For the past several years, O’Gara’s Bar and Grill, at the corner of Snelling and Selby avenues in St. Paul, has been the place where Pioneers players, coaches, family and fans have gathered after football games to celebrate victories and, occasionally, salve our wounds after defeat.
But O’Gara’s has been a fixture on this historic corner of St. Paul for much, much longer. It seems entirely appropriate to recognize O’Gara’s 75th anniversary at the same time we celebrate the St. Paul Pioneers’ 15th season of play.
In March of 1941, James Freeman O’Gara first opened the doors of this tavern – a place of wholesome atmosphere for conversation and camaraderie. In the beginning, O’Gara’s served food and drink to those fighting World War II by manufacturing supplies and munitions used by troops serving overseas.
And, if you needed a haircut, Carl Schulz would clean you up at his shop next door. If the name sounds familiar, that’s because Carl’s son, Charles, would go on to gain fame drawing a couple of characters named Charlie Brown and Snoopy.
After the war and over the decades, O’Gara’s earned a reputation for serving excellent food and drink at a fair price – and serving as a place where local residents, college students and fans of Minnesota sports teams could gather for fun and fellowship. O’Gara’s is the oldest family-owned bar and restaurant in St. Paul that is still at its original location.
And what a location.
O’Gara’s is literally the center of St. Paul’s St. Patrick’s Day celebration, connected to the city’s long Irish heritage by name, décor and attitude. Want to raise a pint to the Irish? You’ll be in good company here, with its bagpipers, fiddlers, singers and celebrants every March 17. Founder Jim O’Gara made sure of it, putting a shillelagh from County Sligo over the adjoining all-wood bar. Etched glass, alternating family name with family crest, along with a three-quarter ton green granite bar top adorned with brass, are featured in the new bar area.
Tim O’Gara succeeded his father Jim in 1972 and helped this iconic place expand into new space, such as the Shamrock Room, Brew Pub and The Shanty. The Shamrock Room, established in 1982, hosts jazz/big bands and acoustic sing-along music with traditional O’Gara hospitality. This room hosts banquets and private parties. O’Gara’s Garage was established in 1985 and renovated in 2011 to become The Shanty, one of St. Paul’s premiere music clubs, featuring the Twin Cities finest local/national acts. The Brew Pub opened in 1996 and once offered a wide selection of O’Gara’s own handcrafted brews, brewed on site.
Dan O’Gara, Tim’s son, has continued the tradition for a third generation. He and his wife Kris now carry on the O’Gara’s tradition following Tim’s retirement in March of 2003.
O’Gara’s has since expanded beyond its venerable corner – opening at the Minneapolis/St. Paul airport in October 2007 and opening a new, full-service restaurant at the Minnesota State Fair in 2010. They expanded the restaurant to include the O’Gara’s Paddyo in 2011. O’Gara’s at the Fair is located at 1626 Dan Patch Ave, just inside the main gate of the fairgrounds on Snelling Avenue. O’Gara’s at the Fair is open for several events during the year offering a full menu and numerous craft beers on tap. Stop by O’Gara’s at the Fair to enjoy live Irish music every afternoon during the Minnesota State Fair and see the classic woodwork from the original O’Gara’s Bar and Grill back when Jim O’Gara opened the doors in 1941.
The St. Paul Pioneers couldn’t be prouder of our association with one of St. Paul’s greatest hospitality businesses. We hope some of that luck of the Irish rubs off on us in our 15th season. We have a great example in O’Gara’s, a place with a welcoming atmosphere and a warm heart since 1941.