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Only One Irish Bar In Chicago Ranked Among Top 50 In The U.S.

By Ariel Cheung | March 22, 2017 11:59am | Updated on March 23, 2017 10:15am
 Chief O'Neill's was named one of the best Irish bars in the United States.
Chief O'Neill's was named one of the best Irish bars in the United States.
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DNAinfo/Ariel Cheung

AVONDALE — There's no denying that Chief O'Neill's is about as Irish as it gets.

From its namesake Chicago police superintendent to the menu stocked with Irish staples, the Avondale bar has been steeped in Irish tradition since it opened in 1999. 

And as it turns out, it might just be the best Irish bar in Chicago.

The online "Travel + Leisure" guide has named Chief O'Neill's among the top 50 Irish bars in the United States — the only Chicago spot to make the list.

The list pulled data from Yelp, ranking Irish establishments by ratings and the number of reviews.

Topping the list are The Celtic House Irish Pub just outside Washington, D.C., Florida's Celtic Ray Irish Pub and Erin Rose in New Orleans.

Nearby spots on the list include Milwaukee's County Clare Irish Pub (No. 7), Fiddler's Hearth in South Bend, Ind. (No. 32) and John D. McGurk's Irish Pub in St. Louis (No. 40).

Chief O'Neill's comes in at No. 34. On Yelp, reviewers lauded the "best Scotch eggs I've had" and the cheddar Guinness chowder. The restaurant also serves up corned beef, Harp-battered cod, shepherd's pie and bangers and mash, with entrees ranging from a $10 pub burger to the $26 bleu cheese and bacon-stuffed filet mignon.

On Sundays, Chief O'Neill's offers a $20 all-you-can-eat brunch, which is $14 for children. Diners can build their own Bloody Marys or enjoy smoked salmon, Irish eggs benedict and corned beef hash.

But nothing at Chief O'Neill's is as the man himself. The family-owned pub is named in honor of Chicago Police Capt. Francis O'Neill. Born in County Cork in 1848, O'Neill was a passionate lover of traditional Irish music and has been considered a major influence on Irish dance music.

He came to Chicago one year before the Great Chicago Fire of 1871, originally planning to work as a sailor before joining the police force instead.

One month on the job, and O'Neill was shot by a burglar but still managed to arrest the man. The bullet stayed lodged near his spine for the rest of his life.

During his 32 years on the police force, O'Neill devoted himself to reviving Irish music, which was being squashed out amid Ireland's Great Famine.

In Ireland, he is remembered with a life-size monument in his hometown and through the Chief O'Neill Traditional Music Festival, which takes place every year in County Cork.

In Chicago, playwright Adam Whiteman debuted a musical based on O'Neill's life in 2012. "Music Mad: How Chief O'Neill Saved the Soul of Ireland" was approved by O'Neill's great-granddaughter and called the "Irish sensation of the season."