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First Look: P. Brennan’s Irish Pub on Columbia Pike

Update on 4/16/10 — P. Brennan’s is still awaiting its ABC license. The opening is being pushed back until next week.

Simply put, P. Brennan’s is massive. The soon-to-open Irish pub occupies a total of 8,000 square feet on the ground level of the Halstead apartments at 2910 Columbia Pike, next to Lost Dog Cafe and across from Arlington Cinema ‘n’ Drafthouse.

With a legal capacity of 360 people, P. Brennan’s is quite possibly the largest bar on the Pike. That’s remarkably ambitious, especially for an area that’s still in the “revitalization” phase.

“There is a huge population here who’s not served by a pub,” says marketing manager Emma Whelan. “You talk to people around here and they’re just waiting for us to arrive.”

“We have high hopes for the area and where it’s going,” said general manager Mark Pantall.

P. Brennan’s, like Twisted Vines before it, hopes to fill a unoccupied local niche. Pike residents currently have to head to Pentagon City or Clarendon for an authentic pint of Guinness and a bite of Shepherd’s Pie.

The owners are Irishmen Brian Dolphin and Greg Whelan, who also own McGinty’s Public House in Potomac Yard and in Silver Spring, Md. They named their latest pub after their friend, bartender “Little Pat” Brennan, who lost his battle against a genetic disease in August 2008.

“Through our service and staff we are aiming to instill some of his professionalism and fun-loving personality into its atmosphere and philosophy,” Greg Whelan said.

P. Brennan’s will have 16 beers on draft. The menu features the usual Irish favorites, as well as a few unique surprises, like a fish and chips salad and a skate schnitzel.

Management is hoping to open later this week, possibly as early as Wednesday, pending one last bit of regulatory approval.

P. Brennan’s phone number is 703-553-1090. More photos, after the jump.

Schnitzel

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Look Inside the Finished Northside Social

Northside Social, Clarendon’s hotly-anticipated coffee and wine bar, officially opened its doors to the public at 7:00 Monday morning.

On Saturday night, with the smell of fresh paint mixing with the aroma of espresso beans, Northside Social opened for a private pre-opening celebration.

It was a chance for the new neighborhood hangout to show off some of its well-curated wine and beer selections, as well as a few items from the food menu. It was also a chance for employees of Northside Social and Liberty Tavern — both co-owned by brothers Mark and Stephen Fedorchak — to step back, take a breather, and marvel at the fruits of their labor.

Despite the momentary respite from the grind of planning, building, and permitting, Stephen Fedorchak said that much work remains. For one, the other jewel in the Liberty Tavern crown, Lyon Hall, will be opening soon. And, he said, the real work starts after a place opens.

Fedorchak said he expects his employees — including Northside Social general manager Alison Christ, formerly of Willow Restaurant in Ballston, and director of coffee Marianne Tolosa, formerly of Murky Coffee (Northside’s predecessor) — will have no problem stepping up to the plate and creating an enjoyable experience for customers and employees alike.

“We’re really excited about the team we have,” Fedorchak said. “It’s going to be a lot of fun.”

Store hours and more photos after the jump.

  • Monday — 7:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m.
  • Tuesday — 7:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m.
  • Wednesday — 7:00 a.m. to midnight
  • Thursday — 7:00 a.m. to 2:00 a.m.
  • Friday — 7:00 a.m. to 2:00 a.m.
  • Saturday — 8:00 a.m. to 2:00 a.m.
  • Sunday — 8:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m.

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First Look Inside Northside Social

It’s still a work-in-progress, but yesterday we got a look inside Northside Social, Clarendon’s new coffee and wine bar.

Construction is taking place at a furious pace at the old Murky Coffee building. When we arrived after the short walk from Northside’s big brother, Liberty Tavern, general manager Alison Christ was surprised to see a chandelier already installed on the second floor, which the wine bar will call home.

On the first floor the makings of the coffee bar were coming together. Christ, formerly the sommelier at Willow Restaurant in Ballston, said the centerpiece of the store — a top-of-the-line espresso machine — was in the process of being flown in from Italy.

An adjacent “sun room,” which we’re told will be furnished with couches and other comfy furniture, was still barren concrete.

After it gets its necessary county permits, Northside will have seating for about 100 people, including 65 outdoor patio seats. With new stores popping up monthly, and with an added emphasis on outdoor seating and street life, Christ says she sees Clarendon developing into a “New York-style neighborhood.”

Northside Social will probably open between March 24 and 28, Christ said. When it does, expect a rotating roster of for-sale art from local artists and photographers, and some bike-friendly accouterments outside.

Worth noting: Lyon Hall, another Liberty Tavern project, is expected to open about a week after Northside.

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First Look: Twisted Vines Wine Bar and Bottleshop

If today’s final county inspection goes according to plan, the new Twisted Vines Wine Bar and Bottleshop on Columbia Pike will open its doors to customers for the first time this weekend, with a grand opening celebration to be held on March 6.

Twisted Vines will feature seating for 43, a selection of 128 bottles of wine from most of the major wine-making countries, cheese and charcuterie plates, and some more substantial fare from chef Caroline Guelle (hired away from Grand Cru in Ballston).

For owner Sybil Robinson, the journey from consulting management (her former career) to wine bar management started in Argentina.

Sybil, along with husband and co-owner Josh, had already followed their passion for wine to such viticulture meccas as France, Italy and Chile. Then in Mendoza, Argentina, while sitting at a wine bar overlooking the vineyards, lightning struck. They decided they wanted to bring the same comfortable, enjoyable, educational wine experience back home with them. The idea for Twisted Vines was thus born.

Since signing the lease at 2803 Columbia Pike in July, however, their vision for a wine lover’s paradise has been less about wine and more about construction and regulations.

“I’m talking about sheet metal and drywall when I’d rather be talking about wine,” Sybil said Thursday, amid a flurry of phone calls from a contractor. Luckily, “the fun is about to start.”

The Columbia Pike location is ideal, Sybil said. The couple bought a house in the neighborhood in 2003, and has watched intently as the Columbia Pike Revitalization has progressed. Now, they’re part of it.

“We wouldn’t have done it anywhere else,” Sybil said. “The whole idea when we thought of this was to bring something like this to Columbia Pike, so you didn’t have to keep driving to Clarendon all the time.”

“We really wanted to have a place for the community to come together,” she continued. “We’re not trying to be the best place in Washington, DC… we really just wanted that local, community kind of feel.”

Sybil and Josh — who is, for the time being, keeping his day job in IT consulting — have been joined in the endeavor by their son, 15-month-old “wine-snob-in-training,” Jacob.

“When we first started in July he couldn’t even crawl,” Sybil said. “Now he’s running.”

While that may be an excellent growth model for Twisted Vines, Sybil is keeping her expectations more modest.

“Our wildest dream is that people like it, that people come and enjoy it,” she said.

After the grand opening, Twisted Vines will open at 4:00 p.m. Tuesday through Friday. A brunch will be offered on Saturday and Sunday, followed by tastings from 2:00 to 4:00 p.m. The store will be closed Mondays, but open for private events.

There will also be monthly wine dinners, consisting of five wines paired with five dishes.

For more info, check out Twisted Vines on the web or on Twitter.

Note on the pictures below: the wine racks will be stocked once the ABC permit arrives. The walls, now bare, will be covered with photos and mirrors by the time the store opens.

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First Look at Clarendon’s New Cupcake Shop

Upscale cupcake bakeries are nothing new. Georgetown Cupcake, Baked & Wired, and Hello Cupcake are just a few of the gourmet baked goods establishments lining the streets of the District. Heidelberg Pastry Shoppe on 2150 N. Culpeper Street in North Arlington has won some online acclaim for its more traditional cupcakes. But Bakeshop, at 1025 N. Fillmore Street, has the distinction of being the first of its kind in Clarendon.

The store is a labor of love for chief cupcake maker Justin Stegall. Stegall’s sweets have been sold at various DC coffee shops, including Chinatown Coffee Co. (hat tip: Washington City Paper). Now, he finally has a storefront to call his own.

Bakeshop hasn’t officially opened yet, but Stegall has been inviting people to check out the store during special hours announced via Twitter. During Saturday’s snow storm, about 60 people stopped by for a so-called soft opening. Within five hours, the store was sold out.

(Pictures and an expert cupcake review, after the jump.)

The store opened up at 4:00 this afternoon, about an hour behind schedule. As curious first-time patrons trickled in, Stegall, still working in the back, iced each cupcake individually as it was ordered. The first customer of the day was a self-described “cupcake connoisseur,” who didn’t want her name published. Her verdict? Not the best she’s had, but pretty damn good.

The red velvet cupcake she ordered had just the right combination of light crunchiness on top and fluffiness in the middle, she said. The icing also got top marks for being tasty but not too heavy.

Bakeshop is also selling freshly-made cookies. The oatmeal-blueberry cookie being sold today was delicious. It was warm and soft, with a substantial but not overbearing amount of chunkiness.

Stegall’s friend and business partner, Robert Kim, says they hope to officially launch by next Saturday, in order to catch some Valentine’s Day business. However, the exact date for the opening is still in flux as last-minute details of the business get ironed out.

Inevitably, Kim was asked about the staying power of a primarily cupcake-based business. Kim says talk of the cupcake craze being a fad misses the point.

“I don’t think it’s a fad,” he said. “It’s a rediscovery of an American classic… an ideal treat.”

Look for more sweet treats to go on sale in the coming weeks, including pudding, cakes and pies. Bakeshop is also currently serving Wrecking Ball coffee, with espresso drinks in the works.

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