“He who drinks and drinks with grace,
is always welcome in this place,
He who drinks more than his share,
is never welcome anywhere.”– George Shinnick, Sr.
To Bridgeport locals, Shinnick’s Pub is a neighborhood staple. To outsiders, it’s a mildly intimidating curiosity of age. Regardless of your background, Shinnick’s is a classic Chicago tavern that dates back to the late 1800s and is a hot spot after Sox games and for St. Patty’s Day.
Shinnick’s Pub is located at the northwest corner of Union and 38th Street, unmistakable with its wood-paneled façade, shingled overhang, and red brick painted green two-thirds the way up. Step through the side door entrance and you’ll encounter a traditional drinking den, with a long wooden bar, brass foot rail and high-backed, black vinyl barstools. Behind the bar is an ornate, mahogany Brunswick-Balke-Collender backbar and an ancient metal cash register. A forest green-painted tin ceiling sports a few ceiling fans. Wood paneling runs halfway up beige-painted walls featuring White Sox memorabilia, beer signs and a large poster of Bridgeport “Boss” Richard M. Daley on the east wall.
You’ll find no beers on tap, but a decent selection of domestics served instead from the White Hen-like glass cooler just beyond the west end of the bar, all of which are priced to be easy on your wallet. Flatpanels on both ends of the main room show all Sox, Bears and Bulls games (Cubs fans need not apply). Restrooms can be found through the back room, with its drop ceiling, Golden Tee, video poker, wall-mounted jukebox, and cigarette machine. Shinnick’s doesn’t serve food but, according to Bridgeporters, you might be able to score a hot dog in Bev’s garage across the street after Sox games. As you might guess, the crowd consists of Bridgeport locals that all know each other. They might give you a curious glance on the way in, but if you’re not an obnoxious ass you’ll be warmly welcomed.
While nearby Schaller’s Pump is older and more well known, the Shinnick’s legacy begins circa 1890, when local theory states the bar may have been constructed for the 1893 Columbian Exposition. Whatever the case, the pub was originally owned by the Shallow family and passed through a few hands (and Prohibition), until it reached George W. Shinnick, Sr., and his wife Mary Healy in 1938. Thus named Shinnick’s, the pub has been family-owned ever since. George Shinnick, Jr., took over with his wife Celine Dougherty in 1966, who were born and raised in the apartment behind the pub. Shinnick’s Pub then made it through the next thirty years of urban decay and racial strife in Chicago, thanks to the nine Shinnick children that helped take care of the joint. The torch was passed in 1992 to the third generation of Shinnicks, who you’ll encounter behind the bar and around the place today. “Non-Shinnicks” actually do work for the pub and, in fact, their website honors all 85 former bartenders and 16 are thoughtfully listed with angels’ wings. You can hoist a can of beer in their honor, just as the regulars do, their fathers before and their grandfathers before that.
“John L. Sullivan [first heavyweight champion of gloved boxing] used to hang out here with dozens of other boxers, and the number of Bridgeport politicoes who have passed through Shinnick’s gave it the name ‘Little City Hall.'”
– excerpt from Dennis McCarthy’s, The Great Chicago Bar & Saloon Guide (1978)
Shinnick’s is as ignored by North Siders and bar guides, as it is loved by the Bridgeport neighborhood surrounding it, and no one down here minds at all. If you like Shinnick’s Pub, be sure to check out nearby Schaller’s Pump (the oldest tavern in Chicago), Cobblestones Bar & Grill, and Bernice & John’s. For more information, check out the Shinnick’s Pub website. For you trivia buffs, “Shinnick” is the anglicized version of “Sionnagh,” which means “fox” in Gaelic. Should we then call White Sox Hall of Famer, Nellie Shinnick? Only the Bridgeportians can say… In the meantime, head over to Shinnick’s – they’ll help you sort it out.