There are a number of things I don't suffer gladly, and right up there with fools and tofu, you'll find bad Irish pubs. Now, I love my Guinness and Celtic folk musicians as much as the next man -- even more, some might say -- but I hate sitting at the bar with my pint and wondering how I stumbled into the Guinness Museum, or, occasionally, onto the set of "Darby O'Gill and the Little People."
Sine Irish Pub, an offshoot of the popular Richmond hangout, has opened in Arlington's Pentagon Row complex, and it thankfully doesn't go the Kelly green-and-memorabilia route. Sine (pronounced shin-ay) is a sprawling, high-ceilinged space, with three levels of seating -- including a non-smoking area with its own bar access -- and a large fireplace in the rear. The rich red walls are devoid of Irish beer ads, decorated instead with a few sepia-toned photos and a small mural near the bar.
What really made me happy, though, was the row of snugs along the wall -- these boxy wooden booths have high walls and glass screens for privacy (and some degree of quiet) and are perfect for hanging out with a small group of friends.
The beer selection is solid; choose from 15 on draft, including Beamish Irish Stout and Newcastle Brown Ale, along with the usual Guinness, Bass and Harp.
The menu is an interesting fusion of the predictable (shepherd's pie, fish and chips) with the kind of modern American/urban Virginian food you simply don't find in most Irish pubs: mahi mahi with red pepper, shrimp and grits in a creme sauce, or pecan-encrusted chicken breast. Bar foodies should note that the appetizer selections are limited: wings, chicken tenders, shrimp dip. I'm fond of the Irish nachos, though: a huge pile of crispy potato cubes covered with ranch dressing, melted cheese, bacon and scallions.
Plenty of people were eating in booths as well as at long wooden tables, and we wondered if there was any rule about grabbing a table near the fire if you only wanted a drink. "Of course not," said James, our bartender. "You can sit anywhere you like. This is an Irish pub."
-- Fritz Hahn