McDonough's Irish Pub in Aurora's Dayton Triangle area looks none too fancy from the outside — or on the inside, for that matter. But beyond such a modest appearance sometimes lies the best type of neighborhood-bar surprise. The slightly worn lettering, the hodgepodge of furniture (some of which appears to have been previously owned by a Chili's) and the year-round St. Patrick's Day decorations could mean that the focus is on cheap drinks and good company, not carefully orchestrated ambience.
That's definitely the case at McDonough's.
The place is spacious and comfortable, full of friendly regulars and things to do. The game and activity selection is extensive: multiple pool and dart tables, a Big Buck Hunter, Golden Tee and pinball machine, a Bonus Hole game, pinball, a Skee-Ball setup and even a selection of paperback books on a shelf for your reading pleasure. There's a stage for karaoke on Thursdays and live music on Fridays and Saturdays, including local bands with a good following, like the Hot Apostles, hitting the stage on Saturday, June 15. The bands that play here span genres, from ’90s covers to classic rock, metal, bluegrass and who knows what else.
Even on non-music nights, that range is reflected in the clientele: tatted-up youngish gals, guys with large bro beards, some older couples and one dad-looking fellow in a golf shirt sitting alone, enjoying a drink on the small front patio. On a Monday night with no special events or activities, just a Stanley Cup hockey game on TV, the crowd was relatively quiet, sharing easy conversation and inside jokes with the crew. Wednesday and Sundays are more lively, since those are poker nights, and McDonough's also hosts private parties and big shindigs for all the major bar holidays. And, of course, St. Patrick's Day is no joke around here: All of March is a celebration at McDonough's.
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My friend and I settled in on this particular evening and ordered up some happy-hour drinks and food. Happy hour here is a wallet-friendly affair, with $3 wells, $2.50 domestic drafts and $6.50 domestic pitchers. To make things extra-happy, the drink deals run from 2 to 8 p.m. daily. Food is impressively cheap all the time: My friend and I opted for twelve hot wings for $6, and the crispy wings were way better than we'd imagined they would be, with flavorful sauce and just the right texture. We also tested the jalapeño poppers and mac and cheese wedges, which were just as tasty and rounded out our deep-fried dinner.
We discovered that our friendly and attentive bartender was none other than owner Cindy Darling. Her warm, motherly vibe matched her name, and like many middle-aged ladies in the bar business, she had a knowing, but not jaded, attitude. The strip mall that houses McDonough's has been around since the ’70s, and the location has housed a Mexican restaurant, a pizza joint and a few other businesses over the years, she told us. When she bought the place in 2006, the bar had already been McDonough's for a while; she figures it became an Irish bar sometime in the ’80s. The business has been going strong ever since.
See for yourself: Don't make the mistake of driving by this unassuming spot. Pull over, park, stop in for a drink and maybe a little poker, a game of Skee-Ball and some friendly conversation. Oh, and plenty of cheap drinks.
McDonough's Irish Pub, 10395 East Iliff Avenue, Aurora, 303-369-9819. See the music schedule and find out more on the McDonough's Facebook page.