Peter Johnson knew 12th Avenue near Seattle University was missing a true neighborhood pub, the kind that brings to mind the classic television series “Cheers.”
He and his wife Adrianna already owned McGilvra’s Irish Pub in Madison Park and Finn MacCool’s Irish Public House in the U-District. When an old nightclub location opened up, Peter Johnson knew he’d found a great spot to grow the business and the Chieftain Irish Pub & Restaurant was born.
Why a third Irish pub?
“Six kids, that’s why,” he says with a laugh. “Three of them are at St. Joe’s, two are at Seattle Prep and one’s still at home. That’s a lot of tuition and it doesn’t stop!”
What to call the new place at 908 12th Ave. presented a bit of a quandary. There was controversy over calling the pub and restaurant the Chieftain, what SU’s athletic teams were named before they became the Redhawks. Johnson, however, was born in Belfast, Ireland, where the Chieftains are the name of an immensely popular Irish band as well as Ireland’s respected leaders from the past.
Irish history and lore won out and the Chieftain name has become a big draw for alumni of SU’s Chieftains era. Johnson says Ed and John O’Brien, twins known for their impact on SU basketball and baseball in the 1950s, occasionally pop in with a sizable entourage. The pub has more than sports alliances with SU, too. When an SU staff member recently had a devastating house fire, the Chieftain hosted a fundraising benefit for his family.
The pub attracts a great mix of younger and older customers. “People wave at each other when they walk in,” Johnson says.
The menu is a mix of traditional Irish fare including shepherd’s pie and corned beef and cabbage as well as American bar food staples of hot wings and mozzarella
sticks. Some unexpected offerings are kobe beef sliders, hummus, crab cakes, even a taco Tuesday. Happy hour at the Chieftain is all day Monday and 3–6 p.m. Tuesday–Friday, with drink and food specials. There’s also live music Saturday nights.