Food & Drink

The 10 Best Irish Bars in DC

Laura Hayes Published On 03/16/2015 Published On 03/16/2015

It’s that time of year when everyone wishes they were a ginger, with a last name like Flannigan, which would make the number of pints of Guinness they're about to consume slightly more forgivable. When it comes to celebrating Emerald Isle-style, you can't do better than these 10 spots. Note: we skipped chains like Fadó in order to celebrate the little guy [insert leprechaun joke here].

Kelly's Irish Times

Capitol Hill

Kelly’s boldly set up shop right next door to The Dubliner. Think of it as The Dub’s tipsier, divier, sweatier, more unpredictable frat brother. What it does best is pay tribute to police and other first responders, not only during National Police Week, but also with a wall of patches behind the bar. Order some cheap pints and the pork slap sandwich, but stay out of the dungeon of bad choices (unless, of course, you’re looking to mash faces with your roommate). 

The Dubliner

The Dubliner

Capitol Hill

You better believe the pours of Guinness are perfect at The Dubliner. The folks behind this family-owned pub have had some serious practice (this incarnation of the bar has been open since 1974). And don’t be surprised if the person taking your order has an authentic Irish accent -- many staff members are from the Emerald Isle. Furthermore, the pub is a bit of a maker of men -- alumni of The Dubliner have gone on to open 35 pubs so far. Make the most of a visit by ordering the Guinness Burger: ground sirloin marinated in the dark beer before being served on top of a potato pancake with Welsh cheese sauce and onion straws. Of course, a dram or two of Irish whiskey will help you digest it.

Daniel Schwartz

Irish Whiskey Public House

Dupont Circle

The list of Irish whiskey here is 50 lines deep. You damn well better be sipping yours neat from a Glencairn glass -- especially if you’re trying a rare find like Bushmills Millennium -- unless you decide that your last name is O’Tool and you require rocks. IWPH is spread out over three floors, each with a distinct personality. Owner Reese Gardner toured Ireland to get a feel for Irish pubs before opening the bar. That’s why you won’t find any pot-of-gold posters on the wall -- just a lovely, cozy place to consume bangers & mash. 

Star & Shamrock

Star & Shamrock

H Street NE

This Jewish-Irish mash-up pub packs some serious chutzpah: the concept is Irish pub-meets-Jewish deli, and it's a great one. You’ll find both Guinness dry stout and Shmaltz Hop Manna IPA on tap, as well as a standout Irish whiskey list, and clever cocktails featuring Jameson infusions. Settle onto a stool at the custom-designed bar with traditional Irish knotting, and gaze at Irish flags next to bar mitzvah photos. One of the best times to visit -- besides St. Paddy’s Day, when the bar opens at 8am -- is for its regular Thursday night bingo. 

Flickr/intangible

Nanny O'Brien's

Cleveland Park

It wasn’t always called Nanny O’Brien’s, but there’s been an Irish pub at 3319 Connecticut Ave for more than 40 years. "That’s where my grandfather lived," you might hear a patron say as he points to an old Irish street sign on the wall. Also adding character is a portrait of JFK and a Riverdance poster signed by the whole cast when they came in post-performance, according to general manager Michael Johnstone. It says a lot that those high-steppers picked Nanny O’Brien’s for the afterparty! Don’t leave without ordering the Harp-soaked hot dogs (with chili). They taste far better than they sound or look.

Laura Hayes/Thrillist

Blaguard

Adams Morgan

Blaguard sees being an Irish pub and a reliable neighborhood hangout as one and the same. That’s why local sports are on the TV, employees live a few blocks away, and "regulars" form the majority of the clientele (much as they would in Ireland). Part of the bar is even made from 100-year-old steel pulled from old streetcar tracks directly in front of the building. The 20 draft lines definitely include Guinness, and the chili-topped "Totchos" are legendary. Visit on St. Paddy’s Day, when everything Irish will be priced at $6.

Flickr/flickr-rickr

Ireland's Four Courts

Arlington

It’s not unusual for soccer fans to pour into Ireland’s Four Courts at 7am on Saturdays to catch a game. Nor is it strange to discover new music talent during Tuesday open mic nights. These are just two examples of how Ireland’s Four Courts brings people together with Irish hospitality. Yet another: you can purchase a personalized mug to use every time you visit, and any drink that goes into your mug is a little bit cheaper. The mug club is growing in popularity; general manager Dave Cahill says he used to sell five or six a week, but is now selling 12-15. 

Murphy’s of Alexandria

Murphy's of Alexandria

Old Town Alexandria

Music is at the heart of this Old Town Alexandria standby that’s been around since 1978. There’s hardly a night that goes by without live tunes. Order the Irish egg rolls stuffed with house-made corned beef, cabbage, and potatoes. Then order them again. A March visit is in order if you want to appreciate the heat coming off the fireplace, or if you'd prefer to enjoy the upstairs area sans impassioned Patriots fans. 

Irish Channel

Irish Channel

Chinatown

Immediately get over your hang-ups about this place being inside a Fairfield Inn & Suites, because the Irish Channel brings the charm. And authenticity. On draft, you’ll find Guinness, Smithwick's, Harp, and Magner's, all of which hail from Ireland, just like the brothers who own the joint (Tom and Garry Stack, from Cork County). It has every Irish entrĂ©e you can think of: shepherd’s pie, fish & chips, Mullingar beef stew, and corned beef & cabbage, to name a few. 

James Hoban’s Irish Bar

James Hoban's Irish Restaurant & Bar

Dupont Circle

This pub, named after the Irish architect of the White House, is a popular stop on bar crawls, and you can guarantee it's a sea of intoxicated green on St. Patrick’s Day. Drink wise, and you can work your way down a list of about 30 Irish whiskeys, mostly from Bushmills, Jameson, or Tullamore. Or, attack the $10 "Irish Classics" beer flight. James Hoban's wins points for offering a full Irish breakfast for dinner -- but loses a couple for putting Guinness in its brownie recipe.

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Laura Hayes is a DC-based food, drink, and travel writer who also contributes to Washington City Paper, Food Network, Arlington Magazine, and others. Follow her on Twitter: @BTMenu.

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1. Kelly's Irish Times 14 F Street NW, Washington, DC, DC 20001 (Capitol Hill)

Fittingly entrenched on Mass Ave, Kelly's hosts the Pats Fan Club, and on game day will serve you a bowl of homemade chowdah or a Fenway Frank, also how to describe the stadium full of people who will straightforwardly inform you that Jeter swallows.

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2. The Dubliner 520 N Capitol St NW, Washington, DC 20001 (Capitol Hill)

Tucked into the Phoenix Park Hotel, The Dubliner's got live music, a big menu of reasonably priced, hearty pub fare, and all the classic Irish beverages (Guinness, Jameson, etc.) that you would expect.

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3. Irish Whiskey Public House 1207 19th st nw, washington, dc, DC 20036 (Dupont Circle)

"Irish pub" doesn't always lead you to think "nice", or "spacious", or "anything, due to being in a deep, whiskey-induced slumber", but no longer, with Irish Whiskey Public House, a three-story Emerald Isle jewel that's somehow spiffy and pubby at the same time thanks to gleamingly polished whiskey barrels, modernly artful light fixtures hanging from pulleys, and even some of Chris Cooley's pottery (apparently dude's a little Gaylic).

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4. Star & Shamrock 1341 H St NE, Washington, 20002

Star and Shamrock's unlikely pairing of Irish beer and Jewish deli have made it a success in DC. Prepare to be pleasantly surprised when you combine any of its revamped deli classics like Reuben egg rolls, with one of the bar's handcrafted beers or Irish and Scotch whiskeys.

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5. Nanny O'Briens 3319 Connecticut Ave NW, Washington, DC 20008-1302 (Cleveland Park)

This relaxed Irish pub in Cleveland Park is the perfect place to grab a pint and watch the game -- plus their eight delicious types of chicken wings ensure that you'll never go hungry, especially on Wednesdays when they're 50 cents each.

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6. The Blaguard 2003 18th St NW, Washington, DC 20009 (Adams Morgan)

Recognized by locals as the best neighborhood bar in DC, The Blanguard makes regulars and new patrons feel right at home with over 20 beers on tap, eight televisions, and of course, the friendly neighborhood vibe.

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7. Ireland's Four Courts 2051 Wilson Blvd, Arlington, VA 22201 (Arlington)

Ireland's Four Courts has something for everyone. Whether it be a cheap drink in a personalized mug, karaoke night, or good eats like Four Courts Famous Skins, you'll definitely find something to love at this Irish pub.

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8. Murphy's Grand Irish Pub 713 King St, Alexandria, VA 22314 (Alexandria)

This family owned and run pub has been making patrons and newcomers feel at home since 1978 with authentic Irish cuisine like beer-battered fish and chips and live entertainment.

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9. Irish Channel 500 H St NW, Washington, DC 20001 (Chinatown)

It doesn't get more authentically Irish than at Irish Channel, where the restaurant owners, both from Ireland, use locally grown products to create Irish favorites.

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10. James Hoban's Irish Restaurant & Bar 1 DuPont Cir NW, Washington, 20036 (Dupont Circle)

Named after the Irish architect of the White House, James Hoban's is a popular stop on bar crawls, and you can guarantee it's a sea of intoxicated green on St. Patrick’s Day. Drink wise, you can work your way down a list of about 30 Irish whiskeys mostly from Bushmills, Jameson, or Tullamore -- or, attack the $10 "Irish Classics" beer flight.

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