Moody’s Pub founder John Moody Kahoun, dead at 84, built a life on burgers, beer

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John Moody Kahoun dishing up burgers at Moody’s Pub. | Provided photo

John Moody Kahoun founded the original Moody’s Pub in Old Town when Dwight Eisenhower was president.

It was a generation before the area around North Avenue and Wells Street evolved into the Chicago equivalent of San Francisco and drew hippies with flowers in their hair and years before Old Town was prime real estate.

The first Moody’s Pub didn’t last long, relatives said, because the landlord raised the rent.

Next, Mr. Kahoun opened a “Moody’s II” also in Old Town, near Willow and Larrabee. One of his buddies, who used to come in and dance on the tables, said he was going to start a bar “just like Moody’s,” according to Chris Veech, Mr. Kahoun’s daughter.

“Butch McGuire went on to open his own place on Division Street,” she said.

After Moody’s II burned down in 1968, Mr. Kahoun moved north, where rents were cheaper. In 1969, he established Moody’s Pub at 5910 N. Broadway, modeling it on the beer halls he enjoyed while in the Army in Germany. He liked brick arches, so he built them himself, with help from students at Senn High School, said his son Jake.

With its dark, homey ambience, Moody’s offers Edgewater’s version of hygge. In the summer, Moody’s Pub keeps people cool in its tree-shaded beer garden. In the winter, the big fireplaces warm customers.

John Moody Kahoun, founder of Moody’s Pub, checking on customers in the beer garden at the restaurant, 5910 N. Broadway. | Provided photo

John Moody Kahoun, founder of Moody’s Pub, checking on customers in the beer garden at the restaurant, 5910 N. Broadway. | Provided photo

Gov. Jim Thompson and a few mayors used to drop in. So did Bears legend George Halas and Bulls great Scottie Pippen.

Mr. Kahoun, who built a career and a life on cold beer and fresh, never-frozen burgers, died at home Jan. 11 of complications of age, according to his daughter. He was 84.

As recently as last summer, he’d come downstairs from his home above the restaurant and enjoy the poplar-shaded beer garden he built 49 years ago. “He always drank Old Fashioneds,” she said, “and he always ate a cheeseburger.”

The former football standout at Morgan Park Military Academy grew up near 97th and Indiana in Roseland.

Summers were spent in Minocqua, Wisconsin, where his dad’s family had a lake cabin. Or he’d visit McGregor, Iowa, a Mississippi River town where his mother Mary Rose’s side of the family — the Moodys — had such deep roots that they fill Moody Cemetery there.

A cow skull decorating the pub came from the Iowa farm, his son said.

Young John went to Ripon College in Wisconsin on a football scholarship. At the urging of his dad John, a lawyer, he went to Chicago-Kent College of Law. He hated it, his daughter said.

“He would later tell my sons to follow their hearts, and don’t listen to a damned person who says otherwise,” she said in a eulogy. “To open the first Moody’s Pub, my dad lived in a cold-water flat and saved money while working as an insurance adjuster.”

In 1959, around the time neighboring Second City started, he opened Moody’s at 1529 N. Wells, naming it for his mother’s side of the family, according to his son.

“My dad always told me Joan Baez would stop in to the bar,” the son said. “She would just take the guitar off the wall and start playing.”

The menu has changed little over the years. It still has sangria, onion rings, fresh-cut fries and Sloppy Joes. Three generations of Mr. Kahoun’s family have worked in the pub.

“My dad really enjoyed seeing people come here and be happy,” said his son, who operates Moody’s.

In 1981, Mr. Kahoun, who was divorced, met his second wife, Katie. She was dining at the restaurant. He sent over a drink with a napkin on which he’d written, “You have a nice smile.”

His favorite place was Puerto Rico, where he’d go deep-sea fishing. He bought 10 oceanfront acres in the Cabo Rojo region and built his own home there with the same arches as Moody’s.

In his later years, he was determined to visit the island, even when ill health made that a challenge.“He would fly down with as many as three dogs, oxygen, two vans, a medical transport van, a caregiver, a dog-walker,” his daughter said.

Until the last week of his life, his daughter said, he asked Jake to pump up his bike tires, even though he hadn’t been able to ride for more than a decade.

In addition to his wife, son and daughter, Mr. Kahoun is survived by another daughter, Cindy Kahoun Dobbins; brothers Ira, Tom and David and six grandchildren.

His family buried him with a favorite fishing pole, a picture of his boat “No Trabajar” and a roll of duct tape, which he used to fix almost everything at Moody’s Pub.

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