More than 70 million people worldwide claim to be of Irish ancestry, 40 million here in the United States. Though that number swells every March 17th, it is those of true Irish lineage that enjoy more than others the pleasures of an authentic Irish pub. The Chicago area stands second to none in it’s offering of Irish gathering spots from city to suburbs.
Many of the nearby pubs have well-deserved reputations as warm and genuine gathering spots that call to mind the old country. Just as Irish Americans named Flaherty, Fitzgerald and McDermott trace their roots to a family tree long ago established in Ireland, all local Irish pubs have origins in the 12th century. It was then, in Dublin, that the Brazen Head Pub first opened. The true mother of all Irish pubs has stood in the same location along Bridge Street since 1688, making it the oldest surviving pub in Ireland’s capital city.
It is outside of Dublin, in the smaller towns and Irish countryside, that visitors will find many more true Irish pubs, known more for their “craic” or good fun, than for any beverage or food. In these small establishments, locals gather nightly for an after dinner drink and camaraderie. Rather than grabbing the remote, they grab their hat and enough cash to buy a round, and head to the nearest pub. There they enjoy conversation and friendship, along with a good beer or shot of whiskey.
Here in Chicago, there are plenty of well-known Irish establishments. They range from corporate owned chains in the city to family run enterprises in neighborhoods both downtown and in the surrounding communities. Their rating on the authenticity scale cover the range from phony (neon shamrocks) to genuine (red-heads on both sides of the bar). Perhaps none truly embodies the true spirit of Ireland more than a relative newcomer, Peggy Kinnane’s Irish Restaurant and Pub in Arlington Heights.
Operated by Owner and General Manager Derek Hanley, Peggy Kinnane’s, has become an absolute cornerstone in the revitalization of the downtown area in northwest suburban Arlington Heights. What makes Peggy’s so unique is the fact that virtually every piece of the structure came directly from Ireland. The interior consists mainly of original Irish stone from County Clare. All of the woodwork, including the bars themselves, were constructed and shipped directly from Ireland.
Like many other fine Irish pubs, the walls of Peggy Kinnane’s Irish Restaurant and Pub are adorned with genuine bric-a-brac. However, Hanley didn’t gather his items from a discount shopping trip to the mother country. These genuine articles trace the roots of this friendly location to Hanley’s youth where he spent hours in his grandfather’s pub in County Clare. His grandfather, John Joe Kinnane, was one of Ireland’s most accomplished athletes before opening the doors to Setright’s Pub. Derek’s father, the leader of the Jack Hanley Band preformed in countless establishments throughout Ireland, including his own place, Jack Hanley’s Pub in Templemore, County Tipperary. To add the final touch of authenticity, as you might have guessed by now, Derek Hanley’s mother is an Irish woman by the name of Peggy Kinnane.
The American pub that bears her name is much more than a corner bar. The spectacular layout features several bars, dining areas and even private party rooms. Warm weather allows for tables outside around the beautiful perimeter. Children are welcome and free parking is available on the street and in a municipal garage just down the block. A professional staff, an inviting menu and an atmosphere that feels like Ireland all combine to make a visit to Peggy Kinnane’s Irish Restaurant and Pub an authentic and charming experience.
Look for Irish food on the menu, Irish people serving and being served, and plenty of warm, friendly conversation with a few songs thrown in as the night goes on, and more than likely, you’ve found an authentic Irish pub, right here in Chicagoland.