1500 New Hampshire Ave., N.W.
I’m no stranger to the faux-Irish. For an entire semester, my friends called me “Seamus” behind my back before it came to light that I don’t have a drop of Irish in me. And while I’d much rather drink an American-style light lager than a hard cider, I’ve fallen into my share of delightfully fake – and cheap – Irish pubs. But last Sunday, a couple of friends and I braved the wind and rain to search out hot food and cool drink in a place that shuns shamrocks and leprechauns for what it fancies to be authentically Irish.
You’ve probably seen Biddy Mulligan’s before: the large, darkened bar nestled into the bottom floor of Dupont Circle’s Irish-owned-and-operated Jury’s Washington Hotel. I’ve actually been to Biddy’s twice – once to try the soup while making a visit to D.C. in high school, and once to try a few underage sips of Bud Light before getting thrown out on my ass a few years ago.
But on my third visit to the pub, my friends and I had barely closed our umbrellas before it became clear that though we had escaped the elements, we were still a bit out of our element. When our waiter approached – a lanky guy who couldn’t have been much older than us – he addressed us as “kids.” A glance at the bar confirmed it – a line of puffed white hair and slicked comb-overs knocked back pints of Guinness and cider. Though this was my first time in the bar with a valid I.D., I still seemed too young to drink there. The place was full of old people.
Still, these weren’t just any old people. These were old people who stayed out well past 9 at night. These were old people who staked out a hotel bar on the Sabbath. These were old people who had a wee bit of Irish in ’em.
And Biddy Mulligan’s – you never would have guessed this – fancies itself an Irish bar. But despite its ridiculously Irish name, the rest of the bar strives for a more upscale and understated Irish pub feel. At Biddy’s, everything inside the bar – from the bricks in the wall to the chairs you sit on – is imported direct from Ireland. The menu consists mainly of average-priced bar food – the onion rings, by the way, are delicious – but it does offer a Shepherd’s Pie and an Irish Grill for those looking for something a bit more authentic. And when it’s rainy, as it was on Sunday, the nice rounded wall of windows gives you a blurry enough view of the circle that, if you squint, you could almost be looking out at a roundabout in Erin.
Dupont may be a long way from Dublin, but a drink inside Biddy Mulligan’s takes you closer to The Emerald Isle than most faux-Irish pubs. Unlike your average McFadden’s, you’re not likely to see any face-painted girls vomiting outside in the early afternoon here – but that’s true of any bar for people older than just a questionable 21. There’s something to be said for enjoying a cider on a cushy, carved-wooden chair sent straight from Ireland. At the same time, there’s a place for that rip-roaring stereotypical Irish drinking that college students and St. Paddy’s Day hangers-on have grown to love. If you’re looking for the former, head to Biddy’s. If you want the latter, well, you know where to go.