The Buzz: If you ever frequented Finn Mac Cool's, the Irish pub that used to sit in this Barracks Row building, you won't recognize its new occupant -- and that's probably a good thing. To create Molly Malone's, the building was stripped to its circa-1890 skeleton, with the original I-beams overhead and rough brick walls exposed. Then gorgeous butternut wood was brought from North Carolina to create all new tables, wide bar counters with built-in pillars for lamps, frames around flatscreen TVs, a winding staircase -- the place is a tribute to the art of woodworking.
The Scene: Open and airy, Molly Malone's has bars on two floors, each with its own feel. Downstairs mixes bar and restaurant seating -- neighborhood regulars and sports fans can choose from the incredibly comfortable leather barstools or high pub tables. The prime seats, though, are on a banquette in the far back of the room -- they give you a view of everything that's going on.
The upstairs bar, Chesty's, is named after Marine Corps lieutenant general Lewis Burwell "Chesty" Puller. But instead of military memorabilia, the comfortable room is full of framed jerseys worn by local sports heroes (D.C. United's Jaime Moreno, the Nationals' Manny Acta, Michael Jordan's throwback Bullets shirt), photos and even a Nats lineup card.
In Your Glass: A pretty basic draft lineup includes Guinness, Magner's Cider, Harp and Smithwick's for the Irish vibe, plus Dogfish Head, Peroni, Blue Moon and Magic Hat.
On Your Plate: The menu is filled with interesting takes on comfort food and bar staples. The ubiquitous mini-burgers are billed as "Belfast Philly Sliders," and they live up to their name: Corned beef and sirloin are mixed, gussied up with peppers and onions (and what tastes like a shot of cinnamon) and served up in orders of threes and sixes. The delightfully gooey macaroni and cheese contains chunks of lobster meat. Wings are dry-rubbed in Old Bay and served up crispy. (The regular hot wings are okay, too.)
Need to Know: Make this a stop before and after Nationals games: There are deals before every home game, including $4 20-ounce beers, and a golf cart-like courtesy shuttle ferries fans between the bar and the stadium. The Circulator bus stop is also right across the street.
Nice to Know: Owner Xavier Ceverra is a dog person -- there's a burger on the menu named after Henry, his black king shepherd mix -- and the large communal table on the sidewalk patio is dog-friendly. In the works: a "hitchin' post" for dogs to be tied up if their owners want to step inside for a drink.
Price Points: Beers are a little pricey, with most pints selling for $7 each, while Yuengling and Miller Lite are $5. Take $1 off all drafts between 4 and 7 on weekdays. Domestic bottles cost $5, with imports a buck more. Jameson shots are $5 all day, every day.
-- Fritz Hahn (April 2009)