If your notion of an Irish pub is a static menu of fish n’ chips in a shamrock-decked bar, chef Cathal Armstrong wants to change that perception with Mattie and Eddie’s. The James Beard-anointed chef, who championed seasonal Irish cooking over 14 years at Alexandria’s Restaurant Eve, just opened the gastropub with a large outdoor patio in Pentagon City. It takes over the space once occupied by another Irish pub, Sine.
“There’s been a thing about Irish food in America for years,” says Armstrong, a Dublin native. “The idea that Irish food is terrible is really an ancient concept. The food in the ’50s was awful, but the food in the ’50s was awful everywhere. There are great ingredients and great food to be found [in Ireland] where you look for it.”
As the pub rolls out this spring—dinner for now, but lunch, brunch, and happy hour are coming soon—you’ll find fresh peas, asparagus, local oysters, and the mid-Atlantic delicacy shad roe on the menu. Chef de cuisine Casey Bauer, who recently helmed Armstrong’s pan-Asian restaurant at the Wharf, Kaliwa, is in the kitchen. A few of the dishes draw from Restaurant Eve (now closed) and Armstrong’s cookbook, My Irish Table, such as deviled eggs, an all-day Irish breakfast, and homey items like his mother’s cheese-on-toast. There are also cheffy creations like lobster pot pie, house-cured corned beef with cabbage confit, or crispy pork belly with colcannon and parsley sauce.
Traditionalists will find plates from the Irish-pub canon, including sausage rolls, black pudding, and shepherd’s pie. Also: fish n’ chips. The dish, revived from Armstrong’s shuttered Alexandria chipper, Eamonn’s, comes with freshly fried fish and seven dipping sauces.
In your pint: Guinness, of course, but not necessarily how you’ve always sipped it. Armstrong brought on a Guinness specialist to clean and revamp the tap lines, and teach bartenders the correct way to pour for a perfect, creamy consistency and foamy head (“106 seconds if you’re doing it properly,” Armstrong says).
Mattie and Eddie’s is named for Armstrong’s paternal grandparents, Martha and Edward Armstrong, who lived in the Liberties, a historic Dublin neighborhood (and home to the Guinness storehouse).
“They made curtains for a living, walked to work every day. They lived in a tiny house with three bedrooms and six kids. I remember before they got plumbing and there was an outhouse for a bath,” Armstrong says. “Their whole life was always about food and wine, and that transferred to my father, who was always the same way. The idea of a family gathering every Sunday–we were all there. I hope they’d be proud.”
Mattie and Eddie’s. 1301 Joyce St. S., Arlington
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