Take it from someone who used to live there: Irish cuisine is not something you usually want to seek out. There is an abundance of fried food, great beer and good cheer and sure these things are great. But let’s not overlook a liberal lack of seasoning and propensity to boil everything. To an American palate, Irish food can taste pretty freaking bland. While living in Belfast, I would often escape with my American and Mexican friends to the nearest source of heat: a local Indian restaurant. We would load up on the spiciest dishes available, eat with tears streaming down our cheeks and walk home fortified for a week of mushy peas and asking a tablemate to pass the pepper.
Eamonn’s in Old Town is a powerful ambassador for Irish food. Eamonn’s is owned and operated by the Armstrongs, the same good folks who brought food destinations like Restaurant Eve and the Majestic to the area. If the Armstrong restaurants were a family, Eamonn’s would be the relaxed uncle always ready with a dirty joke and a cigar. It is inexpensive and casual. A meal for one can easily be had for less than $15. On a crowded night, you’ll likely find yourself sharing a table with strangers.
Comfortable atmosphere aside, what makes Eamonn’s good is the fish. This is delicious, fresh fish – not the type of seafood usually destined for a deep fryer. While the menu offers fish besides cod, such as grouper, ray and prawns, I recommend sticking with the headliner. The cod is crisp on the outside but moist, succulent and flavorful. Red meat is also available for the seafood-averse. On a recent visit, my friend Jeremy ordered the batter burgher – a deep fried hamburger, bun and all. Chicken bites and a batter sausage are also available.
More review and a shout out to the best dessert in DC after the jump.
No order at a chip shop is complete without the chips (read: thick french fries). The chips are thick and handcut, served piping hot. Burning the roof of your mouth is inevitable and you will not care. I like to douse mine in vinegar but ketchup is also available. Each order comes with your choice of a dipping sauce: tartar, marie rose, chesapeake, chili, kitty o’shea, fronch, and curry. Novices beware: This is not the curry you’ll find down the street at an Indian restaurant. This is a flavor unique to Ireland and the UK. Locals go crazy for it – it is the sauce to dip chips into at the pub. Personally, I don’t get it. It tastes like a ramen flavor packet mixed into mayonaise and butter. But then, my Irish friends are baffled by my obsession with peanut butter so there you go. All’s fair in the flavors you grew up with.
If you have even the slightest craving for fish and chips, point your beacon to Eamonn’s. The menu is undoubtedly focused on the fish but they also work to bring a taste of Ireland to those seeking authenticity: imported candies, familiar beverages and, oh God, the fried Mars bar. This dessert alone is worth the trip. Wrapped in something (a crepe, maybe?), the bar is deep fried and served warm and gooey with the nougat, caramel, almonds and milk chocolate all mixing togeter in one bite. It might be one of my favorite desserts in all of DC.