When the folks at Irish Whiskey Public House invited us in for their first day of brunch, I knew exactly who I’d take as my date—none other than the whiskey-loving, Mighty Pint regular and gorgeous girl-around-town K Street Kate. I’d last seen Kate at the Irish Whiskey opening party the week beforehand—where she told me of her plan to work her way through the restaurant and bar’s whiskey club and snag a trip to Ireland. A go-getter, that one.
The space is decorated by Maggie O’Neill, the designer behind SAX, the burlesque nightclub, and Lincoln, my favorite Logan Circle locale. With plaid, brass, wooden bars and booths, the space is a modern, unique spin on a traditional Irish pub. Oh, and it’s three stories, too.
The boys behind the bar are the owners of neighboring Mighty Pint, a popular spot for Pennsylvania sports fans. Sean McIntosh, an authentically Irish chef with a heavy accent, swoon-worthy smile and a ponytail, is the wunderkind in the kitchen, whipping up pretzel bites and delicious arctic char among other dishes.
As I am the girl who loves both a $16 cocktail at an upscale hotel bar and a PBR at a dive bar, Irish Whiskey Public House is my new go-to, as it appeals to both relaxed and refined clientele with its upscale Irish pub vibe.
As it was the first day of brunch, Chef Sean was popping over to check in and asking for tips from Kate and I.
For starters, we began with strong Irish coffees, served in a glass mug rather than a coffee cup. “Best coffee I’ve had in a while … adding whiskey would have made it even better!” was Kate’s tip.
Then, never shy, we dove right in to the entrees.
Kate ordered the loaded baked potato hash with bacon, scallions, Cabot cheese, two poached eggs and country Irish gravy, which came served in a cast iron put. It was heavy, filled with eggs, cheese, potatoes and gravy—but not a lot of bacon. The dish was very hot, which served to cook the egg more thoroughly while it sat on the table.
For me, the “From the Coast,” two poached eggs on toasted Irish soda bread with smoked salmon and seared potato puffs. With regard to the potato puffs, they are gnocchi … only Irish. Chef Sean came out to inquire about the food, asking, “Aren’t the gnocchi delicious?”
“Don’t you mean the potato puffs?” I replied. “You’ve got to make them Irish somehow!”
For the record, the potato puffs were light, flavorful and delicious—yet different enough to be puffs, rather than gnocchi.
My dish was essentially a salmon benedict. The salmon was fresh, the Béarnaise perfection, and the eggs perfectly poached. However, the dish was served on Irish soda bread—traditional bread made with soda and raisins. I’d prefer it with different bread, and, according to my sources, the chef has made the menu adjustment, now serving it with brioche.
Along the way, I gave in and ordered the house-made Bloody Mary, topped with an onion, olive and shrimp. It was so spicy—I love spicy—not too thick, and packed with flavor. The shrimp, pepper and horseradish flavors were strong. It was by far the best Bloody Mary I’ve had in recent memory—this pub definitely knows its cocktails.
We ordered the Irish soda bread French toast, served with house-made Jameson whipped cream and syrup, as “dessert.” Oddly, the French toast came served with latkes, a strange combination. The thick, fluffy French toast could have been battered more heavily with eggs, and topped with more Jameson whipped cream.
The whipped cream was amazing—and I can certainly see it making me tipsy had there been more of it. This is a really unique dish—and worth going back for. Both Kate and I suggested they ditch the latkes, add fruit, and amplify the egginess (that is so a word) and whipped cream on the dish. Such food critics, we girls.
(For the record, you can substitute a side of fruit for anything on the menu).
A handsome gentlemen at the table beside us ordered the eggs veggie—sautéed vegetables and pasteurized eggs baked and served in a cast-iron pot. This looks like a great option for brunch, as it is lighter than what Kate and I ordered.
Additionally, I was drooling over my neighbor’s roasted beet salad, served with fried camembert cheese, shredded cabbage slaw and honey orange vinaigrette. Those of you who follow me on Twitter know I’m on a beet kick—I’ll definitely be back to try it for myself.
Because I was waxing poetic over the pretzel bites from the opening party, Chef Sean sent out a half-batch (in order to prevent Cori Sue and Kate over-carbo-loading). The pretzel bites are fluffy, salted and fried, arriving with a side of spicy honey mustard dipping sauce. This is the snack I would like to have appear in my home for late-night post-bar snacking, as I can literally imagine nothing better.
As for Kate, she says “There is no lighter option on the brunch menu—I know it’s Irish traditional—but for a gal looking to watch her weight, this place would be a tough sell.” Thankfully, neither of us are much for calorie-counting. But, health maniacs should take heed.
The Bitches say: A-. Irish Whiskey Public House has a great ambiance and talented chef that uses fresh ingredients and quality preparation. A few adjustments need to be made to improve their fledgling brunch menu—but we’re thinking they can only move up from there!
Irish Whiskey Public House
1207 19th St. N.W.