Open at 11 a.m. each day except Sunday, when it opens at noon, until 2 a.m. (3 a.m. Fridays and Saturdays). Limited parking in adjacent lot. Accessible to persons in wheelchairs. American Express, Diners Club, Bank of Virginia Charge, MasterCharge, Carte Blanche. Reservations not necessary, but on weekends it may help to call 244-0860 and check.
For many a morning bus ride we followed the conversion of a somewhat drab lighting-fixture store into an Irish watering hole that looked intriguing. So when the doors of Ireland's Four Provinces opened on Connecticut Avenue NW a few weeks ago, we wondered whether it was a family spot or a night club.
It's the best of both, if you time it right.
A pioneering friend told told us that her kids loved the entertainment, which gets under way at 9 p.m. on weekdays and 9:30 p.m. on weekends. So after Saturday naps for selected short subjects and an adult or two, our family foursome teamed up with a similarly structured household for an 8 p.m. arrival.
We noticed rather quickly that our band of children - two 10-year-old boys and two girls, 7 and 6 - were the only under-agers in the place. We resolved not to let it bother us and, as one might expect in a truly Irish establishment, it didn't bother anyone else in the slightest.
The kids wandered off to a room in the back where they found a dart board, an electronic game of some sort and nice people who let the boys use their darts in a safe setting. While our mice were away, we adults each enjoyed a pint glass of draft Harp lager ($1.25).
Between their trips to the rec room, the kids sipped soft drinks and played tic-tac-toe on the white paper placemats, which are note-worthy in that they disintegrate at the touch of a wet glass.
Showing characteristic independence, each child - after considerable thought - ordered the deluxe cheeseburger platter ($2.25). The burger, it turned out, was no fat-filled wafer; it was round, rare and topped with an extraordinary cheese that drew praise from all four children. And it was surrounded by crispy Irish home fries (thickly sliced potatoes).
The adults began with Irish barley (95 cents). It was hearty, but fed some speculation that its origin may have been a can. Our friends opted for Limerick Irish stew ($3.95), a combination of lamb and vegetables that needed seasoning. My wife picked a winner in Longford lamb chops ($5.75), which were thick and perfectly browned. My order of Dangarvan mixed grill ($6.95) included one of those lamb chops, along with liver, bacon, sausage, an egg and the good Irish fries. It was the most expensive item on the menu, but a treat worth the money.
The culinary sleeper was the homemade soda-raisin bread, which came with plenty of butter. There are also sandwiches, from tuna salad ($1.95) to turkey ($2.25) to corned beef and roast beef ($2.35), with potato chips, cole slaw and pickle. Other dinners include corned beef and cabbage ($3.95), Dublin fish and chips, ($3.50) and Kerry club steak ($5.75).
It wasn't until the lights dimmed in the now-crowded room, however, that the best part of the evening got going.
On a small stage to the side, a rollicking folk group - four charming and talented men who call themselves the Irish Breakdown - soon had the whole gathering in song. These fellows work magic with guitar, fiddle, tin whistle, banjo, mandolin, bass and a repertoire of footstompers and ballads. People sing along and jig in the aisles.
The boys each bought an album of the group's music, which the performers auto-graphed for them. (It was these young men, we later learned, who had provided the darts in the other room). When the first set ended, we called it an evening.
Our family's portion of the bill was $25.70 plus tip; our friends' total was $19.49 plus.