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Posted at 11:28 AM ET, 02/28/2008

Parading Through Old Town's Pubs

By Fritz Hahn

Saint Patrick sure is popular in Old Town Alexandria. The city's St. Patrick's Day parade is traditionally held on the first Saturday in March, which means that this year's festivities take place more than two weeks before the holiday. Still, we know the Irish and Irish-at-heart don't need much of a reason to celebrate.

Pipers, drummers, Irish dancers, the Notre Dame alumni marching band and, uh, Star Wars reenactors are taking part in the parade, which begins at 12:30 at Market Square, but the party should be roaring well before then, as all three of Alexandria's Irish pubs will be opening early Saturday with live music and specials. As a public service, here's a quick guide to Old Town's public houses.

Irish eyes are smiling at Murphy's Grand Irish Pub. (Dudley M. Brooks/The Washington Post)

Daniel O'Connell's
One of the best-looking Irish pubs in the Washington area, O'Connell's is a massive building with all its historic fixtures imported from Ireland. It's hard to choose where you want to hang out: One of the little nooks in the front, blocked off from the main room with partitions; on wide cushioned seats at the front bar; in the large, galleried back room, where choices include high-backed private booths and comfortable benches and chairs near the gas fireplace; or, the cozy four-seat bar upstairs.

It's also pricey, with a pint of Guinness going for $6.

Doors open at 11 on Saturday morning, with music running from noon until 5, and staff say they'll have "bagpipers in and out all day." A limited menu focuses on traditional Irish dishes instead of the kitchen's usual fusion dishes.

If this cold snap continues, the most popular place in town might be the spots in front of Murphy's stone fireplace. The two-story pub, which celebrated its 25th anniversary last year, is a convivial place with a bar on one side of the long, thin room and an elevated stage on the other. You'll frequently find acoustic musicians singing traditional rebel songs, while the crowd hoists its pint glasses and sings along.

On Saturday, doors open at 9 a.m., and singer Rocky Guttman and "Almost Irish" band Ceann will be taking turns on stage, beginning at 11:30 and taking a break in the afternoon before continuing all night long. The kitchen will be turning out a "limited" Irish menu, and no reservations are available.

Pat Troy's Ireland's Own
More than two decades later, Ireland's Own is still trading on the story of how President Ronald Regan stopped in for a pint on St. Patrick's Day. (You can read an account of the day on the pub's Web site, or visit the "Reagan Corner" of the restaurant to see photos.) Ireland's Own really stands out on parade day, though, as it's the only one of the three Irish bars in Alexandria levying a cover charge. A heated tent is going up on the restaurant's brick patio, with its own bar, tables and live music, but if you want to go to the bar inside or sit down in the restaurant, you'll have to pay $10. Doors open at 9 a.m., and the music -- indoors and out -- starts at 10. Breakfast and lunch will be served, though no reservations will be taken before 7 p.m.

-- Fritz

By Fritz Hahn  | February 28, 2008; 11:28 AM ET
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What in the hell is wrong with that woman in the photo?

Posted by: WTF | February 29, 2008 8:42 AM | Report abuse

I just called Pat Troy's Ireland Pub and they do NOT have the $10 cover on March 1st. They will have a cover on St. Patrick's Day. They do open for breakfast at 9am and are having entertainment all day Saturday. Look forward to seeing you all there!

Posted by: Ryan | February 29, 2008 12:22 PM | Report abuse

She's happy to be having a Guinness, ya idjit! Nothing is wrong with her. It's a meal in a glass, ya know.

Posted by: Huh? | February 29, 2008 1:22 PM | Report abuse

Not a fan of Pat Troy's. Recommend the other two places, though.

Posted by: Svenskporr | February 29, 2008 5:07 PM | Report abuse

When I called them on Thursday, I was told they were having a cover charge on Saturday.

Posted by: Fritz | February 29, 2008 5:51 PM | Report abuse

I marched/played with the ND Alumni Band since I can remember. This year was great but Pat Troy's and Murphy's both had pretty big lulls in the Irish music in the late afternoon. Nevertheless I'll be back next year.

Posted by: Joe | March 3, 2008 10:57 PM | Report abuse

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