Inside Paddy O’Fegan’s. See more photos below.
As of two weeks ago, Patrick Fegan was predicting an August 1 opening for his in-the-works West Loop pub, Paddy O’Fegan’s (not actually named after himself; read the legend here). But when I stopped by yesterday afternoon to check on the bar’s progress, the general manager Cathy McDonagh delivered an all-too-familiar update: Due to a delay in locking in its liquor license, Paddy O’Fegan’s will now open—fingers crossed—August 19 or 20.
Seeing as how everything else, from the drafts to the Golden Tee, is ready to roll, I took the grand tour, then settled into a big booth with Fegan, McDonagh, and the bar’s chef, Jack Austin (a veteran of the hotel and catering biz), to talk about what drinkers will find once they’re invited inside.
The Chaser: Have you ever owned a bar before?
Patrick Fegan: I’ve been a silent partner in a few, but this is my first solo venture. It’s been a lifelong dream.
TC: How Irish are you?
PF: My parents moved to America from Galway City, Ireland, when they were teenagers. I’ve traveled there numerous times, and Cathy is also from Galway City. You might recognize her from Riverdance.
TC [carefully writing “Riverdance” in notebook]: How interesting!
Cathy McDonagh: He’s pulling your leg. For my bio on the website, he also said I like to knit, crochet, and grow fruit to make my own preserves in my free time.
TC: I’m warning you, I’m extremely gullible, and I’m writing all of this down.
CM: Actually, I moved here from Ireland in ’86, and I’ve been working in the hospitality industry ever since, at one authentic Irish bar in Chicago in particular, but I won’t say their name since we’re focusing on this place now.
TC: I see an Irish flag at the other end of the room—and a Canadian one. What’s up with that?
PF: My wife’s from Canada, so there are some tributes to her scattered around the bar. Plus, I’m trying to get some hockey players in here.
TC: So, what’s the story on your beverage program? The usual 1,001 beers on tap?
CM: Actually, I don’t believe in huge, long beer lists. It’s too much time reading, not enough time drinking. The critical thing for us is to provide value for our customers so you’re not spending an arm and a leg on a drink. We’re doing a nice selection of American craft beers, a few Belgians, seasonal cocktails, a compact wine list, and of course the usual suspects will be addressed. Guinness.
TC: What kind of crowd do you expect?
PF: We hope it will be diverse—everyone from workers at the meatpacking plants around the corner to the suits from downtown. All unattended children will get a free puppy and a 50-ounce Irish coffee. Our Irish coffee will be the best in town—real cream, real brown sugar.
TC: And I’m sure your food menu will be stocked with healthy options, right?
Jack Austin: As healthy as a beer butter sauce on grilled fish can be! We’re a pub first, but the food will be good: meat and fish from the surrounding Fulton Market vendors, and Bill Kurtis is our Tallgrass Beef purveyor. The butter and cheese are straight from Ireland.
TC: Why does the West Loop need an Irish bar?
PF: I feel like a lot of neighborhoods are missing a place like this. It fills the gap between total dive and the expensive places.
And in other Irish bar news, the big reveal: The Abbey Pub gets its moment in the spotlight this Sunday when Bar Rescue, the bar-makeover show on Spike TV, airs its episode devoted to the 38-year-old pub and music venue in Old Irving Park. (Revisit my preview, with before-and-after photos, here). Want to watch on-site? The Abbey hosts a tasting of its new food menu at 8 p.m., followed by a live broadcast of the show at 9, followed by—what else?—live music. No cover.