Hours: Monday through Thursday 11 a.m. to midnight; Friday 11 a.m. to 1 a.m.; Saturday noon to 1 a.m. Closed Sunday. Prices: Dinner for two, including at least two mugs of draft beer, $20 to $25.
There aren't many places around that serve really good, fat hamburgers and foamy, stout beers on tap, so we salute McKeever's for being one of them. Office spooks at the CIA, who like to hang out here and think about the Cold War over a mug of creamy black Guinness, remember the place as George's Pub. But last summer one of the waitresses bought it and now the pub is run by three women.
It's a classic, cozy little place, almost like being in a small town in England -- with dark, wood-paneled booths and dozens of old beer cans and bottles displayed along the shelves like trophies. There's also a dart board, which usually attracts a lot of people around one end of the bar, where the board is squeezed into the only available corner.
The menu is small, as you'd expect at a place this size, so you don't have to do a lot of deliberating. You can begin with canned-tasting chili con queso, mediocre but fun to munch, but you'd do much better getting a chili-topped baked potato, big enough to share among four people -- a good deal for $1.95. The chili, which you can also order by the cup or bowl, is quite good -- thick with ground meat and slightly crunchy beans, with a nice bite to it.
For the main part of dinner, go straight to the hamburgers. There are other possibilities, sure, but you can get the same old club or steak sandwich or tuna salad or grilled cheese anywhere else. In fact, you could do a lot better on the grilled Reuben at other restaurants -- this one uses that tired trick of bunching all the corned beef way at the front edge of the sandwich, to make it look generous, when actually the amount of meat in this sandwich is anemic. The full-cut rib-eye steak is pretty good -- in fact, surprisingly tender for a bar like this, although if you're really craving a steak, you can get better ones elsewhere.
But the hamburgers make up for it. Ah, the hamburgers -- thick so that inside they're juicy and soft and outside they're crusty, exactly the way we like them. The meat has been tossed with finely chopped onions and spices, sort of like a meatloaf, which gives them an unexpected extra flavor. They come in nine varieties -- mushrooms or chili peppers or thick bacon or thin ham or whatever piled high on top. Note: the prices on the menu apply to the standard 6-ounce hamburger, but you can -- and should -- pay extra and order the 8-ounce "Pub-Burger," which is far better than those two little ounces might suggest. The burgers come with good home fries, sprinkled with herbs. Insist that they're hot; if the kitchen forgets, as it sometimes may, send them right back.
No special desserts here.
If the owners tried just a little harder, they could turn McKeever's into quite an extraordinary pub. It wouldn't take that much effort, it seems, to make the other sandwiches something special like the hamburgers, or to make a great nacho platter oozing with real cheddar. Nor would it be that difficult to find a recipe for terrific brownies or great cheesecake -- we've done it from simple cookbooks at home and you probably have, too. We enjoy McKeever's just as it is, but why not push it up a notch?