760-C Walker Road
Great Falls, VA 22066
CUISINE Irish/Welsh, Bar/Pub Grub
PRICE $$ ($13-$20)
HOURS Open for lunch, dinner and late-night dining, Monday through Saturday and Sunday dinner; Sunday brunch.
NVM AWARDS None
NEARBY METRO None
By Warren Rojas
Longevity often brings clarity.
In the case of Great Falls’ storied Old Brogue, it also appears to bring a wee bit grayer and noticeably wealthier clientele than your average pub.
The cavernous, nearly 30-year-old establishment—founder Michael Kearney Sr. and his son, Michael Kearney Jr., opened the Brogue on March 17, 1981 (St. Patrick’s Day, natch)—is split into an often rollicking pub and more reserved main dining area. The bar is decorated with equal parts pride and kitsch, featuring the Kearney family crest and other Celtic mantles proudly displayed throughout the bar along with the omnipresent countdown to St. Patrick’s Day ticker.
Regulars are all greeted by name, and servers stop by tables to catch up with long-time patrons amidst running orders, while customers make a point of sharing family photos and neighborhood gossip with staff and management alike.
That chumminess appears to be a natural outgrowth of low-employee turnover coupled with steady patronage.
According to veteran manager Carmelita Williams, the restaurant has had many of the current staff members on the payroll for several decades. She noted that all the floor managers have been with the restaurant for 20 years apiece, one waitress is closing in on her 20th anniversary this year, and another chef has been around for more than a decade.
That makes new hires—native Irish or otherwise—an infrequent occurrence. “We don’t get a lot of Irish people who come in here to apply,” she said. Regardless of nationality, the staff appears to have a handle on what their customers like.
The well-rounded menu features a handful of core Irish favorites with a few additional Hibernian specialties (Gaelic shrimp, curry lamb) sprinkled about. Williams listed the fish and chips—“We cut 200 pounds of fresh cod every week,” she estimated—Guinness beef pie, traditional Irish beef stews, bangers and mash, and lamb curry as their most popular dishes. A pastry-wrapped bangers appetizer brings bite-sized sausage slices enveloped in dough, baked golden and served with a pleasing, stone-ground mustard (though a spicy mustard would work better with these flaky nibbles). The traditional Irish bangers plate, on the other hand, brings two hefty pork sausages, a heap of mashed potatoes and a proper portion of mushy peas. The cottage pie brings a boat-sized casserole of savory beef (a real find for Worcestershire fans) mixed with carrots and onions, all covered by a golden layer of baked potato mash and served with steamed broccoli. Elsewhere, a whiskey-soaked cake accompanied by equally boozy Jameson ice cream (vanilla with vigor) is an edible nightcap.
Those who prefer their liquor in a glass can enjoy proper Irish/English draughts of Guinness, Harp, Smithwick’s, Bass, Old Speckled Hen, as well as bottles and cans of Murphy’s Stout, Samuel Smith’s Oatmeal Stout, Samuel Smith’s Nut Brown Ale, Boddingtons, Fuller’s ESB and Newcastle Brown Ale. Select whiskeys include: Powers, original Jameson, 12-year-old Jameson, original Bushmills, Bushmills 10-year-old single malt, Black Bush, Tullamore Dew, Redbreast, Michael Collins and Irish Mist, as well as scotches like 10-year-old Laphroaig and Talisker, 12-year-old Glenfiddich, Glenlivet, Cragganmore and MacAllan, 15-year-old Glenronach and 16-year-old Lagavulin.
Meanwhile, they recently launched Katie’s Coffee House—named after Kearney Jr.’s 2-year-old daughter—in the main dining room (mornings).