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James Hoban’s

Submitted by on April 7, 2010 – 7:38 PMNo Comment
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1 Dupont Cir.
Washington, DC

Hours of Operation:   Mon. – Sat. 11:30 a.m. – Close
Sun.    11:00 a.m. – Close

Best time to visit:  Happy Hour; any night.

There are times when a bar-goer gets so accustomed to what is considered “normal” that he or she becomes numb to it.  It takes someplace beyond the norm to put things back in perspective.

Most Irish Pubs, in imitating the increasingly clichéd standards one comes to expect, are actually quite pleasant, comfortable places – even if there is a question of genuine-ness.  Guinness on tap, plenty of Irish mementos, and big, dark, wooden bars and tables seem to be enough to earn the label.  If you like all those things, you’ll be right at home.  But once you remove the amusing quotes about Irishmen from the walls and put some actual Irishmen (and women) behind the bar, you’re in a new realm; one that seems a bit more real.

James Hoban’s, named for the Irish gent who designed the White House, offers that glimpse of reality.  All the atmosphere one expects is there, but the plastic, pre-fab sensation is distinctly lacking.

The dim lighting and cramped spaces one might associate with Irish Pubs are among the other missing elements, the absence of which may or may not be appreciated, depending on your intentions.  If the place seems a bit “over lit” for a tavern, it at least offers some quiet corners in which to hide out.  It is a big space (though, due to its popularity, it often doesn’t feel that way), and it provides a number of different perspectives.  Sit in a corner nook or booth with close friends, grab a table or a chunk of space for you and your co-workers, or grab a seat at the bar.

If you choose the third option, you’ll get personal attention from personable bartenders.  Knowledgeable, too.  They pour a proper Guinness, they can tell you something about the drinks they serve, and they likely have a good sense of humor, as well.  This is what the Pub Spirit is all about; you can go in alone, and not feel lonely.  There is more than just good beer to keep you company.

Beyond the expected offerings – you can get your Smithwick’s and Harp, and your Bangers and Mash – you get a surprising list of specials.  Happy Hour: ALL beers – Guinness included – are four bucks.  There are also appetizers for three or four dollars, plus wine and mixed drinks (if that’s your thing).  There are additional specials for given events, such as the Wednesday Night Pub Quiz – another of the typical Irish Pub details which is welcome.

For all the merely adequate establishments out there pouring Guinness and serving shepherd’s pie, James Hoban’s sets a higher standard, which might make it difficult to go back to your local pub-wannabe.

Pros: Nice, genuine Irish Pub atmosphere; friendly, knowledgeable staff; decent prices, selection, and specials.

Cons: Could be a little darker; could add a few more uncommon beers.  (Nit-picking!)

Rating: 4.5/5