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Reviews on PubCrawler from david a. vandenbroucke
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December 18, 2014 @ 04:43 PM EDT
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Reviews By
david a. vandenbroucke

Beer Reviews

Restaurant Reviews


Beer Reviews from david a. vandenbroucke
Average Rating
Beer Quality
Beer Selection Food Service Overall
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Beer Quality Beer Selection Food Service Overall
Great Great Great Good Good

Establishment: Founders' Restaurant and Brewing Company, Alexandria, VA

Founder's Pub is at 607 King Street in Alexandria. It's not a bad walk from the King Street Metro station.

I hadn't been to Founders for almost a year. At the time, it had just begun its transformation under its new management and name, and I was distinctly unimpressed with a number of aspects of the place.

However, much of that has changed for the better. The staff now seems to know something about beer. They offer only house beers: a kolsch, an alt, a stout, a weiss, a pale ale, and ... one more that slips my mind. My wife and I tried the first three, and they were all quite nice in their different ways. The beer is served chilled but not cold. That is as it should be--although I would have forgiven them for serving it colder on a steamy July evening!

The menu has gone distinctly upmarket. This isn't pub food anymore. Entrees start at about $15 and go up to about $23. My wife had the sea scallops with pesto mashed potatoes and vegetables. I had the blackened chicken pasta, which also included bits of ham, andoullie sausage, peppers, and onions, in a light cream sauce. Both were quite nice. For dessert we shared the stout chocolate mousse. Other entrees available for dinner were barbecued pork chops, a veal chop, the usual variety of steaks, chicken Marsala, and some other things.

The menu also features a large variety of sandwiches and appetizers. It looks like it would be a good place for lunch.

The service was reasonably fast, but we didn't feel rushed, either. The waitress knew about the beers and could make recommendations.

The room is pretty much the same as it was before: all woody and rustic. There is some kind of music playing, but it was easy to ignore. When we went, early on a week night, the dining area was mostly empty. As we left, just before seven o'clock, the bar area seemed well populated. If you do go for dinner, try to get a seat by the window. You get a great view of humanity (and not a few dogs) parading up and down King Street.


Beer Quality Beer Selection Food Service Overall
Good So So Good Great Good

Establishment: Mackey's Pub, Washington, DC

Last week my wife and I went to Mackey's Pub for dinner. The pub is a couple blocks north of the Farragut West Metro station, just across the street from Border's bookstore. It being a warm day, the outside tables were packed, although the only vista is the gridlock on L Street.. We sat inside, in a booth near the bar area. The inside is all dark wood. I understand that the fittings were all imported from Dublin.

We found the range of beers disappointing for a pub. We happened to arrive during happy hour, but the cut price beers were almost all mass-produced American beers, such as Budweiser, etc. The best was Sam Adams. The rest of the draft lineup included Guinness, Sierra Nevada, Harp, Bodington's, a house ale, and a few others that slip my mind at the moment. Curiously, the house ale was listed as coming from Chippewa Falls, Wisconsin.

The food is, of course, pub food. There is an extensive array of sandwiches, plus fish & chips, shepherd's pie, steak and Guinness pie, chicken tenderloin, battered shrimp, meatloaf, and so on. I had the steak pie, and my wife had the fish & chips. She really like the way the fish were cooked. The chips (shoestring) suffered from being served under the fish, which made them a bit soggy. The steak pie was good. It was mostly meat, and the crust was worth finishing on its own. It came with a scoop of mashed potatoes and some kind of steamed vegetables, which I didn't touch (not a vegetable sort of guy).

The atmosphere was loud and crowded. There was some kind of rock music playing. Lots of people still in shirts and ties, evidently just coming off work. The service was friendly and well paced. I neither felt that the waiter was hovering over me nor that he had retired to a place in the country.

I didn't have a bad time, but I've had better dining experiences. If you're more into the bar experience than I am, you'll probably enjoy Mackey's in the evening. I have had lunch there a couple of times previously. On those occasions I was seated deeper into the pub, away from the bar, and the atmosphere was generally quieter. On the whole, I'd say I've enjoyed the lunches better than I did this dinner.


Beer Quality Beer Selection Food Service Overall
Good Good Great Great Good

Establishment: Fado Irish Pub, Washington, DC

Open on Christmas Eve! One of the few eateries available near Gallery Place that is. Nicely shabby atmosphere. Good food. We had the boxties, but the Irish Breakfast was tempting. About 8-10 beers on tap, including Boddington's and Newcastle. Not very expensive, either.


Beer Quality Beer Selection Food Service Overall
Great Good Great Great Great

Establishment: Murphy's Grand Irish Pub, Alexandria, VA

This is a nice, neighborly pub. Good food and good beer. No canned music, just the rumble of conversation.


Beer Quality Beer Selection Food Service Overall
Good So So Good Good Good

Establishment: Hops Grill and Brewery, Alexandria, VA

Hops! is a chain brewpub. I don't have anything bad to say about it, although it's not a standout either. The beer is good but not distinctive. The menu is tasty but short. They usually have one or two items that you don't usually find in restaurants, such as meatloaf, shortribs, or pork chops.

We got a couple beers from the bar and settled down to wait. In due course, we got our table. Everyone was coping pretty well, and the service was good once we sat down. The Thorougbred Red ale is pretty good. It has a nice body. There's a hoppy taste when you first sip it, and it has a malty aftertaste. My wife also tried the "Hoptoberfest" seasonal ale. It had a color only slightly lighter than the red. She reported that the taste was just the opposite: a slightly bitter, malty taste at first, followed by some hoppiness (how do they do that?).

I had the shortribs. They came on a bed of mashed potatoes and gravy and were topped by thin onion rings. It was a nice meat-and-potatoes combination. My wife had the shrip platter. It had two skewers of large fried shrmps, with yellow squash, saffron rice, and a tangy sauce. My wife remarked that the squash was actually edible, since it had been cooked with butter and spices. On the whole, it was good food and good beer, if nothing to make you say "wow." The atmosphere was pleasant and roomy. There seemed to be some kind of music playing, but all you could here was the rumble of conversation, which is how I like restaurants.


Beer Quality Beer Selection Food Service Overall
Great Good Great Good Great

Establishment: Matchbox, Washington, DC

On Thursday night, my wife and I went to Matchbox at 713 H Street NW in Washington DC, just a short walk from the Chinatown exit of the Gallery Place Metro station. Matchbox presumably gets its name from the building, which is very narrow but three stories high. The bar is on the ground floor, with a few tables along the opposite wall. Dining is on the second and third levels. It may have been my imagination or just the luck of the draw on that particular night, but it seemed like the "smart young things" were being lead up to the third level, while old fogies such as me were being seated on the second. Perhaps the startlingly young-looking wait staff thought we'd expire if we had to go up another flight of stairs. :) I didn't notice an elevator or other provision for handicapped guests, but I wasn't really looking for one either.

Matchbox is mainly a pizza restaurant. The pizzas have very thin, but not crisp, crusts. Since I'm more of a deep dish Chicago-style pizza person, this was a change for me. They were quite good. The menu offers a number of set combinations, plus a build-your-own option. There are two sauces to choose from (spicy and less so), three cheeses (mozzarella, gouda, and ricotta), and the usual gang of toppings. There are two sizes, small and large. The large (14 pieces) worked out quite well for two people. From the description, I would think that the small (9 pieces) would be too much for one person to finish. After having some difficulty deciding what to order, my wife and I metaphorically flipped a coin and had the meat pizza. This has pepperoni, Italian sausage, pepperoni, ham, mozzarella, and the spicy sauce. The sausage was especially tasty. The pepperoni was about the diameter of a dime and thinly sliced. The sauce was certainly spicy. It was, in fact, rather more peppery than I liked, although not so much as to spoil the meal. It certainly made the Chimay go down quickly.

Yes, what about the beer? While Matchbox doesn't boast the extensive beer list of RFD (just around the corner), they have eight or ten draft beers to choose from. One of them is Chimay. I also noticed Allagash White, Bare Knuckle Stout, Bass, Newcastle Brown, and Guinness. However, they were out of the Bare Knuckle Stout when I ordered it for my second beer. The restaurant seems to have a supply of brand-specific glasses, as the Chimay and the Allagash were both served in glassware of the correct shape and logo. I noticed some others on the tables around us. The wine list appeared to be extensive, and the waiters seemed to be familiar with some exotic-sounding cocktails, but those are outside of my expertise.

This is what one would call an "intimate" restaurant. Another word might be "cramped." There are booth-style padded benches built into the walls of the long, narrow rooms. Along these are arrayed two-person tables, with chairs opposite the bench. For larger parties, they push these tables together. Thus, you are eating in close quarters with the other diners. It's almost impossible not to eavesdrop on the conversations around you. If you're in the right mood, this provides a nice feeling of being immersed in the life of the city. However, this is not the place to discuss national security or to work out "issues" with your partner.

Another consequence of the small tables is that there is really no place to put the pizza. The restaurant solves this problem by putting a rack on the table which suspends the pizza at a height just high enough to clear the glasses. One very awkward feature is that they don't provide a serving knife or spatula. Since the crust is thin and flexible, you have to be very careful indeed to avoid disaster as you transfer pieces from the serving board to your plate with just a knife and fork.

It was quite an enjoyable experience. The location is convenient to Metro. They have a nice selection of beer on tap. The food is good. The atmosphere is quirky, but it's fun if you're in the right mood.


Beer Quality Beer Selection Food Service Overall
Great Good Good Good Good

Establishment: John Harvard's Brew House, Washington, DC

The java stout is very good. It has a nice coffee taste and substantial body without being harsh. The centennial brown ale was also nice: hoppier than most browns, but still distinctly in that category. We had the fish and chips and the smothered fried chicken. Both were tasty. They have a good hot frier that gets the chicken and the fish crisp and not greasy. The room is rather louder than I like, mainly because of the music system, but not so much as to ruin the evening.


Beer Quality Beer Selection Food Service Overall
Good So So So So So So So So

Establishment: Founders' Restaurant and Brewing Company, Alexandria, VA

This brewpub is new. It has promise, but it needs to improve.

The air conditioning wasn't running when we arrived on a hot, steamy day. The waitress didn't know what an IPA was. There were four house beers, plus two Dominion, Foster's, and Guiness. My wife asked for rare flank steak, and she got well done.

On the good side, both the house ale and the house lager are nice beers to have with food. The waitress did bring us a sample of the ale before we decided what we wanted. They don't overchill the beer. They did quickly replace the overcooked steak and give us a 10% discount. The lemon cheesecake was very good. A window seat gives you the opportunity to watch the parade of humanity on King Street.


Beer Quality Beer Selection Food Service Overall
Good Good Good So So So So

Establishment: Sine Irish Pub and Restaurant, Arlington, VA

We tried this place at 4:30 on a Saturday afternoon. After being seated, we were ignored for at least 10 minutes, without anyone even taking a drink order. We walked out, telling the hostess why. The manager caught up with us on the sidewalk and offered us a free dinner if we returned.

The tap list is short, but it has some nice items: Guinness, Boddington's, New Castle, Sierra Nevada, and what appeared to be some house beers. They are served as 20 oz imperial pints.

The atmosphere is nice. They play Irish music at a level loud enough to listen to but soft enough to ignore. The booths are cozy, and there was a fire in the hearth.

The food is basic pub food: shepherd's pie, fish & chips, stew, plus a few nonpub things.


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