I was in O’Hagan’s one Friday night after a game, contently listening to some live music at the bar, when an inebriated meathead shoved me backwards by the neck in an unprovoked attack (similar in nature to what I experienced at Joe’s). I shoved back and within seconds the doorman and the bartender where around the bar to keep the peace. Fortunately, the idiot’s wiser friends dragged him off before either he or I did something really stupid.
On a brighter note, I was once urged to remain at O’Hagan’s instead of going home, by a loud chant of “Sean should stay!” shouted in unison by my friends and everyone else at the bar. My heart was warmed, but my liver gave me the cold shoulder.
Even though Johnny O’Hagan’s was named after two Irishmen that are related to the owners, Cathy O’Hagan-Carroll and Brendan Carroll from Ireland, if you’re looking for an authentic Irish pub, O’Hagan’s will do but nearby Cullen’s or Chief O’Neill’s fit the bill more closely. While O’Hagan’s has gone through great efforts to create an Irish pub atmosphere, O’Hagan’s seems to lack its own character. Perhaps this is mainly due to the young age of the bar, but as it stands, the main differentiation between O’Hagan’s and other upscale Irish pubs in Chicago (and the immediate area), is its boisterous crowd and irregular shape. However, there is enough interest in Irish pubs to go around, and O’Hagan’s is better than most.
If you’re looking for an Irish pub and like places like John Barleycorn’s Wrigleyville, but are not a big fan of less amenable places like Irish Eyes, head to O’Hagan’s when you’re in Wrigleyville. O’Hagan’s is a good place to imbibe a pint or three, have a bit of craic with a bunch of friends, listen to some traditional Irish music, and get hammered in the process. Just don’t push anyone around by the neck, chief. For further information on live music, rugby or the menu, check out the Johnny O’Hagan’s website. As they say in old Eire, “That’d be grand! T’anks a million!”