The Scene: Silver Spring's new "downtown" looks like a suburban strip mall, and its dining options mix well-known national chains like Red Lobster and Romano's Macaroni Grill alongside local restaurants Austin Grill, Ceviche and Lebanese Taverna Cafe. Wander through the red doors of McGinty's Public House and you'd be excused for wondering which category it falls into. There are green walls covered in reproductions of iconic Guinness posters, a large stone fireplace, and a dining room decorated to look like a traditional Irish country cottage, from the thatched roof and oak beams to the wooden floor. (Surprise: The owners of McGinty's -- a pair of Washington-based Irish expats -- are also behind the Auld Shebeen, a Fairfax pub previously known as Ned Devine's.) McGinty's first floor lacks warmth and personality, though it does boast a pair of dartboards and room to stand around the bar. I may feel differently in the winter, when the fireplace will be pressed into service. Where McGinty's really shines, though, is its enormous upstairs space, which has seven large plasma televisions, dozens of tables and a bar counter that seems to stretch for miles. Every weekend, bands take over a small stage, playing a mix of Irish music, rock and covers.
In Your Glass: Guinness, of course. There are 16 drafts, ranging from Wild Goose IPA and Hardcore Cider to Bass and Smithwick's. Guinness arrives in a 20-ounce imperial pint glass.
On Your Plate: Besides the usual beef and Guinness stew or fish and chips platters, McGinty's kitchen turns out some very good food, including proper boxtys (a cheddar-filled potato-and-scallion pancake), delicious Irish banger sausages, local crab cakes and even wild rockfish. Chef Munehiro Mori previously worked under Nobu Matsuhisa of Nobu, Nora Pouillon of Restaurant Nora, and Ann Cashion of Cashion's Eat Place and Johnny's Half Shell.
Need to Know: McGinty's hosts a pub quiz every Monday at 8 and all musicians are invited to bring their instruments to the traditional Irish jam session on Tuesdays.
Price Points: A Guinness is $5.50; other beers are slightly less. Entrees range from $8-9 (sandwiches) to $20 or more (seafood).
-- Fritz Hahn (August 2006)