Tiffany Tavern - King Street, Old Town
The first time I walked down King Street from the Metro to Murphy's Irish Pub I noticed the live music at the Tiffany Tavern, a small hole-in-the-wall pub. Weeks late we finally decided to stop in because it was a cold evening and we needed some warmth. The live music also attracted us in to the warm interior.
Inside were about 15 or 20 customers seated at the tables near the small stage, but the bar was empty. We grabbed two stools and watched a couple of younger people play guitar and sing, rather impressively at that. Later the youngish guy with glasses continued to play by himself, and he was a very good entertainer, especially for an amateur.
We returned on a Friday night, and the live bluegrass ready had drawn a crowd. The entire bar area was packed, and we got the last available table in the back dining area. The crowd was much older than we normally see around Alexandria, however, probably averaging about 50-60 years old.
We had a few Yuengling Lagers, the only beer on tap here, for just over $3 each. They also have several bottled beers and a full bar. The menu includes burgers and sandwiches that are rather expensive at around $10 each and a small selection of entrees reasonably priced under $20 each.
Tiffany Tavern's best feature is the live entertainment seven days a week. On Fridays and Saturdays they generally have local blue grass bands, and on week nights they have an open mike.
Union Street Public House - Old Town
Union Street Public House is a nice place down near the water in Old Town. We grabbed a table by the window one evening just to grab a nightcap beer and check out a place we hadn't visited before.
The had a small, but unique draft beer selection that include a beer from Dover, Delaware's Fordham brewery, two Alexandria brews, Blue Moon, and one or two others. During our visit the bar was pretty full, but only a couple of the tables were occupied on a Saturday night. We had two of the Alexandria beers at around $5.50 each and we headed home for the evening.
The decor in the bar is almost too fancy, but it has an Old Town feel. The floor is black and white tiny tile square and the ceiling is the old-fashioned pressed tin squares. The stools have odd U-shaped seats that are hard to get in and out of, and the bar is a big square that takes up the majority of the room. Next to the bar room is a large, open dining area.
Bilbo Baggins: No Froddo Here.....
Bilbo Baggins is a nice pub/restaurant tucked away on Queen Street in Old Town name for the famous Hobbit character. One of our friends "Godfather" recommended this place to us. On one side is the restaurant and the other side is the pub. After exploring some of Old Town; I wanted a nice cold beer. We found Bilbo easily and went inside. We sat at a small corner booth and checked out the menu. They served a variety of beers as well a pub grub. I decided to have an Eggenberg (wheat beer )and Liz wasn't thirsty.
The place is full of locals that all seem to know every patron and enjoy harrassing each other (in a good way). We enjoyed sitting in the nice air conditioned bar and out of the hot sun (since it was dredfully hot outside at over 90 degrees).
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Pat Troy's Irelands Own: Pat Troy's for Traditional Irish Music
This place could be in so many categories: restaurant, bar, concert, people watching...
I came here on a trip to the DC area via word of mouth - Danny O'Flaherty, who owned the much-beloved and much-missed O'Flaherty's Irish Pub in New Orleans, suggested I visit because his brother, Patrick O'Flaherty, "plays at Pat's". Sure enough, Patrick was there during my DC stay, so I took the Metro out to Alexandria to see him.
I ended up staying for about 5 hours through 3 sets of wonderful traditional Irish music (2 by Patrick and 1 by the next group) - the musical talent at the pub is wonderful! I had a really good shepherd's pie and several pints of Smithwick's, and made small talk with the other patrons. It was a really fun time and I would love to go back again - even if Patrick isn't playing at the time!
- Food and Dining
Jackson 20 Restaurant - King Street, Old Town
The Jackson 20's name must come from the fact that the restaurant is four times better than the Jackson 5, right? No, actually is come from the US20 dollar bill which features the image of President Jackson. Luckily the President on this bill switched from Grover Cleveland to Andrew Jackson in 1928, because Cleveland 20 just doesn't have the same ring to it.
I typically try to avoid hotel restaurants, but this one has drawn my eye since I first saw it a year ago. It has a nice, relaxing, dark interior, but is not too fancy; it is always busy; and it has a good reputation. Finally I had a chance to stay in the Hotel Monaco, and I decided to enjoy the full experience by dining at the on-site restaurant.
Upon entering, I was immediately approached by the hostess as I made my way to the bar. I almost thought she was Secret Service intercepting me before I could approach the President... but the President wasn't here, just a couple of rude, rich, middle-aged women who were storing their coats on the last stool at the bar. They saw me approach and just kept on gabbing. I looked at the bar stool and made eye contact with one of the ladies... nothing. Finally I said "excuse me? Is this your coat?" and the lady next to me said, "yes it is," and went back to talking with her friend. I had to interrupt again to say, "can you move it so I can sit here?" Dumb ***es.
But after that the service was great and my meal was very good. I started with a Steam Engine Lager ($6) from Durango, Colorado, which I was not too impressed with, then I moved on to the Sam Adams Noble Pils ($6.50), a great season beer made from a blend of five noble hops. For dinner I decided on the J20 Burger from the bar menu for $14 as most of their entrees were $20-$30 per main course, plus $7 for each side. The burger was topped with a great mixture smoked bacon, mountaineer cheese, grilled green onions, barbecue aioli, apple cider cole slaw, and it was served with a mountain of fries that I hardly put a dent in.
All in all, the service and food were outstanding, but I could do without the rich, snobby customers.
Rock It Grill - King Street, Old Town
The lower end of King Street, near the Potomac River, is full of fancy, touristy restaurants, most of which shut their doors around 11pm when the tourists head off to bed. The middle of King Street, has a number of establishments that cater to a more local clientele including Tiffany Tavern, O'Shaunessey's, and of course Rock It Grill.
From the outside, Rock It Grill looks like a small dump. The windows are tinted and have thick blinds, meaning you rarely can see inside. There are a few signs on the windows announcing daily specials, but otherwise it's pretty uninspiring. Every once in a while you will see a long line of people outside waiting to have their IDs checked.
We finally stopped by Rock It Grill one random Friday night in the summer. Upon entering, I was surprised at how long the bar was, and the seating area was also far bigger than I expected. The bar was packed, but there were a few seats on the floor with a good view of the non-stop karaoke stage. We sat for a few hours, enjoying a wide variety of music, though country was the most common (maybe because it's the easiest to sing). Through out the night, the small dancefloor was often packed when the right music came on.
Around 10:30pm we asked for a menu so we could get some snacks. We decided to split a Reuben sandwich with fries, 10 hot wings, and a pitcher of beer. The wings were tiny but full of flavor, and the reuben was also pretty small, but tasty.
This is one of the most fun bars in Old Town; I can't believe I didn't come here sooner! The karaoke was good, the service OK, the customers friendly, the restrooms trashy. Karaoke runs from 9:30pm until 1:30am seven nights a week. They also have two pool tables and brunch on the weekends.
Murphy's Grand Irish Pub: Luck O the Crowded
Old Town loves their Irish Pubs. I'm sure that if you're actually from Ireland, you'd say they look like American bar/restaurants, which they do. But, the pubs tend to be fun places to grab a point and have a greasy sandwich after a rough week.
Murphy's is by far the busiest of the pubs (maybe all the bars) on King Street. With reasonable prices and live music that starts early pretty much every night, it's a good place to chill. Musicians are great at getting the audience involved in pub songs and the crowd tends to be friendly and lively. Food is served late and Guinness is on tap (among plenty of other options).
If it's a Friday or Saturday night, expect a short line outside to get in. If it's St. Patrick's Day, don't expect to get in if you didn't show up before noon. No cover charge.
O'Shaunessey's: Looking for a real Dive Bar?
O'Shaunessy's is located on King Street, upstairs from the Manhattan Deli. We visited twice, hoping the second time would be better. Not so much. It's a small, dark bar and since Virginia still allows smoking in bars, feels even darker and smaller.
The front room of the bar has one pool table and some tables, with a few windows looking down on King Street. The back room is mainly pool tables. The whole place is hopping on weekends when they have live bands. I'm not particularly old (haven't hit 30 yet), but this place feels too "young" even for me.
Alcohol prices are comparable to other bars north of Patrick Street, but I prefer the other bars since I don't feel quite so claustrophobic there. Bar food is served late night. Overall, you can skip this one and not be missing much.
Las Tapas - King Street, Old Town
The bar at Las Tapas is a popular spot for live Latin music, food, drinks, and some dancing, in a dark, cozy environment. Similar to nearby La Tasca, but Las Tapas seems a little more friendly and comfortable.
We grabbed a few seats at the bar and enjoyed a couple of rounds of drinks while listening to the music and watching the odd sideshows that seem to accompany the tapas places in Old Town.
Flamenco dance performances
Tuesday and Thursday evenings (7:00 p.m. to 10:00)
Spanish Guitar music
Wednesday, Friday and Saturday Night (9:00 p.m. to 1:00 a.m )
Sundays (6:30 p.m. to 11:00 p.m.)
American Legion Post 24 - Cameron Street, Old Town
The Alexandria American Legion Post is located right behind Gadsby's Tavern. In fact, this Legion post purchased Gadsby's in the early 1920s to prevent its destruction, and along with the Daughters of the American Revolution, they restored the structure, then later presented them to the city of Alexandria.
The Legion has a bar that is a great place for current and former military members to meet, drink cheap beer, and socialize. Draft beers are just $2, but you must be a Legion member or guest of a member to enter. The Legion also has several flat-screen TVs and a couple of pool table, but the main feature here is the 10-seat bar.
The Legion has frequent events such as Sunday brunches, barbecues, lunches, and more.
Bayou Room - Old Town's Dance Club/Dungeon?
The Bayou Room is really an oddity in Old Town, especially just a block or two from the Potomac River waterfront. Even more amazing, this basement dive bar in under one of the classier restaurants in Old Town (called 219 Restaurant). From now on, I will only refer to the Bayou Room as "The Dungeon."
We stopped in one night after hearing from some friends that this was a decent place to grab a cheap drink. the music was loud on this Friday night around 11pm, with songs blaring like "Oh God Damn, this is my plan, party till the AM!" (I'm not making this up!). After having our IDs scanned by the bouncer, we made our way across the tiny dance floor to the bar for a few small beers in plastic cups. We soon made our way to the vacant corner near the restrooms and jsut enjoyed watching the odd mix of people from guys in suits to local hoodlums.
We didn't stick around long as the music was way to loud for any kind of conversation and the disco ball just a bit discombobulating.
Interesting spot, maybe better on a weeknight when it more of a bar than a dance club.
Pat Troy's Irish Pub - Pitt Street, Old Town
Pat Troy's is a fun Irish pub, similar to nearby Murphy's, but with a little bit of an older, more subdued crowd. We randomly showed up one chilly February night and it just happened to be the night of the Great Guinness Toast. After grabbing one of the numerous open tables, and ordering a few beers, we were given a ticket for a drawing later. We watched the lone entertainer with his guitar play Irish pub songs along with some more modern American songs like Country Roads, sort of the usual music you expect at a place like this.
Around 11pm, a short, white haired guy in green came up on stage. As far I we could tell, he was the owner. In his thick Irish accent he led a toast to Guinness, then began calling out numbers to give prizes of Guinness beads, shirts, and hats. It was pretty annoying because it went on so long, but he was kind of funny. After about 20 minutes, the live music restarted.
Pat Troys serves a variety of Irish foods from open until close at 2am. Their menus include Irish specialties like fish and chips and lamb stew, along with a variety of sandwiches, soups, salads, and appetizers.
O'Shaughnessy's Pub - King Street, Old Town
The Stage Door Deli and O'Shaughnessy's Pub are located just a few blocks from King Street Station on King Street in Old Town Alexandria. The bar was one of the first things I noticed in Old Town, but later the deli caught my attention.
O'Shaughnessy's Pub was until recently called the Laughing Lizard Lounge. It features live bands every Friday and Saturday night. O'Shaughnessy's also has three pool tables, jukeboxes and is one of just a handful of bars in town to offer live entertainment, whether it be live bands, or karaoke.
We stopped in on St. Paddy's Day 2009, but only stayed long enough for one beer each. The bar was packed with people drinking and playing pool. One guy, obviously very drunk, walked up to the barkeeper and said, "FOOD." The bar tender politely replied, "excuse me, I didn't understand you." The barely conscious response was, "got any?" The bar tender replied, "yes sir, we do have food, would you like to see a menu?" The reply was just barely a grunt. He then pulled out his $500 i-phone to use as a flashlight to scan the menu in the dark bar. I knew someone would eventually find a good use for those things.
Murphy's Irish Pub - King Street, Old Town
Very fun spot! I arrived at around 10:30pm to meet a group of friends and the place was packed. After getting my ID examined by the bouncer I couldn't even make it past the stage before I sent a text to my friend asking where he was. He was on the lower lever, so I finally made my way past the crowd between the stage and the bar to discover they had a table with a free seat and a Yuengling on the way. Almost heaven!
While listening to the Irish singer (named Pat Garvey), we had numerous rounds of beer, but I couldn't help but be amazed at the $350 tab the seven of us racked up from 7:30pm until a little after midnight. Even the waitress seemed surprised/impressed. It helps when you have a funny and entertaining singer who gets the crowd singing along with every song and having a great time. Beers aren't terribly overpriced either, with Sam Adams draft about $5 each, Yuengling drafts for $4 each, and Miller Lite draft for just $3.50.
Murphy's is in the heart of Old Town Alexandria on King Street. It has an open pub feel, but rather than a lot of "My Goodness My Guinness" posters, it is decorated mainly with US military and law enforcement flags and signs. My impression of the crowd was that a majority seemed to be in the military or law enforcement.
Bilbo Baggins: Think Globally, Eat Locally
If you want to sample some different, exotic beers, try Bilbo Baggins. Here are some brews from all over the world. There is a large selection of beers on tap, plus a huge selection of bottled beers. There is also a spacious room upstairs which can accomodate private parties. Beware: some of these beers are considerably stronger than those that most Americans are accustomed to. The appetizers are good (I had the calamari), but I didn't have any entrees.
Dress Code: Casual.
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