Poag Mahone’s 13-year run ended on December 22, 2017 with this message: “The end of an era. So many memories, so many friends, so many family members. We will miss you all. So long friends, from Poag himself…”
To the untrained eye, Poag Mahone’s comes across as a surprisingly authentic Irish pub where few but cheesy sports bars, over-priced lounges and old-school dive bars have feared to tread. Experienced night owls will recognize Poag Mahone’s for it’s true nature: part of the trader’s Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse that also includes nearby Cal’s Liquors, Cactus Bar & Grill and Alcock’s given their proximity to the Chicago Board of Trade . However, with its lauded burger, nicely appointed interior and a name that means “kiss my ass” in Gaelic (though spelled póg mo thóin), one can easily argue that Poag Mahone’s has them all beat (at least for insolence).
Since 2004, Poag Mahone’s has been located in the classic Insurance Exchange Building at the southeast corner of Wells and Jackson in the Loop. The main entrance is found midway along Wells between Jackson and Van Buren, through a sidewalk café that would be quite pleasant if it weren’t located right under the “L”. Step through the twin plate glass doors that bookend the entrance and you’ll find yourself smack dab amongst a series of wooden booths and low-slung tables. Past this area is the main barroom with another entrance from the lobby of the building housing the pub. Here, a 28-foot oak bar with backless barstools runs the length of the southern wall, across from a smattering of cocktail tables. Throughout Poag Mahone’s, you’ll also find historic Chicago touches, including a red-painted tin ceiling, flooring of brown ceramic tile accented in white and sepia photos of Chicago, as well as a bit of stained glass, pastoral scenes of Ireland and some humorous Irish quotes.
“if you are discussing anything about Horses of the Apocalypse, then Ceres in the CBOT is the lead horse of doom for traders… It has the strongest drinks in Chicago; they literally fill a tumbler with booze and give you the mixer on the side.”– B.T. (December 1, 2009)
Poag Mahone’s features 15 beers on tap, 39 more in bottles, six wines by the glass, and a surprisingly extensive martini list with names like Northsider, Southsider, Option, and Trader. As one would hope for, Poag Mahone’s also adheres to a proper two-minute pour for every pint of Guinness pulled.
While the beer list has you thinking authenticity, the food menu has you thinking sports bar: soup, chili, salads, burgers, and sandwiches. The only items remotely Irish are the fish & chips and corned beef sandwich. Though we’re sticklers for tradition, we’re easily charmed by their crinkle-cut french fries. The wife loves the Italian garbage salad and Irish bread pudding made with whiskey, and Poag Mahone’s also offers catering services. Much ballyhoo has been made over the 9-ounce (0.56 lb.) burger at Poag’s, stemming from the July 2005 GQ article, “The 20 Hamburgers You Must Eat Before You Die” and Oprah’s endorsement in 2006 (like she ever stopped in here), but we have to instead tip our cap to the burgers we’ve encountered at Kuma’s Corner, Moody’s Pub and Jury’s Inn. Also, we are disappointed that with “carvery” in the name that you’d find some semblance of the carveries found in Ireland that feature roast beef, turkey and ham, and where you’ll be served up to three styles of potatoes on the same plate—no joke: roasted, mashed and chips (fries). If this is what you’re after, especially at lunch time, head to nearby Coogan’s Riverside Saloon instead.
The crowd at Poag Mahone’s is a step up from the debauchery of Cactus and diviness of Alcock’s and Cal’s, attracting a little more professional crowd and other after-workers who appreciate a mean pint or cocktail following a hard day’s toil. The salads and financial types also draw a number of the fairer sex, and there might even be a few lookers in the bunch.
If you visit the Poag Mahone’s website, you’ll find a “history” of Poag Mahone’s, which would be more interesting were it to be true but instead is a great example of Irish blarney. Speaking of historical matters, Poag Mahone’s was the place where my upcoming book, Historic Bars of Chicago, was born. Overall, Poag Mahone’s stands up with the best Irish pubs in the city—not bad from The Rosenthal Group, the people behind the Italian restaurants Trattoria No. 10 in the Loop and Sopraffina in River North. At the end of the day, Poag Mahone’s is a fine lunch option (if you get here before 11:45am or after 1pm) and a top after-work spot for drinks and food. That’s grand, t’anks a million!