One hundred forty-seven.
It’s the number of days left until St. Patrick’s Day- a fact made known to the communities of Prairie Village, Leawood and Overland Park by a sign just inside the door of neighborhood eatery O’Neill’s Restaurant & Bar. A fact I reported to my dad each time we ate there when I was six years old.
We had just moved in two minutes down the road from O’Neill’s. Because we were so close and my divorced dad didn’t cook much, the restaurant became somewhat of a regular site for family dinners. Always reminded by the plaque on the wall, our meals ended with a declaration of how many days were left until March 17.
Ever since that time, O’Neill’s has always touched my weekly routine in some way or another, whether I was dining in or carrying out. A tradition of eating there on Friday or Saturday nights developed for my family, along with movie renting at Blockbuster afterward. It’s been a constant, unlike the rest of the area. Einstein Bros. Taco Villa. Pumpernick’s. All were neighborhood restaurants. All closed down over the years.
So when I saw a white sign on the restaurant’s door driving by some months ago, I was shocked, and sad. Surely O’Neill’s wouldn’t be joining that list. The place has been around for the last ten years of my life. As I’ve grown up, it’s grown out, expanding to serve as the neighborhood kitchen. It’s where I learned, by playing a family version of Hollywood Squares with the tic-tac-toe games on the kids’ menu, where people like Condoleezza Rice, Bill Gates and Bono were.
But after I took the time to stop by and read the posted sign, I was able to breathe a sigh of relief about the future of the restaurant. It wasn’t closing, but moving- and by only a couple hundred yards at that. A new Walgreen’s would be bumping it east across Mission Road to Ranch Mart North Shopping Center in the fall.
Fall has come now, and the former building has been reduced to rubble. The smell of the grill and the burble of voices have traveled from Prairie Village to Leawood. But this new location hasn’t diminished what’s special about O’Neill’s.
The familiar faces of the staff still greet families at the door. Green, gold and black hues and dark wood paneling still define the restaurant. Even the same sports memorabilia hang on the walls as before, from autographed Royals jerseys to pictures of Sion’s golf team.
Not much is different at all, and I find that comforting. The only changes coming to the restaurant are a private party room and outdoor patio. And of course, the change of date on the countdown plaque with each passing day, as St. Patty’s day draws closer each year.