Having visited the original Tommy Nevin's Pub in Evanston quite a few times back in my college days, I was looking forward to trying out the southwest Naperville outpost of this Irish pub when it first opened back in July 2007. On our first visit, on a Saturday night not long after the pub opened, the one thing that stood out besides the jovial atmosphere was the noise level in the crowded bar. At the time, I could barely hear my friend seated next to me at a high-top table.
We decided to give it another try on a recent Sunday. It's still packed, but we found some quieter spots where we could enjoy the varied food and drink menu -- as well as the chance to talk with friends.
Tommy Nevin's Pub3032 English Rows, Naperville, (630) 428-4242, tommynevins.com/Naperville_Welcome.html
Hours: 11 a.m. to 2 a.m. Friday and Saturday, 11 a.m. to midnight Sunday, 11 a.m. to 1 a.m. Monday through Thursday
Motif: Ornate detailings on the outside of the free-standing pub/restaurant announce spirits (of which they have many), billiards (not so much) and darts (the electronic version). Once inside, we were promptly greeted by a hostess standing in front of a double-sided blond stone fireplace that feeds into both the bar and dining areas. In the colder weather, patrons can warm up by the fire in a few oversized leather armchairs while sipping an Irish whiskey or a black and tan.
Like many Irish bars, wood paneling, dark leather and the requisite framed Guinness posters dominate the open space. The bar area to the right offers long high-topped tables, perfect for larger groups, surrounded by smaller round high-tops. A few plasma TVs showing sports hang above the bustling double-sided rectangular bar and are judiciously spaced around the game room area.
The spacious dining room features leather booths around the perimeter with smaller square tables in the center. If you'd like more privacy, ask to be seated in one of the booths framed by curtains along one wall. Tucked in a far corner is a separate dining area reminiscent of a study complete with built-in bookcases filled with books, a plasma TV and stained-glass window accents.
The sizable outdoor patio looks to be a good option during the warmer months.
Crowd: Most of the high-backed leather stools at the bar were filled with 30-somethings to 60-somethings. And a larger group had just taken up residence at one of the long high-top tables. A few couples and families with kids populated the spacious dining area. As more patrons filled the open seats as the night went on, the volume increased considerably, which could be partly to blame on the high tin ceilings.
The bar and dining room tend to fill up quickly (and early) on the weekends, so making reservations is a good idea if you don't want a long wait.
Food: The multi-page dining menu offers quite a range of fare, from starters, soups and entree-size salads to burgers (done 10 different ways, including two double-stuffed options), pub grub (mainly sandwiches), Irish comfort food (corned beef and cabbage, sheperd's pie, etc.) and American entrees.
For appetizers, we tried the warm artisan pretzels served with two dipping sauces -- the ale and cheddar provided a tasty accompaniment, while the spicy whiskey mustard overpowered the delicious buttery pretzels. The crispy pub sticks -- corned beef and Swiss cheese wrapped cigar-like in a thin phyllo-type dough and fried -- were light, if somewhat greasy. The Harp battered fish and chips was flavorful. The Monte Toastie sandwich -- designated a pub original -- combined turkey, ham and melted swiss on toasted sourdough. I liked that I could get fruit as a side, too.
Liquid consumption: As in most Irish bars, Guinness is king. Also high up on the drink menu is Smithwick's and Newcastle. Black and tans are perfectly poured. And the Magner's pear cider from Ireland was light and sweet, but not cloyingly so, as has been my experience with other pear ciders. If you prefer brews from this side of the pond, there's a page listing different varieties.
The multi-page drink menu also includes red and white wines by the glass (about $6-$10) and by the bottle. The martini list highlights interesting variations like the Wild Grape, a blend of Absolut berri-acai, apple pucker and blue curacao. Irish specialties, like the Big Ginger and Shamrock Punch (lemonade, Absolut vodka and Midori liqueur), feature prominently. And there's a scotch and whiskey menu, too.
Service: We were seated promptly, but we had to ask for a drink menu. Our waitress was friendly, and for the most part, food and drink service was nicely paced.
Music: There was a mix of pop (Coldplay, etc.) playing in the bar, and traditional instrumental Irish music in the dining room. You could hear both at any one time, which seemed strange.
Parking: The parking lot is often full, so many customers park in the overflow lot in the strip mall just north of the pub.
Overall: Since southwest Naperville is mostly lacking when it comes to night life, Nevin's is in the perfect location to draw a crowd for those wanting after-work drinks, as a gathering place for friends seeking a night out, or as a spot to have a decent traditional Irish meal and a Guinness, with or without the kids.