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Bar Review: Nanny O’Brien’s

Submitted by on February 13, 2010 – 2:55 PMNo Comment
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3319 Connecticut Ave.
Washington, DC

Hours of Operation:
Sun. – Thu.            12 p.m. – 2 a.m.
Fri. – Sat.            12 p.m. – 3 p.m.

Best time to visit: For dinner.

Connecticut Avenue in Cleveland Park is a neighborhood in revival.  What would such a neighborhood be without an Irish Pub?  Nanny O’Brien’s fits the bill, even if there is room for improvement.

The look and feel are there.  One can almost picture hay on the floor like in a real rural pub.  An Irish jam-session every Monday and Trivia Night every Tuesday help to round out the ethereal requirements of the local Irish Pub.  There is wood, dim lighting, and a communal atmosphere.

There is also food.  All one would expect from a pub menu, mostly for less than ten dollars.  Irish patrons agree that it’s some of the more authentic pub fare around.  There is also much acclaim for the Guinness on tap, although reports of flat Black & Tan’s with no visible division between Stout and Lager put a dent in Nanny’ O’Brien’s claims to pouring the best Guinness around.

Aside from the occasional poorly-poured pint, the shortcomings of Nanny O’Brien’s take two forms.  First is a lack of specials.  This is not to say that there is no Happy Hour, but it is both under-publicized and unrewarding.  Though the Happy Hour specials go until 8:00 – later than at most bars – only the generic beers-for-people-who-know-nothing-about-beer are discounted, and then only to $3.50 per pint.  That is neither Happy nor Special.

The other drawback is the use of space.  For a bar which is very often crowded, a strategic arrangement of tables, more bar stools, and more than a pair of one-seater bathrooms would seem essential.  While the size of the space is beyond the owners’ control, some effort is demanded to design a space that will comfortably accommodate as many guests as possible.  Currently such an effort has clearly not been made.

The general consensus is the Natty O’Brien’s straddles a good balance between local dive and up-scale pub.  But the varied experiences of first-time visitors suggest that this is not a firm, consistent balance, but rather the type that sways precariously from one side to the other – from “this is the best bar in DC” to “don’t waste your time.”  The best, then, that can be said, is that anyone passing through Cleveland Park and looking for a pint and a bite to eat should take a chance, and see which Nanny’s they get.

Pros: Nice atmosphere; Decent selection.

Cons: Limited specials; Limited seating; Inconsistent service.

Rating: 3 out of 5