Best Bets for St. Patrick's Day
Even though St. Patrick's Day falls on a Monday this year, most pubs and bars will still be hauling out the tri-colored flags and green bunting on the 17th. Here's my advice on where to celebrate that day, with an additional Sunday option for post-parade partying.
One piece of advice: I know you're going to have a few pints of Guinness and the odd shot of Jameson. Don't drink and drive: Use SoberRide to get a free taxi ride home. The usual caveat applies: Call in advance and allow plenty of time to reserve to your cab.
Best for Breakfast
In Ireland, there's more to do on the 17th than go to mass and hit the pubs. St. Patrick's Day is the day for the All-Ireland hurling and football finals at Croke Park in Dublin. Birr (from Offaly) and Portumna (from Galway) play first in the hurling championship, while the doubleheader finishes with Nemo Rangers (Cork) vs. St. Vincent's (Dublin) in the Gaelic football final. (Gaelic football is a mix of soccer and rugby.) You can watch both matches while wolfing down a full Irish breakfast at Flanagan's Harp and Fiddle in Bethesda. Doors open at 9 a.m., and the first match begins at 10. Live music in the bar kicks off at 11.
Best for (Traditional) Irish Music
A number of pubs are bringing in bands from Ireland for this weekend, including Daniel O'Connell's (the Messenger Boys, from Dublin), O'Faolain's (Paddy's Land from Kilkenny) and the Old Brogue (Tin Treach Ceol). All three offer live music all day; the latter two are charging a $10 cover. Any of those would be a great place to hang out if you can arrive for lunch or on the early side of the afternoon. Later in the evening, the Irish Inn at Glen Echo is holding its usual Irish session, in which regulars play guitars, fiddles and whistles.
For local Irish music, I like singer-guitarists Conor Malone at the Harp and Fiddle and Brian Gaffney at the Irish Channel, and the energetic young Wild Rovers, who bring fiddles, pipes, bodhran drums and a rocking rhythm section to Castlebay Irish Pub.
Best for (Non-Traditional) Irish Music
I'm willing to bet there are more people on this earth who know the words to "I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For" than "Danny Boy." U2 isn't touring this year, but you can get a taste of Bono and the boys at two Ned Devine's pubs in Northern Virginia. 2U (listen/watch) is a New York-based cover band that's played from Atlantic City to Las Vegas, and based on the audio and video clips on 2U's Web site, it has the details down, from the ringing guitar chords played by a wool hat-wearing "Edge" to the preening, crooning "Bono." It claims to be "The World's 2nd Best U2 Show," and I don't see a reason to doubt that. 2U plays an afternoon show at Ned Devine's in Centreville and a 10 p.m. show in Herndon.
Best for Non-Irish Entertainment
The Palace of Wonders is promising snake charming, fire eating, sword swallowing, drink specials, drinking contests and an Irish bagpipe band. As always on H Street NE, I suppose you have to see it to believe it.
Best for Cheap Drinks
You don't find a lot of bars doing Guinness or Smithwick's specials on St. Patrick's Day, because customers are going to order it whether a pint costs $3.50 or $6. Still, there are a few places out there that are a little easier on your wallet. McFadden's offers $3 Bud Light aluminum bottles as well as $5 Guinness, $5 Bushmills and $8 Car Bombs. (The latter three are discounted, but don't seem especially cheap.) There'll be a slightly older crowd at Finn Mac Cool's, where local Irish band 40 Thieves will take the stage at 3:30. Deals include $4 Guinnesses and $5 Jameson drinks from 11 to 3.
After work, if you don't care for Irish beer or whiskey, Rumors is throwing the annual Shamrocks and Shenanigans party with beat-the-clock Miller specials from 4 to 11. Bottles of Lite and Chill -- avoid the latter -- are $1.17 until 6, $2.17 from 6 to 9 and then $3.17 until 11. It's going to be a drunken mob scene. Then again, so will most Irish bars.
Best for Acting Like Drunken Humpy Back Camels and Chimpanzees
Pat Troy's Ireland's Own. Pat Troy wears a costume when he sings the Shel Silverstein-penned "favorite," you know, and he might be the only pub owner around who performed it for Ronald Reagan.
Best for Avoiding Crowds
Hah. As if. It's St. Patrick's Day. You could try going for a nice flight of Rhone wines at Veritas, or a stein of German lager at Gordon Biersch. If I had to wager, though, I'd guess the Irish sports bar Kitty O'Shea's is going to be less hectic than its neighbors in Clarendon and Court House. In previous years, I've also found the 51st State Tavern to be more calm than its nearby neighbor McFadden's, though it's still a little too crowded to spend time taking in all the vintage Guinness posters.
Best D.C. Parade Post-Party
On Sunday, D.C.'s Irish community gets together for a morning parade along Constitution Avenue before heading off to spend the afternoon at a bar. It's a long way from the Mall, but Duffy's Irish Pub features the engaging Irish singer-songwriter Conor Malone, a regular on the D.C. pub circuit, from 2 to 6 p.m. While you're tapping your feet, tuck into $4 pints of Guinness and Smithwick's, or the all-you-can-eat shepherd's pie ($8.95)
Best for Visiting NEXT Weekend
My favorite Irish pubs for visiting on any day but St. Patrick's Day or New Year's Eve:
The Old Brogue: A cozy country pub with a fireplace, large bar area and live music, it's a pleasant place to visit with a group.
Ri-Ra (Clarendon): The mezzanine balcony is a great place to camp out with a drink and watch the action, whether that's a band on stage or the crowd hanging out a the main bar.
Biddy Mulligan's: With an interior imported straight from Ireland, Biddy's is a modern interpretation of an Irish pub. The huge windows face out towards Dupont Circle, making the space great for people watching, and the bartenders are prompt and friendly.
Annapolis has its share of Irish pubs, but Galway Bay is my favorite. If the wooden booths in the cozy snug bar are full, rails along the wall are perfect for resting your pint on. The food is just as terrific as the atmosphere.
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