A star that shines during the day
By Justin Rude
Friday, April 1, 2011
If you happen to find yourself on the trendy stretch of H Street NE between 10th and 14th these days, your night life options are legion. If you happen to find yourself there during decidedly un-trendy midday hours, however, your dining options are much more limited.
"Yeah," Jason Feldman says with a laugh, "it's basically us and Taylor Gourmet." The "us" in this case is the Star and the Shamrock, a combination Jewish deli and Irish pub that Feldman owns with Mark Menard and Mike Schuster, the men behind Capitol Hill spots Trusty's, the Pour House and the 18th Amendment.
The original concept was Feldman's. "I come from an Orthodox Jewish family, I married a girl from an Irish family, and I was the only Jewish kid raised in my Irish Catholic neighborhood in New Jersey," he says, explaining the idea's origins. "Combining them made sense. A lot of the menu is [humble] European food that they both have in common. After all, a Reuben is really just a corned beef and cabbage sandwich."
By night, the pub aspect of the dual-personality establishment dominates, and the dark-wood- lined room fills with revelers taking advantage of the bar's expansive list of New York beers and Irish whiskeys. By day, the restaurant offers a menu of deli favorites along with a few clever nods to the Emerald Isle.
On the menu: The Irish/Jewish concept isn't the restaurant's only duality. A quick glance at the menu shows a divide between traditional favorites, such as a classic Reuben or shepherd's pie, and left-field original creations such as Latke Madness, a sandwich that wedges hot corned beef, sauerkraut, Swiss cheese and Russian dressing between three potato pancakes. Another= twist on tradition is the Reuben Egg Roll: corned beef, sauerkraut and Swiss cheese wrapped in dough, fried and served with a Thousand Island dipping sauce.
The egg roll is the best of the innovations. Crisp, salty and not too greasy, it is perfect bar food, and a decent way to start a long lunch. "Someone was drunk when they invented this," a lunch-mate quips. "It's genius." Other creative deviations don't fare quite as well. Both the aforementioned Latke Madness and the Clogger (beef brisket, provolone, bacon, gravy and mayonnaise on a kaiser roll) are exactly as heavy and imposing as you would imagine, and the myriad flavors end up getting in one another's way.
It's a shame, too, because the restaurant's simpler, more traditional sandwiches reveal house-made brisket, corned beef and pastrami worth showcasing. Teddy Folkman of Granville Moore's can be thanked for that. The chef is a consultant at the Star and the Shamrock; he not only set the brining and roasting schedule but also stops in frequently for quality-control purposes.
The Irish side of the menu is much smaller but has two items that are well worth a try. The shepherd's pie's cinnamon-seasoned ground lamb, onion, pea, carrot and brown gravy filling is so spot-on that you might not notice that the mashed potato crust has been replaced with a latke. And if that twist is a deal-breaker, you owe it to yourself to get shepherd's fries: curly fries smothered in melted cheese and shepherd's pie filling.
In your glass: The eponymous house special is a mixed pint: half He'Brew Genesis Ale and half Guinness stout. Other special items among the drinks include Middle Eastern fig- and date-infused Jameson, black cherry- and mandarin orange-infused rye whiskey and a Manischewitz sangria that occasionally appears on the menu.
After hours: The Star and the Shamrock is celebrating its first anniversary starting April 10 with a month of specials that include trivia nights on Mondays, free kids meals on Tuesdays, half-price Reubens on Wednesdays and live music on Thursdays.
Bring the kids: Feldman, a father of twin 2-year-old girls, wants to have a restaurant that parents are excited about bringing their kids to. A kids' menu with parent-approved macaroni and cheese, a pizza bagel and surprisingly stealable apple sauce (my son didn't even notice) makes it a great weekend lunch destination for families.