The Hidden Shamrock is a nice surprise; not necessarily a pot-of-gold-at-the-end-of-the-rainbow surprise, but a real serious good-time, down-home Irish bar surprise. Really, it's pub-like with a twist of Chicago class: dark wood, Irish bartenders and cider. There's no huge Irish signs, no tacky Irish artifacts. More subtle touches abound, giving an Irish-linen-and-lace feel to the place (as opposed to a leprechaun greeting you at the door).
Cozy tables fill out the place and give it a nice neighborhood bar feel that makes it a good weekend or week night stopping spot. It's in the getting-to-be-Lincoln-Park area of Diversey, so there's other bars nearby to hop to if you're not feeling international, but really, it's a nice place to go and talk, meet some groups of people and not have to deal with the usual cheeziness that Irish bars entail. (That must be the secret they're referring to in the title.)
As Lincoln Park's "oldest Irish pub," the Shamrock enjoyed pre-'87 lives as Chasen's and Pat O'Brien's. Sundays feature a Celtic Jam Session from 3-6 p.m.; test your smarts with Tuesday's Brainstormer Pub Quiz at 8 p.m.; show off your pipes at Wednesday's open mic; and roll in on the weekends for DJs. If you want to party with your 30 best friends, check out the Shamrock's party packages. If you're just heading out with a handful of chums, belly up to a menu of typical pub eats, with Irish specialties like traditional lamb stew and all-day Irish breakfast thrown in.
Average cost: <$10
Centerstage Reviewer: Erin Brereton