Chieftain: The Cool Hot Spot

Irish pub fast becoming hangout for SU folks

Written by Annie Beckmann
Photography by Chris Joseph Taylor
January 17, 2013
The Chieftain Irish Pub is fast becoming the “Cheers” of the Seattle University set.

Since opening in fall 2011, the hopping spot across from the Lee Center for the Arts has fast become the go-to place for lunchtime crowds and co-workers and friends looking to toast the end of the workday or workweek at happy hour.

The Chieftain is the third Irish pub for owner Peter Johnson and his wife Adrianna, who are the minds behind Finn MacCool’s Irish Public House in the U-District and McGilvra’s Irish Pub in Madison Park.

Why a third Irish pub? “Six kids, that’s why,” says Johnson, 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's in a Name?
What to call the new place on 12th Avenue was a bit of a quandary. Turns out Johnson got to know SU Athletic Director Bill Hogan and his wife Sally, manager of budget and operations for the College of Arts and Sciences, from their visits to McGilvra’s. So he put the big question to them.

Sure, there was controversy over calling this pub and restaurant the Chieftain. Johnson, however, was born in Belfast, Ireland, where the Chieftains are the name not only of an immensely popu- lar Irish band but also of respected leaders in Irish history.

Among the most celebrated Chieftains (and much of their history is featured prominently on the pub’s menu) was Brian Boru, who unified Ireland and defeated the Norse King Ivar of Limerick. In the end, Irish history and lore won out and the Chieftain name has turned out to be a big draw for alumni of Seattle University’s Chieftains era.

Draws a Crowd
The Chieftain attracts a great mix of customers.

Johnson says Ed and John O’Brien, the twins known for their impact on SU basket- ball and baseball in the 1950s, pop in now and then with a sizable entourage. A surprise birthday bash for Men’s Soccer

Coach Pete Fewing took place here in the fall. “People wave at each other when they walk in,” says Johnson. “There might be a group of 10 students who come in, flip up their laptops and start networking.”

The fact that part-time students come to campus for evening courses is another advantage because they’ll stop by after class. Campus clubs often have their meetings at the Chieftain and faculty and staff are no strangers, either.

“I want this to be a place for SU,” says the affable Johnson.

Good Eats
The menu is a mix of traditional Irish fare like corned beef and cabbage and shepherd’s pie and American bar food staples of hot wings and mozzarella sticks. There are some perhaps unexpected offerings such as kobe beef sliders, hummus and crab cakes.
Once your belly is full, you can quench your thirst with one of the microbrews on tap or settle in with a glass a wine or a cup of tea or coffee.
Chieftain Irish pub owner Peter Johnson.
The Chieftain serves as a fun place for happy hour and for sports enthusiasts who want to catch a soccer or football match on one of the pub's many flat screen TVs.