Tom Bergin’s

tombergins

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.

8 Responses to Tom Bergin’s

  • Bonnie says:

    In the seventies this was our favorite after work place. The staff was always friendly, the food good enough, tho not wonderful. It was the great casual atmosphere of the place, the bar that circled the whole room, all the people that came, that made it our favorite.

    Of course on St. Patrick’s Day a line would start in the morning. We finally realized that to get in on that day, we would have to take the whole day off, and so we did. It became an annual tradition, which I truly miss.

    I was very sorry to hear of its demise.

  • Tom says:

    Tom Bergin’s is reopening in December!!

  • Carol L says:

    Are you kidding? Tom Bergin’s is close to a lot of places , both residential and commercial. I used to live a few blocks from there. And, who goes to a bar/tavern for the food?! The atmosphere and drinks are the reason to go there. I’m glad it’s going to reopen. It’s definitely a Fairfax area institution.

  • Ed says:

    Tom Bergin’s is open again and it is quite a hopping spot on Friday nights. Good Drinks and so, so food, but fun anyway. I was there on the first week and they still needed to get some of the bugs out. It is till the same old TB.

  • Jerry Hill says:

    I have great and fond memories of Bergin’s. IMHO, it was the greatest pick-up joint on the planet. I was a regular there starting sometime in the late 1960’s, while it was still owned by Tom Bergin. The first time I went to Bergin’s, I had been invited to dinner by a friend. The dinner was superb: beef tournedos. We left about 8:00 pm when things were just starting to heat up in the front. I noticed a lot of single women sitting around the bar, so I came back the following evening. For the next 10 years, I came to Bergin’s, not for the food, or the booze, but to pick-up women. The Miracle Mile, back then, was booming, and the men and women that worked there would come to Bergin’s after work to “hook up.”

  • Rose Kravagna says:

    In the 70s we all went there … I remember a server
    Who grew up down the block from our house
    in the neighborhood. Practically , everybody was Irish
    and he became a waiter there up @ the bar !
    Friendly atmosphere , good food , but mainly
    the drinks were not watered-down and seconds
    work even better than the first !!! I am so glad it reopened.

  • Ken Coate says:

    In the ’80’s I lived within stumbling distance of Bergins- closest thing to a real Irish pub in LA. It’s just reopened and seems to be getting good reviews on Yelp. I’d have to drive there now, so I’d have to use a different strategy going forward…

    Not the first Irish Coffee in teh US, though. That’s the Buena Vista in SF, where the recipe was perfected by columnist Stanton Deleplane and dairyman/mayor George Christopher, following their memories of the concoction served at Shannon Airport in Ireland.

  • Ellen says:

    My first husband & some of his friends would go bird hunting out in Simi: pheasant & chukkar. They would take the cleaned birds to Bergin’s, where a dinner would be prepared. This was in the ’60s. What a great way to take friends for a treat!

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