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Restaurant Info
243 O'Farrell St
San Francisco ,CA 94102
Tel: 415-954-0777
Fax: 415-954-0773
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RESV: Not Required
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Wine   Beer   Full Bar   Licensed  
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The Real Deal...

Johnny Foley's Irish House is a replication of some of the authentic elements that make the great pubs of Ireland truly unique. Born of painstaking attention to decorative detail and insistence on true craftsmanship, Johnny Foley's Irish House recalls the days when it was as vital to please the eye as the palette. Such pubs were usually found in the busier urban areas where patrons found solace away from the general hustle and bustle of city life or enjoyed a lively evening with friends in a convivial atmosphere. It was customary to find a series of "snugs" (small separately enclosed areas), within the traditional openness of these urban pubs.

The Story of Johnny Foley
Written by Kerry Sheridan O'Leary from The San Francisco Gael.

With the name "Johnny Foley" adorning a new pub on O'Farrell Street, some new- comers to San Francisco may wonder just where the name came from. Is Johnny Foley a fictional character? Or is he a legendary hero from Ireland? Maybe a well-known or famous leader? Perhaps a renowned artist, writer, or singer? Well, those who knew the real Johnny Foley would likely say he's "all of the above."

Johnny, a native of Waterford, is a San Francisco legend, a life time veteran of the newspaper business and a 5'2" sportsman once described in a Waterford newspaper as "fast and fearless Johnny Foley": He is also a man whose remarkable tenor singing voice might have made him a star, but for a stop at a pub. Oh, and there's the time that Johnny "sang his way out of prison." One night, he began to sing the lengthy "The Green Glens of Antrim," at twenty minutes before dosing time in a Mission bar. Unfortunately, Johnny's version of the song would take no less than 25 minutes to complete, and despite the bartender's howls, the ringing for last call, and being pushed out the door in mid-verse, Johnny continued. A sizeable crowd followed him out 'into the street, where he completed the song to cheers and applause.

Though his fans knew and appreciated his greatness, the local police officers were inclined to feel differently due to the late night racket, and he was arrested. William J Murphy, the San Francisco attorney who represented Johnny: Foley in that court case, told The Gael about Johnny's day in court. When he bought Johnny before the judge, his honor was astonished that this somewhat- worse- for-wear young man had dragged so many people out onto the street just to hear him finish a song (According to Murphy, the incredulous judge demanded that Johnny sing for him. Johnny obliged. "People were coming over to hear him ' from the adjoining court rooms," Murphy said, "...Johnny used to shout before he started singing, 'Silence! Please!’ You could have heard a pin drop in that room while Johnny was singing. Once he'd finished, the judge, unable to argue, just pounded his gavel and declared, 'Case dismissed'"

That fabulous tenor voice, and his choice of songs, wasn't always popular. He nearly caused a riot at the Blackwatch Club in Toronto, a Scottish Presbyterian Club, from which he was forcibly ejected for singing Irish rebel songs. (Apparently "The Old Orange Flute" wasn't in his repertoire!) But more often than not, his singing was appre- ciated. He is even said to have spontaneously entertained the captain and crew on the ship that trans- ported him from Ireland to New York in 1956. Upon his arrival in New York, his reputation as a locally renowned singer grew quickly. In 1958 he was flown to Washington, DC to sing at a St. Patrick's Day Parade Banquet attended by President Eisenhower. Soon after, it appeared he might have his big break when he was invited to appear on the Arthur Godfrey Show, a premier show of its kind at the time. Unfortunately, he ran into some friends in a bar in lower Manhattan on his way to the show, and he arrived both a little late and slightly inebriated! Despite his ardent protests, he was not allowed to perform. Usually, one has to be dead to be honored. Not so, with this larger than life character and extremely goodnatured life-long entertainer, as is plain to see in the downtown pub bearing his name.

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