"A Bit of Irish Hospitality & Home Cooking"
In a town like Phoenix that isn't exactly well known for its bar scene, R.T. O'Sullivan's II delivers. RTO's, as it is known for short, serves up excellent Irish home cookin' in addition to your standard American pub grub. Patrons wash it down with 25-ounce pints served by some of the best damn lookin' waitresses I've seen in a long time. Combine that with some of the most extensive sports coverage of any bar in the area, and you've got one of the best sports bars in the Valley of the Sun. If I didn't live in Chicago, I'd be a regular.
Normally, I'm not a fan of bars located in strip malls. In fact, I don't even know of any in the city of Chicago. Thus, I probably wouldn't have made a visit if it weren't for the fact that I was hungry and RTO's just happened to be the closest place to my hotel where I could score a meal. I just had to trek across the great expanse known as Southern Avenue along Alma School Road. Having successfully crossed this obstacle in something that resembled a 100 yard sprint, I pulled up to the red-brick anchor of yet another strip mall in Mesa.
With its glowing emerald "R.T. O'Sullivan's II" sign, RTO's is like a beacon in the desert night. Once you walk through the door, you'll find a large bar area in front of you, opposite a big screen, a bank of televisions, floor to ceiling mirrors, and a slanted wooden trellis roof that makes up the south end of the bar. Wait to be seated by the greeter or head to the large, wooden, rectangular bar that forms the center of activity within the room adorned with its stained glass, orange, old-fashioned globe lights, and Cubs sign above it. There is also a Cubs logo above the door, seen by all who walk out (versus thrown or carried out). Several cocktail tables form a solid perimeter around the bar.
At the bar, I not only enjoyed a traditional Irish meal of corned beef and cabbage, served with a mountain of potatoes, but also camped out for the evening when my day of work was done (a tough, half-day of standing around eating oranges at a business meeting and having a round of golf at a course named "Superstition"). For dinner, I attempted to consume a Jenga-like plate of nachos where, each time a nacho was lifted, a small chunk of ground beef would roll down the side and into my lap. I could tell that the ladies at the bar were impressed. The several Fat Tires (local Arizona brew), served in 25-ounce glass/mugs made that and everything else much more palatable. Interestingly enough, the bartenders serve a relatively proper pint of Guinness, in that they pour the black stuff the requisite three-quarters of the way, wait a few moments, and then pour the rest a few seconds later. Sadly, this did not happen often as most people at the bar ordered a black & tan instead. While they know how to pour a Guinness, they certainly had a tough time keeping my glass full as they could not spot my empty glass to save their lives – probably a good thing for me in the end.
The crowd at RTO's was definitely the highlight of my visit. First, I met "Dan" who insisted on shaking my hand and being a smart-ass. He reminded me of Old Charlie, who I met the night before at Rustler's Roost and was almost likable except that he didn't know when to leave. To top it off, Dan then asked me if his girlfriend could have a few of my nachos. Fortunately, they both left shortly thereafter. I then met a guy who said: "Are you alone? You're lucky. I've been hanging out all night with a pack of assholes!" Following a weird scene in the bathroom involving an intoxicated dude in a wheelchair, I heard the cry, "South Side rules!" at the bar that gave me a disturbing series of Chicago White Sox fan flashbacks. I couldn't help but thinking, "This is a Cubs bar! Ho Ho Kam is so close you can feel its presence!. This ain't Tucson! And this sure as hell isn't the South Side of Chicago!!!" My mind was soothed after I spotted a circling Budweiser Clydesdale beer sign above the bar – ah, yes.
For most of the evening, I wiled away the time between interesting conversations by playing NTN, just like at Grizzly's Lodge back in Chi-Town, when I have nothing better to do on the weekends. That night, the competition can best be described as a pack of addle-brains. This can only be the case if I am winning. I took them on in an, "I Against Osborne" sort of way. The lack of competition here in Mesa had me worried about the stupidification of America, until a man with the handle "MARKS" began to play. As soon as he crushed what I pathetically mustered as a rival in at least three separate rounds, my suspicion of American dullardness was dampened and I began to wonder about myself. MARKS, I applaud you. I then turned my concentration towards leering at the hot waitresses (umm, hmm). I then had to resist the urge to have a crack at one of three Golden Tee machines, located by the pool tables and dartboards at the east end of the bar. Shockingly, only one of the machines seemed to be in use whenever I looked over. Back home, this would be a rarity indeed.
While the crowd was entertaining, they were a tad on the quiet side. RTO's started to empty out as the hour approached midnight and was pretty dead when they announced last call at 1:00 a.m. Initially, I viewed this as amateur drinking at best. However, I then realized that not everyone could walk to a hotel room across the street but instead had to drive to RTO's because no one walks around in Phoenix for any reason, and it's probably best that patrons leave before getting too loaded on Fat Tires – particularly for me as I had to wake up at 5:00 a.m. to catch my flight back to the Windy City. "If ya think you've had too much to drink tonight, let us call you a cab," announced the DJ and we can all appreciate that.
Sundays in Fall and early Winter is a whole other story at RTO's. The place thunders with football fans that support not only the Arizona Cardinals, but also teams like the Chicago Bears, Pittsburgh Steelers, New York Giants, Philadelphia Eagles, and Buffalo Bills. Instead of being torn between which TV to watch and being distracted away from the game you really want to see, RTO's divides up game coverage between different "zones" within the bar where like-minded fans can revel together and not annoy everyone else in the room. That, along with free pool and $0.75 sliders makes RTO's unbeatable on Sundays. College football on Saturdays at RTO's offers more of the same, and Monday Night Football rocks along with "Pigskin Bingo" as well. Karaoke can be found on Thursday nights and DJ "Mad Mike" on Friday and Saturday nights.
Overall R.T. O'Sullivan's is one of the best suburban bars I've been to. With its unique combination of Irish pub and sports bar, almost anyone can enjoy themselves at RTO's. While the original dive bar and local music showcase location of RTO's at 2120 W. Guadalupe Road in Mesa is just a memory, RTO's II has carried the torch admirably since 1997 thanks to the efforts of owner Ray O'Sullivan. For more information, check out the R.T. O'Sullivan's website. Cal-Hop, R.I.P. Now that the bar review had ended, I shall leave you with a prediction for this season: Brian Urlacher 49, Packers 0. Da Bears!!!
"If You Can't See it Here, It's Not On!!"
~ Have a good story relating to this bar? Email us. ~
– written by "still trying to figure out what 'Purple Hooters' are" Sean Parnell
Reflections of R.T. O'Sullivan's I