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Maspeth eatery readies to reopen after rebuild

Aside from a new exterior, a new interior awaits customers when O'Neill's reopens on June 14. Photo by Steve Mosco
TimesLedger Newspapers

George O’Neill can see it now: a packed dining room, a raucous bar and a Maspeth neighborhood thrilled to have its favorite place back.

Days after a fire tore through his eponymous eatery, O’Neill’s was already having visions of his rebuilt restaurant. And now more than two years after the blaze, the 53rd Street fixture is on target for a June 14 grand reopening.

“I’ve been dreaming of seeing all of my old friends and customers again,” he said. “It’s been far too long and I need to hear that noise of a busy restaurant.”

The Maspeth eatery, at 64-21 53rd St., has been in the family since 1928, when O’Neill’s father opened what was then called the Plateau Tavern. As years passed, O’Neill began buying up the property surrounding the watering hole: a grocery store, a barbershop, a liquor store, a cleaners, a bakery, a delicatessen.

Throughout the years, O’Neill’s hosted nearly every imaginable character at the bar, in the dining room and in the old catering space. From the champion New York Mets of the 1980s to neighborhood regulars, the restaurant was a beloved meeting place for decades.

But the blaze in May 2011 robbed the neighborhood of that meeting place, just as it robbed O’Neill and his employees of a livelihood.

“I have people here that I need to get back to work,” he said, referring to O’Neill’s’ approximately 75 employees. “I’m not the only one anxious to get going and get customers in this building.”

O’Neill plans to pack in even more new friends with an expanded catering room in the back of the restaurant. He said the space will hold around 300 to 350 patrons and will be available for every party imaginable.

And when customers return, O’Neill said they will find the same top quality food they had become accustomed to before the fire. O’Neill is the most proud of his steaks, which he orders from the same suppliers as some of the city’s top steak houses.

“I don’t think you can get a better steak in Queens,” O’Neill said, without a hint of pretense. “You have got to have quality food in this industry. If you don’t use top quality food, get out of the restaurant business.”

O’Neill operates the restaurant with his son-in-law, Danny Pyle, a former firefighter with the FDNY. And when the restaurant opens on Flag Day, O’Neill expects another son-in-law to be there: former New York Ranger and hockey legend Brian Leetch.

The restaurant’s reopening is on pace to be a huge event in Maspeth. O’Neill said he is working on closing 53rd Street and holding a special ceremony outside. He wants the restaurant’s Maspeth return to be a grand neighborhood event, more than two years in the making.

“If everyone who says they’re going to be here shows up, the line will be around the corner,” he said. “It won’t be the same. It will be better.”

Reach reporter Steve Mosco by e-mail at smosco@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4546.

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Maspethian says:
And with its return, so will the tripple-parked alcoholics, drunks, and vandals, who make the lives of the immediate neighbors miserable on a daily basis. I pity the people that have bought properties during these past two years in the vicinity of the restaurant, for now they will discover what headaches await.
May 23, 2013, 4:52 pm
Mikey Doo Wopp from Woodside says:
Good Luck, nice to have you back. I'm an entertainer, I sure love to do your "GRAND OPENING"
You can look me up on Yutube, I have videos there of all the places I've performed at. E-mail -- mikeydoowopp@gmail.com -- I'm on Facebook. --- hope to hear from you, MIKEY
May 23, 2013, 7:34 pm
Mike Maricic from Middle Village says:
I for one am happy to hear of O'Neill's reopening. I have dined there many times and have met up with friends for a night out more times than I can count. Will be nice to be able to do both again. The O'Neill's are nice people and I am happy for them. I wish them all the best.
May 24, 2013, 12:03 pm
Marvin Goldfarb from Sunnyside, N.Y. says:
Lots of Luck !
May 26, 2013, 11:51 am
Sharon Connolly from Maspeth...now on LI says:
Can't wait to have it re-open again....Going to be there...and so are so many of my friends. My Dad...Frank Connolly...may he rest in peace loved this place & was friends with George......So I will be there to raise a nice ice cold one in my Dad's memory & to wish George all the best!
May 29, 2013, 10:27 pm
Kara from origionally from Woodside now Middle Village says:
Can't wait for the legenary O'Neill's to re-open...I went there as a kid with my familly, attended Christ The King the year Miss Marybeth O'Neill started teaching there, watched the Ranger's win the cup there in 1994 & went there after our 10 year highschool reunion in 2005...Place holds a lot of great memories & looking forward to creating new ones.
June 6, 2013, 10:36 am
John from Florida says:
I've been there dozens of times. A buddy lives around the corner and when the question of "whaddya want to do" came around, about 10 minutes later we were sitting at O'Neills. It was barely ever a bad call. I hope I can get up there again. I'm pretty sure I will. Good luck to the place and it's patrons.
June 6, 2013, 9:07 pm
Young Blood from Maspeth says:
I’ve been to O’Neill’s twice. Honestly, it wasn’t my cup of tea, it was packed with older folks and it was kind of blaah.
HOWEVER, I drove by the other day and I was impressed. The place looks pretty hot – MODERN!
I look forward to going back with a younger crowd. This place needs new energy. All the best to Mr. O’Neill!
June 19, 2013, 10:27 am
Phil E. Dogg from Middle Village says:
I miss the awesome wings and pizza. I was there the last time the Yankees won the world series and it was awesome.... I do hope they get better tasting orange juice though as previously, it tasted rancid... so I just stopped ordering the screwdrivers.

Can anyone actually give a date when it will be opening?
June 22, 2013, 9:18 pm
Jimmy hot cakes from Middle village says:
I hope they have better tv's. For a sports bar not to have hd tv's is a disgrace. C'mon Georgie spend some cash!
June 28, 2013, 3:28 pm
george jr from maspeth says:
my father is a crook and a lier so come send all your money here so the fat —— can get fatter ty!!
July 11, 2013, 3:51 pm
mike rini from now in vegas says:
hung out in o'neills for more than 20 years and George o'neill was like a father to me. helped me out many times when I was down and out. had many crazy good times in there. having breakfast in o'neills sitting with George and other friends reading the daily racing form was awesome!!!!!! GOOD LUCK George with the re-opening and looking forward to one of those porterhouse steaks that vegas can't even match!!!!
July 13, 2013, 6:52 pm
Dennis Lind from Woodside says:
Been a friend and customer of all the O'Neill's since the mid 50's.My dad coached George,late brother Babe played against George and I know him a long time.I wish him nothong but the best.
Aug. 9, 2013, 6:55 pm
STEVE CAWLEY from WOODSIDE says:
great place , been a customer since 1970 .can't wait to have a cold coors lite when you reopen George !......p.s...commenter... dennis lind ...aug 9,6:55pm...did you frequent the Shannon inn.?......if so you must be atleast in your late 70's.?
Sept. 3, 2013, 11:59 am
Michelle cooper from Carolina's says:
Wish you the best!
All my love to your family:)
Sept. 19, 2013, 2:57 pm
Get your facts straight from Maspeth from MASPETH says:
1. George bought the bar - was only a bar and made it into a restaurant and expanded to what it is today
2. The brothers were given the bar at one point and was sold back because they didn't want to run it anymore and all 3 live out of New York .. . George and his son in law/ daughter took over and remodeled. Know the truth you got that!!!!
3. The washed up Hockey player that "Knows the truth" claims is washed up is no other than Brian Leetch. Ya washed up he's a hall of famer and still works for the NHL. Tell a ranger fan that. That's George's son in law and if you remember when September 11th happen George had a bunch of Rangers come and had a big fundraiser for the FDNY
4. The person "Know the truth" is the widow drunk of one of the brothers and is a cheat and abusive hence her messages on every blog.
5. George jr didn't write that message above. They have an awesome family and I know them. Whoever posted that I am pretty sure it will be reported.
Know the truth - maybe your name should be Get a life! Leave George and his family alone!!!
Sept. 19, 2013, 6:46 pm
Dave from Rockaway beach says:
Danny Pyle is one of the biggest pos ever !! I hope the second one burns down too
Oct. 3, 2013, 4:56 pm
That Girl from LB from Strong Beach says:
Danny Pyle is exactly that....a Pyle of Irish wanna be gangster mule dung.
Oct. 3, 2013, 10:03 pm
Lou from Maspeth says:
I agree with you Maspethian. Parking in the area sucks, I watched people come out of the bar to smoke pot on the side of my building, and the loud drunks are back. These type of people do not belong in neighborhood. It's only going to get worse.
Oct. 4, 2013, 12:57 pm

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