Whiskey, music and craic: Where to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day

March 13, 2013

St. Patrick's Day is on a Sunday this year, which means you don't need to tell your boss some sorry excuse about a late afternoon dental appointment until 2014. On the other hand, it means pubs will be packed earlier than usual. A number of pubs are expecting long lines to start forming between 11 a.m. and 1 p.m., or, as the manager at O'Faolain's put it, "right after mass." Early arrival is also the best way to avoid cover charges, especially downtown, where pubs generally start charging at the door once the St. Patrick's Day Parade is over.


Capacity crowds celebrate St. Patrick's Day at the Dubliner. (Photo by Fritz Hahn/The Post)

If you're out on the town on Sunday, don't forget about SoberRide, the free car service that offers free taxi rides home from 4 p.m. to 4 a.m. As long as your ride is under $30, it's free. If it's more, you pay the difference.

51st State
The Foggy Bottom pub's Irish atmosphere comes mostly from the Guinness advertisements on its walls, but St. Patrick's Day brings Irish music and food specials, as well as series of beat-the-clock drink deals: $3 green beer and car bombs from noon to 2 p.m., $4 baby Guinness shooters and Harpoon Celtic Red ale from 2 to 4, and $4 Shamrock shots and $5 pints of Guinness from 4 to 6.

The Dubliner
President Obama dropped into the perennially popular Dubliner for a pint of Guinness last St. Patrick's Day, which means the pressure is on for 2013. Doors open at 10 a.m., and management expects the inevitable lines to grow between noon and 1 p.m. There's a $10 cover. Once inside, you'll find a limited menu of sandwiches and burgers, though there are satellite bars in different rooms to speed up the process of procuring Guinness. The usual Irish lineup of John McGrath, Morris Minor, and Paddy Halligan and Jimmy Raferty provide the music.

Duffy's
The green beer started flowing at Duffy's on March 10. That's really all you need to know. Celebrations continue Wednesday with an Irish-themed pub quiz at 8 p.m., and Irish music on Thursday night. On Sunday, doors open at 11 a.m., and there's a $5 cover all day. Early arrivals receive free St. Patrick's Day T-shirts, while a cast of Irish dancers, bagpipers, and musicians will perform throughout the day.

Fado Irish Pub
The party starts on Wednesday with a Jameson tasting: You get samples of every Jameson Irish Whiskey in the house (and a selection of appetizers) for $30, beginning at 6 p.m. The pub celebrates its 15th anniversary on Friday night with 1998 prices – like $4.25 Stella Artois and $5 appetizer plates – until 10 p.m. On Saturday, doors open at 8 a.m. for Six Nations rugby; Ireland plays Italy at 10:30. On St. Patrick's Day itself, doors open at 7 a.m., with pre-Parade brunch served until 2 p.m. The Celtic rock band 40 Thieves plays at 2 p.m., and local alt-rock band the Lloyd Dobler Effect plays at 7. Note that a $10 cover charge will be levied after noon, and minors are only allowed until 3 p.m.

Flanagan's Harp and Fiddle
Bethesda's oldest Irish pub opens its doors at 9:30 a.m. with brunch served until 11. Singer Kevin James performs from 11 to 2 p.m., and the 19th Street Band performs acoustic Celtic, folk and rock music from 3 p.m. on. Bagpipers and Irish dancers will perform throughout the afternoon. A $10 cover will be charged after 2 p.m. Lunch and dinner will be served at set times: 11 a.m., 12:15 p.m., 1:30 p.m. and 2:45 p.m. for lunch, and 4 p.m., 5:30 p.m., 7 p.m., 8:15 p.m. and 9:30 p.m. for dinner. Reservations are required.

Ireland's Four Courts
The Court House pub is once again tenting its rear parking lot and offering music both indoors and out on St. Patrick's Day weekend. On Saturday, musicians perform from 2 p.m. to 2 a.m., with music in the heated outdoor tent after 6 p.m. On Sunday, doors open at 9 a.m., and music kicks off at 10:30 a.m. Brunch will be served in the James Joyce and Cottage Room dining rooms, but all the furniture will be taken out after lunch. (There won't be any seats in the main bar at all.) A $10 cover charge will be levied after noon, and Tommy Gann, Brad Pugh, Jordan Sherman, Pete Baker and Sanford Markley will take turns on the two stages throughout the day. (If you're hungry, though, look elsewhere: The food options in the afternoon and evening will be along the lines of "Irish hot dogs" and corn dogs.)

Ireland's Own
For the first time in decades, St. Patrick's Day at Ireland's Own won't feature Pat Troy singing "The Unicorn Song" multiple times from the stage. The owner of Ireland's Own retired last fall after selling his Old Town pub to a team of former employees. They're keeping the usual agenda, with live music from noon until 1:30 a.m. on Saturday and noon to 1 a.m. on Sunday. (John Longbottom is on from noon to 7 p.m. both days, followed by Pat Garvey on Saturday and Rocky Guttman on Sunday.) On St. Patrick's Day itself, lunch will be served on the tented patio at 11 a.m., 1 p.m. and 3 p.m., with dinner at 5 and 7 p.m. Reservations are required for all seatings. The pub itself will be open for pints and music, with a $10 cover after noon.

Irish Inn at Glen Echo
If you prefer less rowdy St. Patrick's Day celebrations, this is the place. The restaurant offers $25 two-course lunches and $37.50 three-course dinners. Traditional Irish music will be performed in the bar area from 3 p.m. to close.

James Hoban's
A multi-day celebration includes an Irish-themed pub quiz at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday and Irish music on dancing on Thursday, with the Dirty Pints providing the tunes, beginning at 7:30 p.m., and dancers from the Culkin School of Traditional Irish Dance showing off their steps. On Sunday, festivities get underway at 8 a.m. with Kegs and Eggs on the tented patio. Live music begins at noon, and artists will play outside, weather permitting. Brunch will be offered until 3 p.m. with a "limited" menu of Irish dishes offered afterwards. There's no cover charge all day, and no reservations will be taken.

Kelly's Irish Times
There's no cover charge at the Irish Times this year, though Guinness will be flowing and live music will be offered. DJs will spin dance music in the basement later in the day.

Kitty O'Shea's
Kitty O'Shea's first St. Patrick's Day in Tenleytown will be marked by two days of dirt-cheap food and drink, much to the delight of American University students. Saturday and Sunday deals include $1 Green Jell-O shots or house shots, $4 PBR tallboys, $5 Guinness, Smithwick's or Harp pints and $5.50 pitchers of green beer. Food options include $5 burgers and foot-long hot dogs.

The Limerick Pub
Doors open at 9 p.m. on Sunday for a Kegs & Eggs brunch party, which lasts until noon. There's a $15 charge for everyone 13 and older and $5 for ages 6 to 12, which includes food and one beer or soda. Brendan Sheridan and Bob Spates perform from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. A limited food menu of "Irish classics" will be offered beginning at noon, which is also when the pub will begin charging a $5 cover. The band Paddy Goes West performs from 2 to 5 p.m., followed by Dennis Vaughan and Mark Walbridge from 6 p.m. on. No reservations will be taken.

Murphy's of Alexandria
Alexandria's top Irish pub celebrates St. Patrick's Day with five nights of events. Wednesday's "Taste of Ireland" features Jameson whiskey samples, Irish foodstuffs, such as Kerrygold butter and cheese, and a display of works by Irish painter Brendan Sheridan. Doors open at 5, and there's a $15 "participation fee" that includes samples. Aspiring bartenders should make note of Thursday's Pour the Perfect Pint Challenge, where the customer who pours the best pint of Guinness wins prizes. The party runs from 5 to 8, and registration will be on a first-come, first-entered basis.

Friday, Saturday and Sunday all feature traditional Irish music from Ronan Kavanagh, the Havers and Pat Carroll. On Saturday, music starts at noon on both floors and continues into the night. The Boyle School of Irish Dance performs at 10:30 a.m. and 2 p.m. Then, on Sunday, doors open at 9 a.m. for Irish brunch. Live music begins at 10 a.m. and continues all day and night, with dancers performing at 10:30 a.m. and 2 p.m. It's worth noting there will be no tables, chairs or bar stools downstairs. Tables and seats will be available upstairs for brunch, but they will be removed after lunch. There's no cover charge all weekend.

Murphy's of D.C.
It's a decidedly lower-key affair at Murphy's sister bar in Woodley Park. The pub opens for brunch at 10 a.m., with live music from 2 p.m. on. There's no cover charge.

Nanny O'Brien's Irish Pub
Irish troubadour Conor Malone performs all day in Cleveland Park, beginning at 1 p.m. Doors open at 10 a.m. for brunch, and a $10 cover charge will be in effect once the music begin. The bar will be offering a limited menu – think hot dogs and reubens – all day.

O'Faolain's Irish Pub
Things start early in Sterling, with a Kegs and Eggs brunch from 7 to 10 a.m. Live music begins at 10 a.m., with the Mostly Irish band, Pat Garvey and Lenny Burridge taking turns performing all day. A $10 cover begins at 11 a.m. Lunch will be served from 11 to 4 p.m., with seatings for a $34.95 three-course dinner at 5 and 7:30 p.m. (Reservations are recommended for both lunch and dinner.) The tented patio will be open, weather permitting.

O'Sullivan's Irish Pub
Entertainment starts at noon, with live music by Brian Franke, the Michael Patrick Band and Williem Dickie until 1:30 a.m. The Boyle Irish Dancers perform at noon and 5:30 p.m., and the Department of Homeland Security bagpipes will also be making an appearance.

The Old Brogue
The perennially popular St. Patrick's Day parties at the Old Brogue feel like a community gathering, not just an excuse to get bladdered. Doors open at 10 a.m., with County Donegal's own Pennywhistle performing in the Snuggery dining room from 12:30 to 9:15. Lunch (seatings at 12:30 and 2:45 p.m.) cost $30 per person, while dinner is served at 5 p.m. ($40) and 7:15 p.m. ($50). Don't need a full meal? Ted Garber will be performing in the pub from 1:30 p.m. to last call. Seating is limited. There's a $10 cover charge for anyone without lunch or dinner reservations, and no one under 21 is allowed.

P. Brennan's Irish Pub
If you're going to be drinking Irish whiskey on St. Patrick's Day, you might want to get schooled first: P. Brennan's is hosting an Irish whiskey tasting at 7 p.m. on Thursday night. The $45 ticket includes samples of Irish favorites, including Red Breast, Knappogue Castle and Black Bush, paired with battered sausages, cottage pie and other Irish snacks. The tasting starts at 7 p.m. and costs $45.

On Sunday, doors open at 9 a.m. and an Irish breakfast will be served until 3 p.m. Look for live music and dance throughout the day, including a harpist and bagpiper at lunch (beginning at noon) and Irish musician Ken Hennigan from 8 p.m. to close.

P.J. Clarke's
The famous New York City restaurant isn't an Irish pub, per se, but they do pour a mean pint of Guinness, and their St. Patrick's Day parties have been packed. This year, the celebration runs from 11 a.m. to midnight, and includes $4 Guinness, Jameson and Bushmills all day, plus a menu of reubens, corned beef and cabbage and other St. Patrick's Day dishes. The Redskins cheerleaders and Irish pipers and drummers will be making special appearances. Buy a commemorative T-shirt and you'll be entered into a raffle for a Ural-T sidecar motorcycle. (All proceeds from the raffle benefit the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund.)

Ri-Ra Bethesda
Bring the kids to brunch: Doors open at 9 p.m., and face painting will be offered from 10:30 to 3:30 to benefit local homeless charity Bethesda Cares. A full day of music is on tap: The 19th Street Band takes the stage at 11 a.m., Matt Fanuele performs traditional Irish songs at 4 p.m., and the decidedly not Irish cover band Eleven Eleven performs from 9 p.m. on.

Virtue Feed and Grain
As a native of Dublin, it is Chef Cathal Armstrong's duty to celebrate St. Patrick's Day. Virtue is closing down Wales Alley – the alley that runs between Union Street and the waterfront – for an outdoor celebration. Look for traditional Irish foods, such as fish and chips and shepherd's pie, along with sandwiches, pints of Guinness and even "frozen car bombs." Irish music and dancers will be featured throughout the day. The party starts at 11:30 a.m. and runs until 10 p.m.

Fritz Hahn has covered bars, drinks and nightlife for the Washington Post Weekend Section since 2003, but he also writes about everything from Civil War battlefields to sailing classes. You can find him on Twitter and Instagram.
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Maura Judkis · March 13, 2013