Everyone called it “Tom Bergin’s” or “Tom Bergin’s Tavern” but the real name of the place on Fairfax that closed at the beginning of July was Tom Bergin’s Old Horseshoe and Thoroughbred Club. It was also called “Tom Bergin’s Old Horseshoe Tavern” in some advertising and a lot of people referred to it by its advertising line emblazoned on a neon out front — “House of Irish Coffee.” By any name, it was one of the oldest restaurants in Los Angeles, having opened in 1936 on Wilshire Boulevard by a lawyer named Tom Bergin. It moved to its final building in 1949.
Tom Bergin’s sometimes claimed to have been the first restaurant in America to serve Irish Coffee. Other venues have claimed that honor and I don’t want to get into that. It was also one of about eight thousand bars in the country that claimed to have been an/the inspiration for the TV series, Cheers. Again, I am agnostic on the subject.
It closed last year for ten months for an extensive renovation but when it reopened, crowds did not flock to it, not even after a rave review from Jonathan Gold. My guess is it was done in by its location, which was near nothing. It wasn’t a great place to meet someone for a lunch confab. It wasn’t a great place to stop in for a bite on your way to or from something else. As the years roll by, Angelenos seem to be less willing to dine somewhere that isn’t super-convenient. It was always packed on St. Patrick’s Day for obvious reasons but rarely any other time. I never ate there post-renovation but before, it was one of those places that I liked due to its friendly atmosphere but the food was just too disappointing. Perhaps if I was a drinker, I might have liked it more.
But I liked the chummy feeling of the place and I liked the servers and staff, some of whom had been there for decades. I could have done without the paper shamrocks everywhere, each displaying the name of a patron but they weren’t the problem for me. The problem was that I always came out feeling like I must have ordered the wrong thing…
UPDATE, 10/9/13: It has been announced that Tom Bergin’s has been purchased by a longtime customer and will reopen in December. Stay tuned.