1,000 welcomes on 19th Street
By Fritz Hahn
Friday, Feb. 24, 2012
Before the masses descend upon every vaguely Irish pub in the city this St. Patrick's Day, you might want to pay a visit to the new Irish Whiskey Public House.
Irish Whiskey opened in early January, taking over the old three-level Porter's on 19th Street south of Dupont Circle. A complete makeover means exposed brick walls decorated with butts of old whiskey barrels and paintings of whiskey bottles, Irish plaids that cover banquettes and seats, and couches and seats in the upstairs "Dublin Room" that surround gas fireplaces. Favorite touches: the lights suspended from pulleys in the main bar and the as-yet-unnamed stuffed fox that sits by the front door.
This isn't some dark-wood-and-green-paint pub where you clutch a pint of the black stuff while singing "A Nation Once Again." It's a warm, welcoming, honey-toned bar that will pour you one of about 60 Irish whiskeys, 14 draft beers and serve up the gourmet bar snacks to share over a pint. (Right now, I'm not sure there's a better or more decadent appetizer than a paper cone of the house-made truffled pretzel chips with spicy mustard dipping sauce.)
The three floors have different personalities: The low-ceilinged basement, which gets crowded because of the tight aisle between a bar and long row of tables, welcomes Irish singers on Friday nights. The main bar is a little more roomy, helped by high ceilings and plenty of light. But the second floor is where I'm most likely to head: a wide-open space with lots of seating, perfect for happy hour groups and even late-night dancing.
I'll admit to some pre-opening wariness about the place, since its owners are also behind the Mighty Pint, the low-cost drinking den around the corner on M Street, but the two siblings are as different as Mary-Kate and Elizabeth Olsen.
Where Mighty Pint fires off deals like a frantic used-car salesman - flip a coin to win a free drink! $2 beers until close on Tuesdays! - Irish Whiskey's happy hour takes just $1 off all drafts, bottled beers and house cocktails on weekdays from 3 to 7 p.m.
There are several whiskeys on the menu that cost $29 per snifter. They may be very good - the sweet, creamy Midleton Very Rare, the much-praised 18-year-old Greenore Single Grain - but if a bartender charged someone $29 for whiskey at the Mighty Pint, the customer would probably expect to receive the whole bottle. (There are much more reasonable price points, however: The bready $9 Knappogue Castle 12 Year and the sweet smoke of the $10 Michael Collins Single Malt.)
Here's hoping Irish Whiskey is braced for the St. Patrick's Day mobs.