The draw at this homey Wheaton pub is live music, darts, Guinness and whiskey, which sounds pretty run-of-the-mill unless you know that the landlord is Neil Foley, an Irish-born fiddler who has spent the past three decades performing around Washington with Garryowen, Celtic Union, the Irish Breakdown and other traditional groups.
That explains why Friday and Saturday nights are booked solid with fiddle-and-guitar duos and trios, and both Saturdays and Wednesdays find groups of musicians gathered around a table in the far corner of the room, jamming on traditional reels and folk tunes. Anyone can bring an instrument and join in.
Decorated simply with old black-and-white photos of Ireland, most of the Limerick’s personality comes from the people sipping beers at the bar or playing darts — the local league takes over both lanes on Wednesday nights. Bartenders encourage the welcoming atmosphere — every single one has introduced themselves, asked whether we lived in the area and called most of the patrons by name.
Unlike many pubs this size, the staff talks up the Irish whiskey collection as much as what’s on the taps. I’m partial to the peaty Connemara single malt or the smooth, assertively malty Redbreast; both go down really well after a dinner of flaky cod and chips or the filling reuben, made with house-cured corned beef. (One bartender warned me off the bangers and mash because “I don’t know about you, but I like my sausages with a little bit of spice.”)
The Limerick, named after Foley’s home county, has become an asset to the community, and the owners are trying to introduce patrons to the real taste of Ireland — they’re arranging a trip to the Emerald Isle in October that will include brewery and distillery tours, sightseeing and plenty of pub visits.
-- Fritz Hahn (June 10, 2011)