Bartime: Martin O’Grady’s Irish Pub

· Oct 4, 2001 Tweet

It does not come as a surprise why directors of film and television love to use bars in their productions. Bars have constant activity. Bars have a motley crew of characters. People like to go to bars; consequently it is an easy environment to identify and relate to. The television and film industry loves to drink.

OK, so maybe I’m out on a limb with the last point, seeing as how I have zero expertise in the entertainment industry. Regardless, that does not hide the fact that bars appear very frequently on screen.

Many of the bars the entertainment industry has showcased eventually became icons in their own right. These places might range from the fantastic to the sublime to the surreal to the downright freaky. Consider the following lineup of these all-stars: Cheers Bar from “Cheers,” Moe’s from “The Simpsons,” Regal Beagle from “Three’s Company,” and the Cantina from “Star Wars.” There have been numerous times when I’ve sauntered into a bar, only to be reminded of its television or film counterpart.

As a whole, however, I am drawn to bars that remind me of Cheers. Come on, we all know the refrain, “Where everybody knows your name.” There is something very comforting when you’re visiting a bar for the first time and you get the feeling that many of the customers and bartenders have known each other for quite some time.

Last week, Bartime traveled to the west side for a visit to Martin O’Grady’s Irish Pub and Grille, located right across the street from West Towne Mall on Mineral Point Road. O’Grady’s reminded me of Cheers due to a number of circumstances. First, the bar crowd was diverse in age and character. Second, the bartenders are friends with the owners. Third, although the place was chill, it did have its rowdier moments, depending on the occasion and time of year. Finally, the place is smartly wood-paneled, and it just kind of looks like Cheers. There are more, but you get the picture.

Enough with the coincidences — let me explain the bar. O’Grady’s is a relative newcomer to the Madison bar scene. Brian and Steve Alt, two brothers, serve as owners/managers. They purchased the bar, which was previously known as Irishman’s Bay, about 13 months ago. Just because the bar itself is new does not mean that the Alt brothers are new to the business — their family used to own Alt’n’Bach’s right off of Fish Hatchery Road. As for the name Martin O’Grady, “He’s our great-grandfather,” Brian said. To further reinforce Martin O’Grady’s legacy, one can find numerous vintage photos of the bar’s namesake scattered throughout.

The bar has a relaxed, inviting atmosphere. The space itself is more or less split into two parts — on one side is the bar section; on the other side is the restaurant. (Although the purpose of this column is to write about bars, I have to say that the food was quite good — go for the fish fry!) The drinks are quite strong but not overwhelming. There is a solid selection of domestic and import beers, including the all-important seasonal varieties such as Capital Brewery Oktoberfest on tap. As for the drink the bar is best known for, Brian Alt said, “It would have to be Guinness — definitely Guinness.”

Given its customers’ love for Guinness, it comes as little surprise that O’Grady’s is a hoppin’ joint during St. Patrick’s Day.

“On St. Patrick’s Day, the line stretches outside the door, all day long,” bartender Jennifer Crooks said.

Given the very close proximity to the mall, O’Grady’s is also a popular spot during the holiday season.

“We get a lot of people in here after a long day of shopping,” Crooks said.

Another highlight is Happy Hour every Monday through Friday, from 3:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m., with a special of $2 domestic pints and $1 off all cocktails. Outside of Happy Hour, the drinks are very agreeably priced.

The next time you are down by West Towne, check out O’Grady’s. You might leave singing a few lines from “Cheers” yourself.

O’Grady’s opens everyday at 11:00 a.m., and closes around Bartime. Major credit cards are accepted.

Bartime will enjoy a few cocktails at Maduro tonight, Friday, Oct. 5, at 8:00. Maduro is located off of the Capitol at 117 E. Main St. Call Maduro at 294-9371 for additional directions. Cheers!


This article was published Oct 4, 2001 at 12:00 am and last updated Oct 4, 2001 at 12:00 am


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