How to Navigate St. Patrick's Day in Chicago

From by Adam Lukach, Lauren Chval
Surviving one of the country's largest celebrations unscathed
David Westerby of Kenosha, Wis., sports Irish face paint during the St. Patrick's Day Parade Saturday, March 11, 2017, in Chicago.
Erin Hooley/Chicago Tribune

David Westerby of Kenosha, Wis., sports Irish face paint during the St. Patrick's Day Parade Saturday, March 11, 2017, in Chicago. 

A few weeks ago, we asked you to ask us all of your St. Patrick’s Day questions in preparation for the big day, and boy, did you all deliver. Here are all your St. Paddy’s Day questions and our best answers.

Are you all planning to publish this as a FAQ of sorts? Would be helpful for Chicago newcomers. —Holden

So glad you asked, Holden. Yes, yes we are.

What time does the river dye start? What time does the parade start? Where's the best viewing? What is the route? What's the best afterparty? —Anonymous

So many questions! The river dyeing starts at 9 a.m. and can best be viewed from the east side of Michigan Avenue, the west side of Columbus Drive or Wacker Drive between Michigan Avenue and Columbus Drive.

The parade steps off at noon, starting at Balbo and Columbus drives and going north on Columbus. The viewing stand is located in front of Buckingham Fountain.

As for the best afterparty, well, beauty is in the eye of the beholder. The whole weekend is essentially an afterparty, so it depends on your tastes. Spots near the river dyeing have specials (check back Tuesday for our roundup!), there’s a bar crawl in Wrigleyville and plenty of places on the South Side celebrate Irish heritage. What sounds good to you?

Is it recommended to buy tickets in advance for the private events at bars/restaurants? Or can we find our way into places when we arrive? —Anonymous

We would recommend buying tickets in advance. Some places offer early-bird prices, and even if they don’t, tickets tend to sell out. Chicago is a zoo on St. Patrick’s Day, and if you wait until the day of to figure out your plan, you might waste precious hours trying to figure out which place still has openings. That said, everyone’s a little, uh, friendlier on St. Patrick’s Day too, so someone is bound to take you in.

What percentage of Chicagoans celebrating have Irish heritage? Or has it become a catchall for anyone who loves shenanigans? —Jenn

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, there were 201,530 Irish-Americans living in Chicago in 2015. That’s about 7.5 percent of Chicago’s total population — a number that was backed up by Brian O’Brien, the General Consul of Ireland to Chicago. Chicago has the second-largest Irish-American population in the U.S., behind New York. Boston has the highest percentage, but as a smaller city, has fewer people.

To answer your second question, yes, Chicago’s St. Patrick’s Day celebration seems to have more of an open invitation for anyone who loves shenanigans.

Where can I drink green beer? —Jane

Here’s a partial list of bars in the city that promise to be serving green beer on St. Patrick’s Saturday, but they certainly won’t be the only bars pouring emerald pints:

  • aliveOne (2683 N. Halsted St., 773-348-9800)
  • The Boundary (1932 W. Division St., 773-278-1919)
  • Bub City (435 N. Clark St., 312-610-4200)
  • Commonwealth Tavern (2000 W. Roscoe St., 773-697-7965)
  • Compass Bar (433 W. Diversey Ave., 773-248-3230)
  • Jake Melnick’s (41 E. Superior St., 312-266-0400)
  • Lady Gregory's Old Town (1525 N. Wells St., 312-888-9368)
  • LH Rooftop — green bloody marys and green mimosas (85 E. Wacker Drive, 312-357-1200)
  • Lottie’s Pub (1925 W. Cortland St., 773-489-0738)
  • Old Town Pour House (1419 N. Wells St., 312-477-2800)
  • Pony Inn (1638 W. Belmont Ave., 773-828-5055)
  • Staytion Market & Bar (1 W. Wacker Drive, 312-372-7200)
  • Streeterville Pizzeria (355 E. Ohio St., 312-631-3877)
  • Timothy O’Toole’s Pub (622 N. Fairbanks Court, 312-642-0700)

We are coming to wonderful Chicago over St. Paddy's day. Will be staying in the Mart Plaza River North Area. Suggestions? Thanks. —Deb

At Mart Plaza, you have prime viewing of the river dyeing. For that reason, you’re also surrounded by some of our favorite restaurants and bars. We recommend 3 Greens Market, Gene & Georgetti and River Roast for food on the east side of the river, but if you’re willing to head just a few blocks west to the West Loop, you’ll find some of the best dining and drinking spots in the city, including Girl and the Goat, the Publican, avec, Fulton Market Kitchen, Bad Hunter and more.

With regard to beverages, you can’t go wrong grabbing a cocktail at CH Distillery or Moneygun, or you can head south to Monk’s Pub for a chiller atmosphere. You can also venture a few blocks south to see the parade, passing both Millennium Park and Grant Park.

Know any gay-friendly St. Paddy Day events around the city?

While there aren’t a ton of expressly marked LGBTQ parties for St. Patrick’s day, we found a couple. Roscoe’s will offer themed drink specials and bring in DJ Bimbo Jones beginning at 10 p.m., while Big Chicks will host a fundraiser for its annual bike ride for charity. Dixie Lynn Cartwright will host a party at Sidetrack starting at 9 p.m. with drink specials, giveaways and no cover.

Outside of those, you might venture around Boystown in Lakeview, where you will surely find some friendly parties. The Jeffrey Pub on 71st Street offers a gay bar on the South Side if you’re in that area. Replay Lincoln Park has also been known to be LGBTQ-friendly, and the bar is hosting a ticketed party for most of the day Saturday.

If I catch a leprechaun and wish for unlimited Jameson and Tullamore Dew, does that count as one wish or two? —Colin Joliat

Probably depends on how generous the leprechaun is feeling that day.

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