Tom Bergin’s


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.

22 Responses to Tom Bergin’s

  • Steve W West LA says:

    I met more women that i went out with, at Tom Bergins, than any other Friday night place, my generation went to.
    Wonder if my Shamrock is still upSteve

  • Frank Balkin says:

    Tom Bergin’s has re-opened. Re the person above who asked about a Shamrock. I have one, it was “installed” in 1997. Unfortunately in one of the other buyer transitions over the last decade, all of the shamrocks were taken down, and have been replaced in different locations. I haven’t seen mine since. Hoping it’s still there. I was there this past Monday.

  • Elaine Katz says:

    I lived one building from Bergin’s West in Brentwood in 1977-78. it was great!
    I went there often & met many people there. one night I cut my pinkie finger on a glass (severed a nerve) & I was bleeding profusely. the host of their dining room took me to U.C.L.A. ER
    the owner Michael wanted to 86 me ’cause he thought I was going to sue him,,,i didn’t & neither did there..they had a dart board & fire place. nice atmosphere.

  • Christine Miehls says:

    My father had a shamrock there and I would would love it if someone has it. LEYBA is on the Shamrock and it was above the cigarette machine and the entrance to the dining room. My father knew Tom and would take me there as a 3yr old and sit me on the bar!!!

  • Richard Masi says:

    We’d close 3rd Street Chuck’s Steak house and beeline to Bergin’s.
    Art was there for years. I have 2 shamrocks on the ceiling. Many a late night!

  • Sandy Lyons, Sandy Kormondy, Sandy Pozzo says:

    I remember the honor of having my name placed on a wall written on a shamrock. I know you had to do something for this to happen but I can’t remember exactly what that was, mine was on a wall over one of the front booths. Also, during my time back in the 1970’s I think a guy named Mike Mandekeck owned the place. He then a few years later opened another location I think near Brentwood named Burgins West.
    I left there too many nights to mention having too many drinks. But LA was a kinder less crowded place then so that type of behavior was somewhat acceptable.

  • Bette Carlson says:

    I went to Bergin’s in the 60s with my husband. The son of the owner, Tom Bergin, worked as a stock broker where I was employed. I bought my first car from young Tom. I never had dinner there. Just a few friendly drinks. However I have fond memories of the place.

  • Darrel King says:

    Great New York Cut!

  • sandra says:

    I went to Bergins through the 80’s and found the food to be fantastic. The Torandoes of beef, the daily special. The incredible Sean who took care of everyone. The bar included many people from the neighborhood and the motion picture industry. Always a winner. Original family owners and family would drop by from time to time. Oh yes! The incredible Jerry Orbach bartended there for awhile in the mid 80’s before his Law and Order days.

  • John Hurley says:

    A buddy of mine worked there for a while in the late 70’s. I was never in that location, but I was in the Brentwood location.

  • Chuck Grady says:

    I was in the advertising business in the 70’s and 80’s, and whenever we came to LA for production, one of the places we frequented was Tom Bergin’s. Good food, great Irish coffees, and a fun place. In the late 70’s they opened a Bergin’s on San Vicente just north of Wilshire. It was fun but never caught on like the original TB’s. The original was really a great place!!!!And the Fairfax location was not a bad location. It was along the popular area on Wilshire.

  • Patricia Mechling says:

    My husband just reminded me that he and a fellow Berginite knew Jerry Ohrbach when he worked at Bergin’s, in the late 70’s. Swear to God, he says. As you may guess, Jerry was outgoing and wonderful to know and the fellows enjoyed talking to him when they came in which was often. Several times he did burst out singing in his wonderful baritone voice, something stupendous and everyone loved it. I didn’t know that…to think what I missed – women loved Jerry and he was always their choice for their “second husband” hands down.

  • Patricia Mechling says:

    Bergin’s was the place a group of our buddies went for drinks and frolicing after we closed our businesses we owned nearby. It seemed like a great place for “pickups”, very jolly, but we went with husbands and fellows took their wives there. I know a story few do. One of the fellows in our party, feeling no pain, joshed another fellow and made a bet about something. The other fellow Lost. The penalty for losing was for him to roll a peanut on the ground by his nose across Fairfax Blvd. It was about 8 or 9 pm.and of course there was still a lot of auto traffic. The street was well lit, as well as were some of Bergin’s patrons. And by God, Bergin’s furnished the peanut, our party went to the curb and along with loads of other people watched while some guys stopped the traffic. Scared me but we were all determined by then to see it through. The fellow who lost was a bit scared too but game. And got on his knees and proceeded to move that damned peanut across the pavement – with his nose. And you wouldn’t believe if you hadn’t seen it, he did get that peanut across the by now paralyzed street. The people in the cars – stopped by Bergin’s patrons – were dumfounded. The cops did come at some point (it takes time to push a peanut, that’s a big thoroughfare) but they didn’t raise Hell, they just helped us stop the traffic! Yes, all true. Most of us were hysterical with laughter it was so crazy. And fascinating. The losing fellow got a scraped nose for being such a good sport. And the big crowd of Berginites got memories to warm the cockles of our “Irish” hearts. It could only have happened at Bergin’s.

  • Syvia, Lady Dhenin says:

    It is open again. It was full to bursting this St. Patrick’s Day, 2015.

  • 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!

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.”

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • Tom says:

    Tom Bergin’s is reopening in December!!

  • 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.

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