By Jacqueline Runice

It may be the one time of the year you get an actual longing for salt-cured beef product that’s boiled for hours – with cabbage, no less. Corned beef and cabbage can easily become a dreary, dark pink pad of matter when attempted by the neighborhood diner on the St. Paddy’s Day bandwagon. Order the Irish dinner at any of these Chicagoland spots to pin the shillelagh at a solid ten on the shamrock meter.

Chief O’Neill’s Pub
3471 N. Elston Ave.
Chicago, IL 60618
(773) 583-3066

There are Paddy O’ Whatevers and Mother Murphy’s Faux Irish Kitchens dotting the neighborhoods but Chief O’Neill’s is the place that makes even Irish expats feel like they’re back home. Francis O’Neill, born in County Cork and Chicago’s Police Superintendent from 1901-05, has been called “the greatest individual influence on the evolution of Irish traditional dance music in the 20th century.”  His “O’Neill’s Music of Ireland” was the largest collection of Irish music ever printed. He also had ten kids who were ostensibly nourished by both tunes and stews. You’ll find McKinney’s Famous Corned Beef, slow-cooked, house cured corned beef with braised cabbage, carrots and baby red potatoes, on the menu every day, under Emerald Isle Favorites and regulars rave about the Guinness & Cheddar soup. There are Sunday Sessions (live traditional Irish music) weekly and the weekend brunch buffet impresses even the most jaded weekend diners.

McGonigal’s Pub
105 S. Cook St.
Barrington, IL 60010
(847) 277-7400

Faith and begorra, you may not witness a better platter of the Irish boiled dinner this side of Dublin than you will at McGonigal’s Pub, an authentic family owned Irish pub situated in a 1913 bank building. Chef Richard Meierdirks offers it every day for lunch and dinner and there’s rarely a slice left at the end of the night. Whole corned beef briskets from Kelly Eisenberg are cooked slowly with garlic and vegetables for five and a half hours until incredibly tender. The thick, meaty slices are served with Red Bliss potatoes, green cabbage and carrots (simmered in the same cooking liquid to add wonderful flavor). Other perfectly executed Irish dishes include Shepherd’s Pie, fish ‘n’ chips, Boxty, Bangers & Mash, pretzels and house made smoked cheddar beer cheese and full Irish breakfast served weekends. Twenty beers on tap, Guinness pints, Irish music sessions and an indoor/outdoor Celtic Fest in March round out the “craic.”

Schaller’s Pump
3714 S. Halsted St.
Chicago, IL 60609
(773) 376-6332

The South Side gets more love in March than at any other time of the year (unless the White Sox are owning the American League in September) and Schaller’s Pump, one of the city’s oldest bars circa 1881, is the place for a Bridgeport blast from the past. You may spy some fifth generation Schallers helping out as you peruse the menu of old school items like butt steak, Prime rib, a fried ham or liver sausage sandwich. Chicago natives rave about the generous portion of corned beef, a favorite of politicians and beat cops for decades. Cash only, but there’s an ATM on site.

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Manny’s Cafeteria & Deli
1141 S. Jefferson St.
Chicago, IL 60607
(312) 939-2855

If you don’t need cartoons of leprechauns on the walls to complement your brined beef, Manny’s, with it’s lunchroom cafeteria setting and colossal corned beef and pastrami constructions, is your slice of kosher heaven. Countless plates of whitefish, potato pancakes, noodle kugel and seriously stacked corned beef sandwiches exit the food line every day but you can also order a corned beef and cabbage entree. Know what you want before it’s your turn or you might get a scolding for slowing down the line. Not as cheap as you might think, but you’ll have leftovers for round two.

Harrington’s Catering & Deli
5685 N. Milwaukee
Chicago, IL 60646

Corned beef has been the salty jewel in the emerald crown of the northwest side business for more than a half-century. Hundreds of pounds are prepared every day, sold whole (to pick up) or hand-sliced. Come on any Tuesday or Saturday for a dine-in or take-out corned beef and cabbage dinner that includes hard carved corned beef, cabbage wedges, boiled in their jackets potatoes, hearty bread, home made horseradish and hot Irish mustard.

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