Just in time for your recovery from New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day, there are two brand-new bars to check out this weekend.
Tonight marks the grand opening of Irish Whiskey, an Irish-themed tavern on 19th Street NW between M and N. You might have misgivings if I mention that (a) it’s by the owners of the Mighty Pint and (b) it’s in the old Porter’s space. But it probably isn’t the party bar you might be expecting. There are no shamrocks on the walls, no leprechaun-themed cocktails. You can try 50 kinds of Irish whiskeys, however — there are seven varieties of Jameson, including the 18-year-old Limited Reserve, which will set you back $16 per
shot taste. (Sorry, when it’s that expensive, you won’t want to drink it too quickly.)
The building’s three spacious levels have been redone with slightly different themes, though there are commonalities, including acres of exposed brick, gleaming wood fixtures, paintings of whiskey bottles (and a portrait of boxer John L. Sullivan, for whom a famous whiskey is named) and Irish plaids covering the banquettes and seats. The basement-level Dublin room, with a long bar along one wall and a houndstooth-checked ceiling, is where an Irish fiddler will play on Thursday nights and acoustic musicians on Fridays and Saturdays. The more spacious main bar features a wall covered with butts of whiskey barrels and more seating; the bay window looking out onto 19th Street will be a prime spot. But I think the coziest space is the upstairs Dublin Room, with its corner bar, gas fireplace, huge couches and plenty of boxy little (plaid) seats to perch on.
Fourteen taps include your standard Guinness/Magner’s/Harp/Smithwick’s ($6 each), and there are dozens more in bottles. A cocktail list features Irish-made vodkas and liqueurs as well as whiskey; I’d suggest the Big Fella (named after IRA leader Michael Collins), a variation on a whiskey-and-ginger with Michael Collins whiskey, orange bitters and fresh lemon, or the sweet, citrusy Brotherhood, with Michael Collins and Grand Marnier. For snacking, grab a bowl of the house-made pretzel chips and tangy mustard dip. Perfect with a pint.
Boxcar Tavern opened across from Eastern Market on Dec. 30. It’s the latest bar and restaurant from Hill dining magnate Xavier Cervera (Molly Malone’s, Lola’s, Senart’s) and sports many of the same details as his other spots: walls blanketed in golden hardwood, extremely comfortable booths and barstools, and plenty of millwork. But Boxcar also has a nouveau-retro pub feel, with soft carpets, stained-glass lanterns over tables and even a couple of flickering gas lampposts.
Instead of the vintage photos that cover Lola’s or Molly’s, Boxcar Tavern sports a number of antique pub signs from the U.K., as well as two that hit closer to home: the old signs that hung outside Finn Mac Cool’s and the Hawk and Dove, two Capitol Hill bars that Cervera took over. (Finn Mac Cool’s was remade into Molly Malone’s; the Hawk and Dove is undergoing major renovations and will reopen in the spring.)
Chef Brian Klein (formerly of Senart’s) has crafted a menu heavy on comfort food and pub staples, including Welsh rarebit, London broil meatloaf, wild boar stew and bowls of mussels with bleu cheese and portabello mushrooms swimming in the broth.
To drink, there are a dozen taps, from Miller Lite to Flying Dog seasonals. Sixteen wines are served by the glass, and the short-but-sweet cocktail menu draws from the classics. The Warm Winter Night, with its mix of Scotch, nutmeg, lemon peel and hot water, is inviting on chilly evenings.
Happy hour runs from 4 to 7 nightly and features $4 wines by the glass and $1 off all beers, which are regularly $6, except for Guinness ($7) and Miller Lite and Yuengling ($5). On Wednesday nights from 7 to close, Fat Tire drafts cost $3 and Jameson drinks are $4.