O’Neill’s in Maspeth celebrates its 90th anniversary on Friday, Dec. 1.
Photo by Anthony Medina
Deirdre O’Neill, a third-generation family member and proprietor of O’Neill’s restaurant — located at 64-21 53rd Dr. in Maspeth — knew the name of every face that took a seat at the bar or nearby table on Friday night.
“If you walk around this whole entire bar, some of these people were little kids in this neighborhood who are now here for over 40-50 years,” said Deirdre O’Neill. “I had a woman in here just the other day, she’s going to be 90 this year. So the customers are what make it.”
With the anniversary celebration in full swing, she showed only a portion of her community patron knowledge, but it was enough to prove a point: O’Neill’s represents the true impact of being a community center for 90 years.
The history of O’Neill’s began with George O’Neill Sr., in December of 1933, the day prohibition ended. Initially founded as the Plateau Tavern, the bar was turned into a restaurant with the help of his son George O’Neill Jr. when he returned from a tour of duty as a U.S. Army cook in Hawaii in 1956.
Decades of serving Maspeth and the greater Queens community didn’t come without its hardships.
In 2011, O’Neill’s restaurant experienced a massive fire that set the neighborhood staple ablaze. Residents and frequent patrons of the restaurant at the time shared fond memories of the eatery and expressed deep sorrow over the incident. It was from the dedication of the O’Neill’s and the community, that the restaurant was resurrected and reopened in 2013, two years after the fire.
When George O’Neill, Jr., known to many for his generosity, compassion and upkeep of his father’s legacy, died in 2018, community members went into mourning. His legacy and memory lived on in his expansive family, patrons who had the opportunity to meet the man and in the street naming right outside the restaurant’s doors in 2021.
The restaurant’s history and continued legacy also live along the walls of O’Neill’s. Framed photographs of family and friends take their place along with signed sports memorabilia. At the restaurant entrance, a reminder of the deep Irish roots and support of first responders is abundant in other framed photo decor.
“When anyone says Maspeth, they say O’Neill’s. They go hand in hand,” said Danny Pyle, son-in-law and co-proprietor to George O’Neill Jr.
Pyle spoke on his father-in-law’s kindness and attentiveness to those even unfamiliar to the community. Raising funds for St. Jude’s Research Hospital in prior years served as just one example of many Pyle recalled about generosity at O’Neill’s.
The restaurant’s neighborhood fame was recognized by Council Member Robert Holden, who attended the anniversary celebration.
“This beloved local spot has been a cornerstone of our community, always there to lend a helping hand in times of need,” Holden shared on social media.
For the special celebration, Neil O’Neill, whose first job was as a bar back when he was 13 years old, took his old position for the night.
Patty Mascia, who has worked behind the bar at O’Neill’s for over 30 years, also came to the anniversary with someone better known by many as DJ Nicky Bop, who DJ’d at the establishment for 21 New Years celebrations in a row. Above all else said about their time at O’Neill’s, they emphasized that although it is still great in many ways, they still miss George.