Classic Irish Pub in Houston Has Dished Out Excellent Pizzas & Camaraderie for 40 Years

Irish Pub Kenneally's owners Sheila and Monica Flowers. Photo by Mario-Sebastian Berry.

Irish Pub Kenneally’s, located at 2111 South Shepherd, is celebrating its 40th anniversary this year. The longstanding, neighborhood establishment has been putting forth live music and Chicago-style thin-crust pizza since the beginning. Whether you’re a regular patron or first-time visitor, this family-owned public house is well-worth checking out!

Irish Pub Kenneally's turns 40 this year. Photo by Mario-Sebastian Berry.
Irish Pub Kenneally’s turns 40 this year. Photo by Mario-Sebastian Berry.

Founder John Cotter Flowers, a Chicago native, first moved to Texas to attend St. Mary’s University in San Antonio for his undergraduate studies. He returned to Chicago to earn his MBA at Loyola University while working at local bars and pizza joints — including two of Chicago’s most famous Irish pubs, Butch McGuire’s and Emerald Isle. He grew to love the pub business, but more importantly, he grew to strongly dislike the cold. He returned to the Lone Star State shortly after getting married and opened Irish Pub Kenneally’s on the Montrose side of Shepherd near River Oaks. It has operated continuously in the same location since 1983. 

Sadly, John passed away in 2013, but his wife, Sheila, continued running pub, with plenty of help from their daughter, Monica. I had the serendipitous pleasure of meeting Monica upon a recent visit to the pub, where she was filling in for an absent bartender. She’s an engineer by trade, but still loves contributing to the pub in any way she can. Her endearing, sociable personality is part of what makes the whole Kenneally’s experience so wonderful. The pub takes her mother’s maiden name, and Monica told me her father added “Irish Pub” to the beginning so that it would show up first in the phone book. 

Lovely day for a Guinness! Photo by Mario-Sebastian Berry.
Lovely day for a Guinness! Photo by Mario-Sebastian Berry.

Along with his good humor and business acumen, John brought to Houston Chicago-thin pizza (also known as “Chicago tavern-style”, “party-cut” and “Midwest-style”).  For those outside of the region, “Chicago-style” brings to mind thick, cheese-laden, deep-dish pizza rather than the saltine-like crust of a Chicago-thin. It was originally created by Chicago tavern owners in the 1940’s utilizing mechanical dough sheeters rather than tossing by hand, and was meant as a cheap snack to keep customers in the bar long enough to order a few rounds. 

The "Hangover Special" tavern-style pizza at Irish Pub Kenneally's. Photo by Mario-Sebastian Berry.
The “Hangover Special” tavern-style pizza at Irish Pub Kenneally’s. Photo by Mario-Sebastian Berry.

Chicago-thin pizza is served round, but cut into small, uneven square pieces. (No plate? No problem!) It’s covered with tomato sauce and low-moisture mozzarella spread all the way to the edges, then browned until the cheese bubbles. The dough has relatively low hydration and higher oil content than most pizza styles, which results in the light, crispy-crust which is slightly thinner than tavern-style or bar pie, but sturdy enough to hold a couple of simple toppings. 

At Kenneally’s, kitchen manager Israel Andrade, who studied under John, has been making these pizzas for 37 years and his son, Crispin, has also joined the team. When a business turns into a multi-family, multi-generational endeavor, it’s a sign of something special. 

The Chicago-thin style is tailor-made to compliment a night out, and Kenneally’s offer two sizes, 12- and 15-inch. The latter is perfect for sharing with friends (though it’s not difficult to put away a whole pie on your own after a Guinness or two). You can build-your-own pizza from a list of ingredients or opt to try one of the house specialty pizzas with options such as Veggie, BBQ Chicken or the Shamrock Special with mushrooms, bell peppers and corned beef. I chose the meaty Hangover Special topped with pepperoni, Italian sausage, hamburger, bacon and jalapeños and was quite content with my pick. 

A beautifully poured Kilkenny's Irish cream ale on nitro at Irish Pub Kenneally's. Photo by Mario-Sebastian Berry.
A beautifully poured Kilkenny’s Irish cream ale on nitro at Irish Pub Kenneally’s. Photo by Mario-Sebastian Berry.

The rest of the food menu is filled with classic bar bites, such as Slow Dough pretzels, chicken wings, burgers, corned beef and Reuben sandwiches. The Irish Nachos, a Kenneally’s original consisting of corned beef, melted cheese and pickled jalapeños atop thick, housemade potato chips cut lengthwise, are a fan-favorite and a perfect salty, crunchy companion to pints of malty-sweet Kilkenny Irish Cream Ale

"Irish Nachos", a Kenneally's original. Photo by Mario-Sebastian Berry.
“Irish Nachos”, a Kenneally’s original. Photo by Mario-Sebastian Berry.

Kenneally’s has become well-known for its festive St. Patrick’s Day parties featuring pipers and Irish step-dancers, live bands, drink specials, Irish stew and Guinness bread. The owners are planning a similarly grand affair for the 40th anniversary, including a weekend full of events leading up to the actual date, which falls on Monday, October 23. Additionally, trivia night takes place every Tuesday at 8 p.m., and bingo is held at the bar every Thursday at 7 p.m. Soccer (football) and rugby matches are played whenever the matches are aired during normal operating hours. The pub has covered patio tables in addition to indoor bar seats and tables, and a fair amount of onsite parking. 

Sheila and Monica have done an incredible job of keeping John’s legacy alive, and It’s no wonder they have regulars (and staff members) that have been coming back for decades. There’s something timeless about a well-executed Irish pub, and this one has certainly stood the test of time. 

Irish Pub Kenneally's exterior. Photo by Mario-Sebastian Berry.
Irish Pub Kenneally’s exterior. Photo by Mario-Sebastian Berry.

Irish Pub Kenneally’s is open Tuesdays and Sundays from 3 p.m. until midnight, and from 3 p.m. until 2 a.m. Wednesday through Saturday.

Comments (3)

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  • May 24, 2023 at 11:54 pmAirey Poose’

    Couldn’t agree with you guys more! -Airey

  • May 24, 2023 at 5:34 pmAir E. Knows

    Kevin (
    John and Sheilas son) did a helluva job keeping his fathers legacy alive for many years as well. Nice to have family owned bars/pubs still makin it!

    • May 24, 2023 at 5:44 pmPhaedra Cook

      Thanks for the nice comment. Knowing this family-owned pub has made it 40 years warms my heart, too!