There are two kinds of bars on St. Patrick’s Day: the places that throw a leprechaun on the door and pour green beer for the day, and the real pubs that celebrate with live music, dancing, and traditional Irish food and drink. We’ll celebrate at the latter on Saturday–see a full lineup below.
749 Wharf St., SW; 2800 South Randolph St., Arlington
Owner and Tipperary native Mark Kirwan is behind these two authentically Irish gastropubs. For the new Wharf location, he even brought in Irish carpenters to construct the waterfront space with materials from the Emerald Isle. St. Patrick’s Day brings a full week of events, and you’ll always find from-scratch dishes like a stellar Shepard’s pie made with braised lamb or a creamy Dublin coddle (Kirwan’s) or Howth fish cakes (Beckett’s).
713 King St., Alexandria
Old Town is home to a large Irish-American community and several pubs, and this stalwart is among the best. Listen to live music nightly, or sip a stout alongside bangers and mash. On St. Parick’s Day, doors open at 8 AM (no cover) with live music and Irish dancing all day. On Sunday, catch the Old Town St. Patrick’s Day Parade and then head over at 10 AM for more festivities.
4624 Wisconsin Ave., NW
This unassuming upper Northwest pub is one of the few places that regularly serves a traditional Irish breakfast all day, every day. Try the fry with two eggs, rashers, sausage, black and white puddings, beans, tomato, and toast. (Lighter eaters can order a half portion.)
4 F St., NW
On any given afternoon, you can sip an Irish whiskey undisturbed at this family-owned Capitol Hill institution. By contrast, St. Patrick’s Day is a week-long affair with live music, whisky specials, and 44-cent Paddy’s Day pints from 9 to 10 AM. Make a day of it by hopping between this bar and neighbor Kelly’s Irish Times (below).
Kelly’s Irish Times
14 F St., NW
This self-described “quaint, sometimes boisterous” pub near Union Station has served pints and an extensive selection of whiskeys for 40 years. St. Patrick’s Day brings thirsty crowds looking for no-frills fun.
1264 Wisconsin Ave., NW
Georgetown’s historic pub marks its 85th anniversary this year, and is still run by the Martin family—originally Galway natives. Though the bar/restaurant has played host to several Presidents—the Kennedy “proposal booth” remains a fixture—the place is far from fussy and serves solid (not necessarily Irish) throwbacks like creamed chipped beef, monte cristo sandwiches, and weekday brunch.
6119 Tulane Ave., Glen Echo, MD
The atmospheric inn is a great place to avoid green beer-chugging crowds and celebrate the holiday with family and friends. Patrons can sip Guinness at the bar, or try special St. Patrick’s Day lunch or prix-fixe dinner ($45 per person) with dishes like bangers and mash or beef stew.
11301 Elkin St., Wheaton
Regulars can relax by the fire or play darts at this suburban pub. While there are plenty of traditional Irish dishes on the menu, the place also caters to the meatless crowd with vegan “bangers” and chips. On St. Paddy’s, doors open at 9 AM with live music all day.
760 Walker Rd., Great Falls
This is a traditional Irish spot for all seasons, equipped with a large patio for sipping Smithwick’s in summer and a live fireplace warming the room in winter. Comfort fare goes year-round with plenty of sausages, savory pies, and stews. Doors open at 10 AM on St. Patrick’s Day ($10 cover) with live music and specials all day long.
911 Ellsworth Dr., Silver Spring
This gathering place in downtown Silver Spring comes from Irish-born owners, and the menu boasts a few less-common finds like an Irish “boxty” (potato and cheddar cake), Wexford lamb stew, and colcannon (mashed potatoes with cabbage). Though St. Paddy’s is a music-filled day, every Tuesday brings traditional Irish players to the pub.
1341 H St., NE
Washington’s only Judeo-Irish bar is far from your generic pub. Half Jewish deli (and home of Bullfrog Bagels), half Irish bar, it’s the kind of place you can get your pastrami and Powers fix. They also do it up for the holidays—Mac’Griddle breakfast shooter, anyone?
2051 Wilson Blvd., Arlington
This Irish-owned Arlington pub is a great spot for a pint by the fire in cold weather and regularly shows European football (aka soccer) matches or has live music for entertainment. Doors open at 8 AM on St. Paddy’s for an Irish brunch, followed by music all day and Irish food and drinks in a heated tent.
3125 M St., NW
Georgetown’s atmospheric Irish bar is filled with artifacts from the owners homeland, including a Victorian-era bar salvaged from Cork. The menu has some cheffy touches (i.e. lamb poutine) and the bar boasts a huge selection of Irish whiskeys, but the place isn’t too fancy for an all-day full Irish breakfast. On St. Paddy’s doors open at 8:30 AM with live music, Rugby World Cup matches, and food and drink specials.