|Created December 19, 2003
Updated August 12, 2006
Updated October 28, 2006
Updated October 13, 2007
Ole St. Andrew's Inn
5938 N. Broadway (6000N, 1200W)
Chicago, IL 60660
Formerly a Scottish pub of a similar ilk to the Duke of Perth, the Ole St. Andrew's Inn has become a more general Anglophile tavern in the heart of Edgewater. Contrary to what you might expect, the friendly tavern serves up a menu of traditional American fare, and is most commonly known for the ghost (a "porter-geist" perhaps?) that takes up a mischievous residence there. Whatever the case, Ole St. Andrew's remains a favorite for older locals looking for some good food and a bit of chat, and an adventurous younger crowd.
Ole St. Andrew's is located on Broadway, just north of the tranquil exterior and Gothic interior of Moody's Pub, and just south of the neighborhood dive known simply as "The Bubble." Cabs around here are not the easiest to find, so you might want to take the Red Line El and get off at Thorndale. A green awning stretches all the way to the street, beckoning passersby in for a pint. Those that succumb to its charms, head into Ole St. Andrews through a set of thick wooden doors with frosted windows. The pub consists of a spacious single room with hardwood flooring with white-painted walls with green trim. The high, white-painted cement ceiling that replaced a drop ceiling that once had so much water damage in one spot that it sagged with a dark circle in the middle making it look a little like a giant green tit. The front room is dominated by a wooden bar that juts out rectangularly from the south wall. Around it, patrons find seating at a series of high-backed wooden barstools. Patrons can also pull up a stool at one of three wooden cocktail tables that stand in front of the many-paned front windows overlooking Broadway that are chockers with neon beer signs. Boddingtons bar towels serve as placemats and the glow from green candle globes that serve as subdued lighting. Since new ownership took over in 2004, gone is the coin-operated phone on the bar as well as Margaret, the well-regarded Scottish manager and bartender, that could often be seen literally running circles around the bar, ringing up orders on the cash register placed upon a Lazy Susan.
The Scottish Connection
Additional seating can be found in the back at one of the many wooden cocktails or the low-slung wooden tables along the north wall. Gone are the six crescent, black-leather booths, victims of the recent renovation, as well as the glass case with the ancient set of golf clubs and balls tastefully displayed, presumably as part of the bar's somewhat vague theme (that being The Royal and Ancient Golf Club at St. Andrews, the world's oldest golf course that dates back to 1754) nowadays, the case features a trio of decorative vases (?). The rear of the pub features a small pool table and big screen that is pulled down for football games and karaoke. Black & white pictures of both an old man and woman swinging a golf club (at St. Andrews) are used to designate the sex of each one-seater, rather ornate bathroom. Overall, there's plenty of space at Ole St. Andrews unlike Moody's Pub down the street where they jam so many tables together that it's virtually impossible to walk through without bumping into people and having either your bum or front bits landing in someone's food.
Better than Neaps and Tatties
Speaking of the ole muckamuck, St. Andrew's has a surprisingly large menu. You'll find the obligatory fish & chips, supernaturally named, "Frank's Shepherd's Pie," and the "Ghost Burger," which is fiendishly good with guacamole and cheddar cheese. As for the bellywash, Ole St. Andrews has a decent selection of brew and a dozen single-malt Scotches. Such an offering of food and drink goes well to placate a quiet older crowd, whose focus is conversation instead of picking up or watching the game. The Ole St. Andrew's is the type of place where a blind woman would feel comfortable enough to pull up a stool at the bar, especially when a nice man would pick up her cane if it were to fall (I actually witnesses this one night). Loyola students stop by for a pint when not getting blotto at Hamilton's Pub or the Pumping Company.
Bullocks to That, Laddy!
According to Richard T. Crowe, in his book Chicago's Street Guide to the Supernatural, the bar, prior to its days as a Scottish pub, was a neighborhood joint run by a Norwegian-American named Frank Giff, and his wife Edna. "Frank was a colorful character who looked and acted like W.C. Fields. He ran his bar his own way, and if you didn't like it, you could take a hike. Like Fields, Frank was fond of drink, vodka particularly. Frank regularly partook of his vodka stock each evening. One night in 1959 at the age of fifty-nine, he tipped back a few more than usual. Early the next morning, Edna found her husband dead on the floor behind the counter in the rear of the bar." Some claim that Frank was found dead in his favorite booth after one of his all-night binges, and others say that he died of a blunt trauma to the head, caused either by standing up and hitting his head on a shelf or falling off a barstool. Whatever the case, Frank appears to have died in the bar. Some believe that, because Frank died while shit-canned, his presence can be felt because he doesn't realize he's dead. My theory: Frank Giff was murdered by his wife alcoholics don't tend to drink themselves to death in one night but rather over time, and I think it would be very difficult to kill yourself by knocking your head into a shelf or falling over a stool. Let's face it: he was an alcoholic, she was sick of it and she put an end to the old man and created a cockamamie story to cover it up...
While my theory remains entirely unfounded, the legend of Frank Giff and his haunting of Ole St. Andrew's has grown, as patrons and staff claim that his ghost is also responsible for the cash register moving around, disappearing vodka, cases of beer that move on their own, lights being turned off, cold drafts, and a strange sensation on the part of red-headed female patrons of ghostly fingers running down their legs. Personally, I think all of these things can be explained by the register being on a lazy Susan, bartenders drinking vodka after hours, improperly stacked boxes, poor insulation, and drunkenness. Those enjoying their $1.75 domestic drafts across the street at the now-defunct "Sixpence" were known to find the whole haunted business amusing, as they claimed to know who made up the story in the first place. On the other hand, the current owner described to me how he has personally witnessed a female patron run out of the pub because of a ghostly touch, has heard footsteps after closing only to find no one there, and he even once placed a bottle of vodka at the door to the basement that kept opening by itself, in order to placate Frank's spirit the bottle was later found to have tipped over with some of the contents missing, even though the cap was still on... Julius also showed me a photo taken during a karaoke session where a skull very clearly appears on the big screen in the picture, though patrons only saw lyrics that night... Whatever the case, Frank's notoriety has made St. Andrew's a favorite stop on local ghost tours and continues to fascinate suburbanites and tourists.
"As time went by, large quantities of vodka began to disappear in the bar. At first, [Jane MacDougall] naturally suspected her bartenders of helping themselves to her stock. Trying to catch the culprit, she began to secretly mark the level of liquid in the bottles with a crayon. To her amazement, she learned that the level of vodka dropped considerably in the middle of the night when the bar was closed and no one was there."
Richard T. Crowe, Chicago's Street Guide to the Supernatural (2004)
The space now inhabited by the Ole St. Andrew's Inn used to have a very warm Scottish feel to it in its previous life as the Edinburgh Castle Pub. Following the death of her husband in 1959, Edna Giff sold the place to a customer and Glaswegian, Jane MacDougall in 1961, who ran the place for many years with her son Blair. MacDougall had dreams of paying homage to her homeland and realized this in 1975 by renovating the bar and installing a kitchen that churned out such Scottish delights as steak & kidney pie served with potato scones and English trifle for dessert. A tartan carpet was laid down, a mural of Scottish Castle painted on the rear wall (actually of Dunollie Castle of the MacDougall Clan, rather than Edinburgh Castle), and a metal heraldic lion was hung upon the wall where the front windows had been stuccoed over. Apparently, Giff was not amused, as Crowe details in his book: "A vertical crack appeared in the stucco for no apparent reason. One morning, MacDougall found the lion's legs and even the tongue bent and twisted out of shape... The misshapen lion was removed and placed in the basement and the front of the building was remodeled again with windows put back in place." Back in its heyday, the Edinburgh Castle Pub was described as, "An overlooked gem. In the middle of Broadway, the genial staff chats you up and makes you happy," and was rated three mugs (out of four) in the Official Chicago Bar Guide (1994).
While the staff remained friendly, chatty and accommodating, the bar's atmosphere changed in 1994 when Dave Jenkins and Kay Whipple transformed the pub into the Ole St. Andrew's Inn. The new owners described their establishment as an English style pub with Scottish and Irish influence. In my opinion, the bar would have benefited greatly if it had stuck to being Scottish like it used to: "We're not sure what happened to the Scottish charm that used to heighten this pub, but it's gone. And it's been replaced with nothing. Even the ghost of an old owner seems to have split the scene," is how the Official Chicago Bar Guide described the joint in 2001. These days, the place is owned by a man named Julius who ran the place under the previous ownership (which operated the inn on a largely absentee basis), and Julius has somewhat resurrected the charm of the Edinburgh Castle Pub days (at least on nights without karaoke), while celebrating the ghost-in-residence through themed menu items and t-shirts.
"My girlfriend at the time (we're married now) would visit from San Francisco every few weeks, and during one visit during a particularly hot summer week, the pub (and, I recall, several neighboring buildings) lost electricity. Margaret kept sending some of the regulars across the street to the Dominick's supermarket for bags of ice and other sundries. Nadine and I just hung out at a table by the window, playing cards and drinkin' away the afternoon. Bottles of dark Scottish beer and others... the regular fare. After a few hours, everyone was pretty congenial, and since there was no power for A/C, TV, or the jukebox, a couple of the patrons started telling good-natured ethnic jokes (this is a pretty diverse neighborhood, so it wasn't surprising). White guys were telling black jokes, black guys were telling white jokes, and everyone was having a great time. I'd obviously had a few by then, and got the courage to tell a couple of... Scottish jokes. Now, Margaret was a Scot of course, and I'm part Scottish, and I affected a decent accent. I was nervous, but it was a friendly bunch, and the reception was mostly groans, razzes, and a few laughs. One of the jokes I told was: 'What's the difference between a Scotsman and a coconut? You can get a drink out of a coconut.' :-) I don't remember when the power came back on."
– A.G. (September 11, 2006)
The Pride of Edgewater
Ole St. Andrew's is quite popular with neighborhood locals and continues to attract younger patrons who descend on the bar as part of Red Line or Uptown pub crawls or haunted Chicago tours. In recognition of this, Ole St. Andrew's Inn has earned a plethora of the Edgewater Chamber of Commerce's Best of Edgewater awards including "Best Beer & Wine Selection" and "Best Hamburger," all of which are lined up over the front windows for all to see. St. Andrew's might fall a bit short as a Scottish pub but the place is still ideal for a very satisfying and inexpensive meal, a couple of pints, and a forum in which to discuss the latest conspiracy theory. If you're an Anglophile, you might also want to check out the Red Lion Pub further south in Lincoln Park, which has more of its own poltergeists than you can shake a stick at. Rest in peace, Mr. Giff.
~ Have a good story relating to this bar?; E-mail it to me. ~
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– written by Sean Parnell