A shout-out today to Larry L. who sent me an e-mail last summer telling me that I really needed to try the food at the Grafton Pub in Chicago. While I was in Chicago late last year for some meetings, I decided to seek out the Grafton Pub for lunch one day. It turned out it wasn't that tough to find.
Malcolm Molloy was a native of Dublin, Ireland who moved to the United States in the 1990's. Ending up in Chicago, he met a young lady from Texas whom he eventually married. Malcolm Molloy had always wanted to open an Irish pub in Chicago based upon some the famous pubs on or around Grafton Street in Dublin.
In 2001, Malcolm Molloy, his wife Andrea, and a silent partner acquired Winners, a sports bar in the Lincoln Square neighborhood of Chicago. It took them nearly a year to remodel the place into what they called a contemporary Irish pub. The Grafton Irish Pub and Grill opened in late 2002 and almost immediately established a loyal clientele.
Within four years of opening the Grafton Pub, Malcolm and Andrea eventually bought out their silent partner and set their sights on doing their own craft brewery somewhere. Digging into the Irish craft brewery scene, Malcolm discovered that there appeared to be a dearth of craft breweries in his home company. In 2010, Malcolm, Andrea, and their three children moved back to Ireland and landed in Wexford on the southeast Irish coast about 90 miles south of Dublin. There, they established the Drew Fox Brewing Company which brews the Clever Man Irish craft beers. The Molloy's continue to run the Grafton Pub flying back and forth between Chicago and Ireland to oversee their interests in both countries.
The Grafton Pub is located along N. Lincoln Ave. in an area in Lincoln Park that houses a number of restaurants, bars and grills. (see map) I was able to park on the street just down from the Grafton. The outside of the place has a definite Irish/English pub-type look to the place with accents around the windows and 5 round-shaded lights shining down on the facade at night.
Inside, the Grafton is a long, narrow space that features booths along the wall, a long and elegant bar, and a back room for overflow during busier times. It had a tin ceiling and antique-style lights hanging from the ceiling over the bar. The attention to detail to make this as close to a true Irish bar as possible was impressive. Late 60's and early 70's classic British rock and roll was playing in the background. Sunday thru Wednesday - and sometimes on Thursday - the Grafton hosts live music with Sunday evenings featuring Irish music.
I ended up seated at the bar and was greeted by the bartender that day, a nice young lady by the name of Melissa. She gave me a food menu and asked what I would like to drink. I saw that they had the Founders Centennial IPA on tap from their ever-changing beer menu and I ordered up one of those. (They also had a pretty impressive list of whiskeys from Ireland, Scotland, Japan, Canada and America, as well.)
Larry had told me that the burger at the Grafton was very good, but they also had some other interesting items on the menu such as the grilled chicken sandwich topped with a bacon-leek puree; a chilled smoked salmon BLT; an Irish lamb stew; and a traditional Shepherd's pie. I came about *that* close to ordering the Shepherd's pie.
But I decided to get the Grafton burger made with 100% USDA-certified black angus choice beef. (They also had a grass-fed beef burger on the menu for a slight upcharge.) I had a choice of eight different cheeses to choose from and I got the Swiss cheese to go on my burger. From there, you have a handful of toppings available and I ended up getting roasted red peppers and sautéed mushrooms on the burger. I ordered up the slightly salted fries as a side.
The burger came with lettuce leaves and a tomato slice that I pulled off and put on the side before I ate it. It was served on a pretzel bun that did not hold up very well with all that was going on with the burger. Between the juiciness, the thick Swiss cheese, the chopped red peppers and the sautéed mushrooms, the bun literally disintegrated within four or five bites.
But the taste of the burger was delicious. It was cooked a perfect medium with a hint of pink in the middle. The sautéed mushrooms, roasted red pepper slices and the Swiss cheese all heightened the taste of what was already a great burger. After the bun fell apart, I used my fork to eat the rest of the burger.
The lightly salted fries were just all right. They tasted a tad oily like they hadn't changed their fryer oil for awhile. But I wasn't really interested that much in the fries as the burger was good sized and very filling.
I liked everything about my visit to the Grafton Pub. Great atmosphere, great beer and whiskey list, and they had a very good and delicious burger that was part of an interesting pub-style menu. I would like to make it back at some point to try their Shepherd's pie or their tenderloin beef and stout stew at some point. My former neighbor who had deep Irish roots in his family would very much approve the Grafton as an authentic Irish pub.