Tuesday, May 10, 2011


The entrance to Kelleher's as captured by PBR photog and all-around pro Nyletak


A view from the top

Kelleher's, located at 619 SW Water St. in downtown Peoria, has become one of the more popular destinations in downtown Peoria. Located in an old warehouse (I know that's a crappy description, go to their website to read the whole history I'm lazy), the bar does it's best impression of a traditional Irish pub while still offering better than average pub grub.

One of my favorite aspects of this bar is the sense of history it invokes. Now, if you find yourself at Kelleher's on a Friday or Saturday night, you might not be able to pick up on it because of the collar-shirted masses clamoring around the bar. Not only is the building an ancient hulking mass of brick, mortar and steel but just about every nook and cranny is filled with historic artifacts. Some represent the old sod of Ireland but fear not Peoriaphiles, there's enough River City history in here to occupy yourself with.
A shot of downtown Peoria before the new courthouse and Twin Towers

I've seen this picture before and I think it's of a bar in Peoria but I'm not sure where. Help me out Peoria!

A shot of the Gipps Brewery baseball team proves that beer and baseball just go together

Here's another one for you PeoriaKid, I don't think you'll be getting your hands on this sign anytime soon!

Here's another bit of history for ya - the bricks that make up the patio outside the front entrance and those that serve as a sidewalk through the center of the parking lot came from heaping mounds near the river. I'm not sure where owners Pat Sullivan and John Hunt got these mounds from but I do distinctly remember seeing workers rummage through them to pull out the old bricks. Most are Purington Pavers which were used to construct most city streets in Peoria but occassionally, you'll find a Lant and Morris or a Springfield Granite.

Check the history son

Some streets downtown (definitely Water St.) still have the old pavers underneath several layers of asphalt. Eventually, it would be nice to see that crap ripped up and replaced with the old pavers, it would only add to the historic atmosphere of Water St.

Another great thing about Kelleher's is the bar itself, it has no rival in Peoria. On the business side, where all the booze is held, is an enormous wooden structure that runs the length of the bar and extends what seems like eight feet in the air. Keeping with Irish tradition (or something like that), the entire middle section of the structure is filled with whiskey, lots of it. I'm not sure how many different varieties of the stuff there is but my guess is at least 35. Flanking the whiskey on either side is your standard (for higher class bars at least) rows of flavored and specialty vodkas and a few tequilas.

Speaking of specialty vodkas, when did we decide that there needs to be a flavored version of every vodka brand? And just where does this trend stop? Apparently, the sky is the limit as shown by Kelleher's Outrageous Bloody Mary. What's so special about their version of the classic hangover remedy? Well, you can choose between Bacon or Smoked Salmon-flavored vodka. Let that soak in for a minute. Bacon. And. Smoked Salmon. Vodka. What was bloody mary mix, vodka, celery salt, pickles, olives, and celery not enough for your drink? I guess it does lack the protein provided by bacon flavored vodka but good lord what's next a dinner roll? Rant over.

Staying on the subject of semi-over the top drinks, if you're trying to get blasted with two of your closest friends, check out the Grape Ape. The drink combines Buru Citrus Vodka, Fanta Grape Soda on the rocks into one glass. Three straws are provided so you and your partners can dispose of the drink with extreme prejudice.

Kelleher's has about ten revolving beers on tap an  bunch of bottles but you'll always be able to get the standards - Guinness, Harp, and Smithwick's. On my trip there, I had the Two Brothers Monarch Wit ($3) and my guest had Left Hand Brewing Co's Good JuJu ($3). There's always different specials so you'll just have to check their website or call the bar to find out what the good deals are. If you're not used to dropping $3 a beer and $5 a shot, you'll definitely want to pay attention to the specials as it's pretty easy to rack up a hefty bar tab.

As for entertainment, there's a few TV's on either side of the bar as well as Golden Tee and a shuffleboard table, somewhat of an oddity for a place like this. The table is on the second level all the way in the back and looks out over the rear area of the bar. It's definitely the most unique shuffleboard in Peoria due to its location. The third Saturday of every month is "St. Practice Day" with $3 Jameson drinks, corned beef and cabbage, and $3 pints of Guinness, Smithwick's, and Harp. The Flynn Irish dancers jig around for a while and sometimes, (I think) the Bogside Zukes play.

I've never had the food at Kelleher's but it seems like pretty standard pub food but with an Irish twist. On Monday nights you can get a fried chicken dinner with a choice of fries or mashed taters and gravy with bread and cole slaw - sounds like a pretty good deal to me.

Fifteen years ago, there wasn't a whole lot going on at the corner of State and Water except for Rizzi's. But Pat Sullivan and John Hunt have done an admirable job in revamping their block all while respecting the history of the buildings that their businesses occupy.

Kelleher's is an upscale bar and restaurant, a traditional Irish pub it is not. You won't find any blue collar guys from the neighborhood tipping a few back after work. I understand what the owners were going for and the bar's atmosphere is one of a kind but if you want to down some pints at somewhere that truly resembles (again, not a whole lot of working men here either) the public houses of the old country, you're better off heading up Main St. to Ulrich's Rebellion Room a bar that was formerly owned by Pat's brother - Mike "Sully" Sullivan.

Cheers to Kelleher's!

M - $3 select drafs 
T - $3 20 oz. Boston Lagers
W - $10 domestic buckets (5,) $3 Absolut drinks
Th - $3 Goose Islands, $10 domestic buckets, $3 Pinnacle Vodka drinks
F - $3 Grape Ape shots, $3 Sobieski vodka drinks
S - $3 Two Brothers drafts, $3 Jameson drinks


  1. Great review and photos! I'll check it out next time I'm in town.

  2. Kelleher's opened the day of my father's funeral and was where I went apres the wake to offer a tithed toast of his life....excellent review bro...

  3. This is purportedly the only pub in Illinois that has Hamms (still) on draught...dude if yer game sometime this summer....