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Bar stools at a wooden bar in Chicago on St. Patrick’s Day. Photography by Jasmine Pulley

A Local’s Guide to a Chicago St. Patrick’s Day

Chicago is extra when it comes to St. Paddy’s Day — here are the best bars and pubs for your Irish revelry.

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St. Patrick’s Day may be celebrated in every which fashion across the U.S., but what is the only city that can lay claim to a green river on the holiday? That’s right, Chicago. On a day where even natural resources are dyed green to celebrate Irish heritage, the Windy City and its predominant Irish neighborhoods turn out for some truly epic celebrations. Chicago has recognized St. Patrick’s Day as early as the 1940s, in small pockets of Irish communities around the city. And as the Irish population grew, so did the revelry. Now, the city hosts not one, but three, St. Patrick’s Day parades (take that New York City). The South Side Irish Parade, which draws up to 25,000 spectators, has been called one of the largest neighborhood St Patrick’s Day parades outside of Dublin. And then there’s the annual dyeing of the Chicago River. For more than 50 years, the Chicago Journeymen Plumbers have dyed the river its fluorescent shade of green (but fortunately with environmentally friendly dyes today) to commence the holiday.

This St. Patrick’s Day, save the green dye for the river, and not your beer. While Irish traditions have evolved over time, so have Chicago’s parties: You can partake in the holiday even if you prefer a quiet bar to a rowdy one, nightclub to pub, or restaurant to bar. No matter your neighborhood or style of festivity, we’re positive there’s a perfect St. Patrick’s Day party for you — because no other city does St. Patrick’s Day quite like Chicago. However you want to cheers the Irish, you’re sure to find Jameson whiskey in one of these bars. Here are the the hottest spots for a Chicago St. Paddy’s Day.

If You’re an Oldie but Goodie: The Matchbox

How does a capacity-controlled St. Patrick’s Day experience sound to you? If you’d rather be surrounded by a couple dozen old friends than a few hundred new ones, this 460-square-foot corner bar is your dream come true. The Matchbox, which bills itself as “the most intimate bar in Chicago,” is known for its stiff, well-crafted cocktails. There’s no official menu, so if you happen to grab one of the 15-or-so bar stools, just ask the bartender for something with whiskey and see what they shake up. They also have an extensive selection of unusual liqueurs, so if you’re feeling adventurous, ask for something green to go along with your Jameson: They can most likely oblige.

The Matchbox; 770 North Milwaukee Avenue, River West, Chicago;

If You’re a Social Butterfly: Lady Gregory’s

Want to spend St. Patrick’s Day at an Irish pub that isn’t too...pubby? Lady Gregory is your girl. The original location in Andersonville has been a staple of the neighborhood for years, and the new Old Town location is following close behind. It’s the type of place where you’re guaranteed to run into at least three other people you know, all of whom had the same idea. With a sort of “Irish manor” theme, the restaurants strike a perfect balance between kitschy and familiar; think lots of dark wood, books, ample seating, and fancy portraits of the Lady herself perched over the working fireplace. You can go for the fish and chips if that’s your thing, or grab a decidedly less traditional organic rice bowl — at Lady Gregory’s, you’re as Irish as you want to be.

Lady Gregory’s, 5260 North Clark Street, Andersonville, Chicago; (also in Old Town)

If You’re a Foodie: The Dawson

If your St. Patrick’s Day is destined to be a long day of merrymaking, shouldn’t you at least try to start it out on a high note? The Dawson, located in River West, is the perfect place to fill up on decadent brunch food like bread pudding French toast or smoked salmon served on a housemade bialy with cured beets and dill cream cheese. You can also sip on an Irish coffee (or two) made with Jameson Black Barrel and barrel-aged brown sugar as you look up the easiest way to get downtown to check out the dyed-green river. (Hint: It’s the Blue Line.)

The Dawson; 730 West Grand Avenue, River West, Chicago;

If You’re a Cocktail Connoisseur: Moneygun

Moneygun’s whole thing is classic cocktails done right. (Few bars take the Long Island Iced Tea seriously, but it’s a staple here.) So if you’re looking to take your Saint Patrick’s Day beyond the standard pint-and-shot combo, there’s no better place to spend your time. They’re even getting into the spirit with their Luck of St. Lou cocktail, which combines Jameson, peach brandy, sweet vermouth, and lemon for an option that’s light and refreshing, but still packs a punch. And if you need something to snack on, don’t miss the fried smelt. Seriously.

Moneygun; 660 West Lake Street, West Loop, Chicago;

If You’re a Traditionalist: The Kerryman

The Kerrymann claims to be the “liveliest Irish bar in Chicago,” which seems like a potentially contentious statement, but it definitely has some serious Irish cred: All of the owners are originally from the Emerald Isle, as is the head chef. This is the place you want to come for super-authentic shepherd’s pie, corned beef and cabbage, or even a full Irish breakfast (black pudding included). For anyone who wants to do SPD right, a pint and a shot of Jameson at the Kerrymann are pretty much essential. Just be prepared for the approximately two billion other people who are going to be looking to do the same thing.

The Kerryman; 661 North Clark Street, River North, Chicago;

If You’re a Nostalgia King: Estelle’s

If you’ve been a 20-something in Chicago, chances are you’ve made a post-2 a.m. visit to Estelle’s, Wicker Park’s reigning late-night favorite. With its deep red lighting, tufted black booths, and huge vintage bar, it’s as if someone tossed your favorite dive into a blender with the set of Twin Peaks. And while you can certainly get a shot (or two) of whiskey, Estelle’s is equally adept at mixing up cocktails. Plus, could there ever be an occasion more appropriate than St. Patrick’s Day to order something called the “Hot Mess Fries”? The kitchen is open until 3 a.m., so if you’re celebrating your questionably Irish heritage all day, Estelle’s is where you want to end your night.

Estelle’s; 2013 West North Avenue, Wicker Park, Chicago;

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