So far, it seems that every other bar opening in 2006 is an Irish pub. Ri-Ra expanded to Clarendon, Ned Devine's Irish Village appeared in Sterling and has plans to open in Centreville sometime soon, McGinty's Irish Pub arrived in Silver Spring and Daniel O'Connell's opened in Old Town Alexandria.
The latest -- and the one that I expect to be the busiest -- is Duffy's Irish Restaurant and Pub, which just opened at 9th and Vermont, right across the street from the 9:30 Club. It was supposed to be ready last fall, but a series of protests by neighbors delayed the grand opening until May 12. (I won't bore you with the tedious details, but Duffy's has a play-by-play on its Web site.) Squeezed between two rowhouses, Duffy's takes its name from owner Andy Duffy, formerly the general manager of Ireland's Four Provinces.
I stopped in last night toward the end of happy hour (4 to 7 on weekdays) and found an empty bar with some pretty good deals: $3.50 imperial pints of Yuengling, Budweiser or Miller Lite, $5 for a satisfying shepherd's pie (usually $9) or a plate of a dozen hot wings, which were very nicely prepared -- no excessive breading, just meaty wings covered in sauce and served with bowls of blue cheese and Russian dressing.
It feels incredibly new -- the off-white walls sport the requisite maps of Ireland and mirrors bearing beer logos, the tables and glossy wooden bar haven't lost that sticky sheen. There's not a lot of atmosphere yet, or much to make me skip homey U Street hangouts like the Saloon and Cafe Nema, but I'll be back to play darts in the rear game room: three boards, Golden Tee and a flat screen.
Perfectly positioned to be the place you meet your friends before heading over for a show at the 9:30, Duffy's is offering $4 pints of Guinness for anyone with a ticket for (or ticket stub from) that day's concert, but I should point out that the agreement with its neighbors says Duffy's has to close at 11:30 during the week. This is really a case where you've nothing to lose, and the neighborhood has everything to gain.
-- Fritz Hahn (May 2006)