When you walk through the revolving door, the Union Street Public House looks very much like a cozy pub -- dark wood, brass, etched glass, wooden booths along the wall surrounding a large, central bar. However, there is far more here than you'd expect. Two smaller dining rooms are almost hidden in the back. One's a traditional, table-filled room; the other holds an oyster bar, with high stools and tables and a long bar counter for eating or sipping. Then add the expansive dining rooms upstairs, with their high ceilings and separate bar.
But despite its size, only 10 beers are on draft here, less than you'll find at smaller King Street bars like Virginia Beverage Company and the Laughing Lizard Lounge. Though small, the selection includes the locally brewed Virginia Native Dark and Virginia Native Gold, two fine lagers. The food is American pub food, a mix of meat and seafood. We liked the Old Town Ale Steak, a delicious sirloin marinated in ale, and the Carpetbagger Po' Boy, a French roll stuffed with sirloin and oysters. (Surprise, oysters are a house specialty.) The hamburgers, though, come between slices of rye bread, and can be pretty messy.
Service can be slow in the main bar, even when it's not terribly crowded. That's when you should head to the back. On weekends, it seems like half of Alexandria's under-35 singles are crowded into the front room, so head to the back for conversation, or tough it out and soak up the ambiance.
On Sunday, brunch is available until 3. The restaurant is open until 10:30 Monday through Thursday and 11:30 on weekends. Light fare is available until 1 a.m. every day.
-- Fritz Hahn