"Across from Wrigley Field"
Casey Moran's almost instantly became the place to be seen after Cub games upon opening in June 2004, and has since jockeyed with more established veterans Sluggers, Cubby Bear and John Barleycorn Wrigleyville for being the most popular saloon near to the Friendly Confines. Not to be confused with another sports bar once known as Moran's (now Zella), my first reaction to Casey Moran's was along the lines of, "Just what we need, another sports bar / meat-market hybrid with an Irish name and fancy wooden sign." This was around the same time as the opening of Merkle's, Messner's and Neybours (now gone), all of which are located in the same one mile radius, and are all seemingly the same bar. However, Casey Moran's has the size advantage, beer gardens on two levels, and a location within spitting distance of Wrigley Field. Combine that with an interior satisfyingly encased in mahogany and you've got a winner, which is of course what differentiates it from the Cubs...
Casey Moran's is located next door to Bernie's at the southwest corner of Clark and Waveland, in a space that was once inhabited by Brother Joey's (the second coming of Brother Jimmy's in Chicago) and then the Mexican restaurant Campeche Cantina. Carne asada fans, don't worry – there are no less than four other Campeches in the city, all under different ownership: one way up north on Lincoln in Pulaski Park, one on Clark in Rogers Park, one on Milwaukee in Logan Square, and one on Petersen in Sauganash. Back in Wrigleyville, stately columns prop up a tasteful wooden façade with "MORAN'S" in such bold lettering that Bernie's had to update their dinky sign shortly afterwards... If you're navigating your way to Casey's after a Cubs game, be ready for a long line or get there earlier, and mind the quarter glued to the sidewalk right out front, which creates amusing bottlenecks unless you're the schlep trying to pick it up.
Step through the door and you'll find a handful of wooden cocktail tables and green-upholstered couches up front, near windows adorned with stained glass depicting an array of bottles near the top and that open out onto Clark in summer. An impressive wooden bar matches the wood-paneled walls, reminiscent of the Walnut Room at Marshall Field's (now sadly referred to as "Macy's"), and compliments flooring consisting of wood, stone slabs and quarter-inch tiles around the bar. By sitting on one of the high-backed wooden stools at the bar, you'll bask in the glow of old-fashioned, alabaster chandeliers and the knowledge that you defied the 1 in 20 odds of snagged a seat after the game. Casey Moran's boasts over two dozen plasma screens around the room, so there is no excuse for you not to know what is happening in the sporting world at any given time, particularly for the NCAA basketball tournament and NFL Sundays.
Off to the left is a side room that features no smoking, a stairway leading down to the bathrooms, and a smaller bar in southwest corner with Ohio State flag (Casey's supports the Buckeyes, as does Mickey's and Barleycorn Sports Bar & Grill on Clybourn). A wide doorway from the side bar leads out to an impressive beer garden with metal cocktail tables, cobbled brick, trellis on the south and west walls over brick, a flatpanel on the south wall, another bar in southwest corner with hanging potted plants, black metal stairs leading up to a rooftop deck (not currently open thanks to the ordinance passed by Alderman Tom Tunney), and a retractable plastic roof that allows the space to be open all year. Whew! What more could you want? Oh, yeah – they also have WiFi. Just keep that beer away from your laptop or you'll be hard pressed to explain the sticky motherboard that blew out...
As for food and libations, it's a smallish and fairly standard selection of brew and ha at Casey Moran's, though the menu offers more. A nice selection of appetizers is followed by numerous salads, build-your-own burgers, wraps, a sub-menu of paninis, and a few proper entrées, like crab cakes, New York Strip Steak, chicken piccata, and rigatoni pasta with Italian sausage. Brunch is served on weekends. Patrons can work it off on the semi-dance floor towards the back of the bar.
Though Irish in name only, Casey Moran's has quickly become a classic Wrigleyville bar even if it's only open Thursday through Sunday, and for the occasional on Monday night Chicago Bears game. As you would guess, the crowd is typical for the area: jeans, baseball hats and drunkenness, except for Thursday nights when a fairly respectable crowd emerges briefly for the "Fundraiser Thursdays" deal (all-you-can-drink-and-eat-buffet for $20-$30, with some of the proceeds going to the designated charity – call ahead for your organization). If you like Casey Moran's, check out the nearby twin bars of Kendall's and Kelsey's on Lincoln Avenue, both of which are owned by Bobby Burleson, as are Kincade's on Armitage and O'Donovan's in North Center. For more information, check out the Casey Moran's website. Eamus catuli!