“Born In Ireland, Raised In Old Town!”
By the Gastronomes
Daniel O’Connell’s Irish Restaurant & Bar is one of Old Town’s most beautiful restaurants. Most of the buildings in Old Town are old renovated seaport warehouses and OC’s is much the same but they took it to another level. In 2006, on St. Patrick’s Day, O’Connell’s opened the doors to the eager throng outside. Adorned inside with pieces from Irish Castles, Monastaries, Churches, an apothocary and other valuable furnishings from the Emerald Isle, O’Connell’s stands today as a classic renovation. The kitchen was not fully functional that first St. Patrick’s day so management brought in pre-made sub sandwiches for their guests. The next day the kitchen was running smoothly and O’Connell’s has been serving up authentic Irish fare along with many American favorites for 16 years.
In their own words, “Born in Ireland, raised in Old Town, shipped 4,527 miles and 400 years young and called after Ireland’s great patriot Daniel O’Connell “The Liberator”. Come sink into our comfortable surroundings in our truly unique atmosphere. View our mesmerizing array of Irish historical antiques. Stroll through four ancient Irish Bars with blazing fires and enjoy warm friendly Irish staff and meet the lovely people of Old Town. On balconies, in snug corners, nooks and crannies, every corner has a story to tell. All this, while tasting the bold, exciting culinary delights that have emerged from modern Ireland.” We couldn’t agree more.
On the night that we dined we chose to sit in one of the “Snugs”, a piece of Irish history. The Snugs have significance in Ireland’s and Alexandria, Virginia history. Recently renovated, these cozy spaces make O’Connell’s a special and unique place altogether. I have been going to O’Connell’s since it opened and this is the first time I sat in the elevated Snug and was I surprised. The sight line to the floor and bar area is over the heads of the floor customers. This is great seating for watching rugby matches as it gives a direct sight line to the house TV’s. I’m keeping this in mind for when Six Nations Rugby is back in February!!
The starters at O’Connell’s include several Irish specialties the likes of Irish Egg Rolls, Dublin Nachos, Shepherd’ Pie as well as Scotch Eggs along with Steamed Mussels, Calamari Rings and an Appetizer Sampler. For those of you looking for something on the healthy side, the hummus plate at OC’s is very good as well. Soup and Salads consist of Potato Leek Soup, Chopped Salad, Classic Caesar Salad and Buffalo Chicken Salad. Sandwiches run from Beef Burger, Lamb Burger, BLT and Steak and Cheese to Reuben on Rye, Buffalo Tender Wrap and Grilled Chicken Sandwich.
However, it was the “Auld Favorites” for which I came. These 12 offerings ran from Fish and Chips, the Whiskey Sizzler, Full Irish Breakfast and Irish Shepherd’s Pie to Bangers and Mash, Lamb Stew, Corned Beef and Cabbage to Grilled Atlantic Salmon and a Seafood Linguine.
We started with the Appetizer Sampler. This is enough for two to share and could actually be enough for dinner alone. The dish included Irish Egg Rolls, Boneless Chicken Wings, Dublin Nachos, crispy Cod fish and Scotch Eggs. Since I don’t care for hard boiled eggs, I passed on the Scotch Eggs but my partner says they are excellent here. I am a big fan of their Irish Egg Rolls and the crispy fish but the boneless chicken wings were a little heavy on the breading for my taste. The nachos were also a pleasant surprise since neither of us have ever been able to wrap our heads around potato chips aka crisps as a base for this dish – we like corn chips. Have to admit this version was really good.
My favorite thing at a Mexican restaurant is the Fajita…I love that sizzle. When I saw Whiskey “Sizzler” on the menu I was sold. I could hear the dish coming before I saw it. Sizzling hot and hidden in a cloud of steam was my very own Sizzler. Red peppers and onions served with a delicious whiskey peppercorn wine sauce and a side of Basmati rice. The choices for add-ons are Chicken $17.95, Shrimp $18.95 or Vegetables $15.95. I added the shrimp which were perfectly cooked and added a nice flavor to the mix. This was an absolutely unique presentation and delicious meal…and a lot of it. I couldn’t eat it all and when packing the leftovers for the next day, the tray was still hot to the touch.
Leaning more toward a heart healthy option, the O’Connell’s Chicken House Salad that was on the specials menu the night we dined, was my partners choice. The presentation was pretty impressive and the salad definitely lived up to it – grilled chicken breast sliced thin, fresh red onion and cucumber slivered with sliced avocado and cherry tomatoes on a bed of fresh greens and sprinkled with feta. She opted for the house balsamic vinaigrette and every part of the concoction melded together perfectly. We have some inside info that this creation is the brainchild of the GM-Niamh O’Donovan. While we are happy to give her credit where credit is due, we think Chef Raul is on the right track with the rest of the menu…think Whiskey Sizzler.
There was absolutely no room for dessert but we know that they pride themselves on their Baileys Irish Brown Bread Ice Cream. Maybe next time. On this occasion I ended my meal with a dram or two of Writers Tears….Get it??
We ordered a nice bottle of Echo Bay Sauvignon Blanc that accompanied both meals nicely. Space in this column doesn’t allow for telling about the extensive back bar and inventory of Irish libations, beers, seltzers and wines. We will save that for a future write up. Feel free to go in and check for yourself and, in the meantime, let me tell you that this bar serves up the most impressive wine pour in Old Town and aren’t skimpy with the adult beverage pours as well.
We would like to give a shout out to Caleb (who has been at OC’s for quite some time) who was behind the bar and our server Sean (who is new to OC’s) for the great service. It was a very enjoyable night.
Even though St. Patrick’s Day is six months away, you can get in the mood every Monday and Wednesday as Traditional Irish Sessions share the “Sound of Ireland” at 8 pm and check their calendar for individual performances by a mix of talented musicians on the weekends as well.
Stop by O’Connell’s when in Old Town. They have a great Happy Hour Monday through Friday from 3 pm to 6 pm and an impressive brunch on both Saturday and Sunday from 10-3. Slainte!
Daniel O’Connell’s Restaurant & Bar
112 King Street
Old Town Alexandria