Posted by: Kath Usitalo | March 17, 2011

O’Duffy’s: The Perfect Neighborhood Pub

O'Duffy's Pub, Kalamazoo

Just my luck. I finally found the neighborhood bar of my dreams, and it’s not in my neighborhood.

O’Duffy’s Pub is the kind of place you can hang out at and sip a good beer, have a little something to eat. Enjoy an eclectic mix of music in the background, just loud enough to appreciate but fine for carrying on a conversation with your companion.

Mac, the pub dog, gets a pat from a patron

And there’s no TV. No TV!

It’s a place where you feel at home the minute you walk through the door for the first time and one of the servers shouts a friendly, “Hi there!” across the room, so you know you’ve been noticed, and welcomed.

If owner Jamie Kavanaugh is in you’ll be greeted by pub dog Mac, his Collie/German Shepherd mix, likely followed by Jamie, who’ll stop by to chat.

And did I mention there’s no TV? “When we opened we had one on a cart, thought we’d roll it out for games,” says Jaime. “But,” he shakes his head, “that didn’t last. We haven’t had one since. It’s what sets us apart.”

The warm and woody setting helps set O’Duffy’s apart, too. The 1890s building in Kalamazoo’s historic Vine Neighborhood, according to Jamie, has “been everything—a market, food co-op, head shop…”  he laughs.

Now it’s known for its burgers—7 variations on the menu, plus a daily special—and Guinness and a nice selection of beers on tap. I had Lagunitas Brown Shugga’ from California, a rich, dark beer made with—surprise—brown sugar—served in a small glass.

One wall of the pub is filled with a gorgeous, 24′ by 12′ back bar that Jamie and his wife Kim found and installed. The restaurant business was her dream, he says, and she’s the one who fell in love with the building. “She dragged me kicking and screaming into it,” he says with a chuckle.

In 1992 the Kavanaughs, who also bought a home in the neighborhood, converted the building’s existing second story restaurant into the popular Cosmo’s Cucina. In warm weather regulars recommend a seat on the upstairs deck for savoring small plates, creative entrees and Sunday Brunch.

Later the couple renovated the first floor to create O’Duffy’s, “Kalamazoo’s Only Irish Pub,” which opened in 1999.

O'Duffy's 1890s building (O'Duffy's photo)

Sadly, I learned that Kim passed away in December; this will be the first St. Patrick’s Day with Jamie and their two sons in charge. They run the place with the help of a young and friendly staff. My waitress Sara Olivares is also poet (I promised to Google her and found she’s an award-winning writer. Yay Sara!).

When I complimented Jamie on the mix of background music—Irish tunes, Ella Fitzgerald, a Latin beat and local band Who Hit John—he credited the staff with the play list; his only requirement is that 50% of the sound be Irish.

I wasn’t hungry enough for one of the famous O’Duffy’s burgers, so I chose the roasted beet salad and delish goat cheese fritter off of the Cosmo’s Cucina small plates menu (that’s allowed when the upstairs dining room is closed). The salad was tasty but the aroma of that fritter…delish! Based on those samples I believe the menu’s claim of “more flavor, less hype.”

I’m heading back to the Kalamazoo next week for the state’s tourism conference and I thought that while I’m in the neighborhood I’d drop in, but O’Duffy’s won’t be open during that visit.

Other than being closed on Sunday and Monday and the fact that it’s not in my neighborhood, O’Duffy’s Pub is my perfect neighborhood bar.

Visitor Info Clicks:

O’Duffy’s Pub website for hours, location, a peek at the menu and Irish toasts and proverbs.


Pure Michigan

Related Links:

Enter the Kalamazoo Creative Zone: Park Trades Center

A Sweet Story On Valentine’s Day



  1. A true pub! If you keep posting such wonderful sounding places like this Kath, I’ll have to either book the ferry to Ludington or drive up & over to do a Great Lake Michigan Road Trip. Cheers! May the wind of wonderful ideas be always at your back and the paper come up to meet your pen!

  2. Time for you, Mr. Travel Writer, to see what’s on the other side of the lake!

  3. Nice article, Kath. With our oldest son at Western, we’ll definitely have to check it out.

    • Absolutely. What’s he studying?

  4. One of my favorite places in this great city, Kath….I’m glad you found it. Last time I was there, a few weeks ago, there was an informal meet-up of musicians and singers of Irish tunes who began showing up around 8pm, sat together, and made beautiful music. It was a nice bonus to go along with the good food.

    • An Irish jam session…what luck!
      I definitely will be back.

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