You can love it, hate it or just be indifferent towards it, but you can’t take away the fact that O'Reilly's Pub in Clintonville has all makings of that place where everybody knows your name (and not because your face is plastered on a wanted poster).
I have heard some of the issues a few people have with it - it is small, too loud at times, it can get crowded now and then, etc. - but come on...really...it is a local pub. It isn't a chain restaurant and it doesn't promote itself as a family place (which it isn't). O'Reilly's, at 2822 North High Street, is a place you go to grab a beer, a quick (outstanding) dinner, watch a game and converse about your past week's misadventures with close friends. Sure it still resembles a service station gone bad from the outside, but inside you will find a close knit staff who considers all patrons like acquaintances from the past.
The Irish themed joint has menu of what may be considered typical pub food, but folks it is better than that. They have munchies (what they call their appetizers) that include, sweet potato fries, wings, nachos and fried mac & cheese. What they really hang their hat on, or should do more promotion on in my opinion, are the burgers. The Bacon BBQ Burger is the one I typically go after (a 1/2 pound of heaven on a bun), but other favorites include the Jerk Burger and the Pepper Burger. Those in our group of Thursday O'Reilly's barflies tend to prefer the Jerk Burger, or the "The Tom Burger" as it is sometimes referred to (I'll let you try and figure out the reasoning behind it as it is an experience to behold).
Though we can't really prove it, we believe we can tell when Johnny is working his magic in the kitchen. That's not to say that the rest of the kitchen doesn't know what they are doing, but on some nights those burgers literally melt in your mouth. And more often than not that's when you get a glimpse of Johnny kicking butt and taking names with his pub kitchen prowess.
Even if you aren't a burger person you can pick and choose from a variety of chicken, fish, turkey, roast beef, ham and grilled bologna sandwiches. Or, if subs are your delicacy, you can dig into things such the Italian, Club, White Pizza, Veggie or Johnny's sub. The latter is formerly known as the "Gonzo" and for good reason. It consists of salami, ham, pepperoni, turkey, bacon, onion, green peppers, banana peppers, tomato, lettuce, cheddar and provolone cheese with your choice of Italian dressing or pizza sauce. It will set you back about $9.00, but it is huge and will make you work to finish it.
You will find that there are daily specials that include homemade favorites like meat loaf and mashed potatoes, corned beef and cabbage and others. It is a filler of a meal at a decent price. Better yet, the specials change weekly. When St. Patrick's Day rolls around you get a specials menu loaded with Irish favorites. These, too, are worth your time.
Our group of oddballs and misfits (Christine, Allison, Doug, James, Evan, Joy, Julie, Jay, Craig) make it a weekly ritual to meet there on Thursday nights. This is highlighted by the fact that Ann Marie, bar tender extraordinaire, is the vixen dishing out the beer and spirits. If you are a returning customer, she usually knows exactly what you want...unless you just want a change of pace. She makes it as if you are a regular, even if you are a first timer. If you really want some fun, make sure you play "Ball and Biscuit" by The White Stripes when you swing by the jukebox. Ann Marie will appreciate it.
Thursday's are typically jam-packed, but to tell you the truth I don't think I would want to hangout at a place that was always dead and empty. And being a relatively small place, you'll have a crowd now than then. You can still enjoy those warm days of summer by sipping your favorite brew on the patio. For those inside people the eclectic atmosphere is something that will keep you mesmerized. Just when you think the place doesn't fit you or you feel out of place, you find something (or someone) that will remind you that deep down we are all the same.
It not may be much to look at, but if you think about a neighborhood joint that thrives on being there for you whenever you feel the need...it serves its purpose. I don't think anyone would complain, or at least, have a legitimate gripe. The same can be said for other Clintonville pubs like Patrick J's, the India-Oak Grill or Crest Tavern.
You can find out for yourself what O'Reilly's is all about by swinging by there any day of the week. Better yet, crash the Christmas party Monday, December 21st at 6 p.m. or just be there on December 17th and sample the awesomeness that is beer bread!
This is my pub, my watering hole, my home away from home. It isn't perfect and is not the ideal place for everyone, but I wouldn't want it to be. It is an odd place full of characters that will make you laugh and stare in wonderment.
It is O'Reilly's and I wouldn't want it any other way.