On the corner of King and S.Washington St. in Alexandria, stands Eamonn's, the small fish and chips "joint" that brings bold flavor to a normally bland dish. If you're expecting something grandiose or luxurious because it's associated with the Armstrongs, just forget about it. As I was sitting there waiting for my food to come out, a guy walked in the door, looked around, and said "This is it?!" What were you expecting dude?
Eamonn's is anything but your fine dining establishment, but that doesn't mean that the food will leave you disappointed. I recently went there with Mike Bober, another one of the writers here at DCFoodies.com, and we basically ordered the entire menu (relax, it's not very big). Here's what our experience was like.
If you didn't get the point already, the dining room is very small (four tables in total and a bar with 3 seats) and the seating is first come, first sit. Don't sit at a table when you first come in, but go up to the cash register and order. The menu is on the chalkboard about the cash register, and to your left, you'll see the sole tap of Guinness ($5.25 for 16oz in a plastic cup).
The menu is simple with Chips, Fish, Sauces, "Other Stuff", Fried Sweets, and Booze, and everything is a la carte although you get one container of sauce per fish or "other stuff" you order. Chips come in small ($2.50) or large ($3.50) and aren't crispy and light like Belgian frites, or even your local fast food place. Quite the opposite, they're thick cut and greasy. I don't know if the point is to try to be authentic chips, I wouldn't know because I've never been to Britain, but I didn't care much for them.
The day that Mike and I were there, they had a grouper special so we ordered that instead of the regular cod. The grouper had a nice texture and flavor, not too fishy and was meaty enough to hold together when we dipped it in the sauces. We also has some of the Ray (or Stingray), which comes with the bones in it. The bones are more cartilage than hard bones, but you'd best pick them out before attempting to eat the fish. We found that the ray was rather difficult to eat. The breading on the fish could've been crispier in the end.
We also tried the fried battered "burgher", which is exactly what it sounds like. There are no cheese or bun options, but the burger is deep fried in batter and very well done. But that doesn't matter much because it's absolutely amazing and decadent, and I thought it was the best thing we ate there. The sauces are really what make the meal at Eamonn's. Our favorite was the spicy curry sauce, which wasn't too heavy or creamy at all. I was half expecting a curry mayonnaise, but this really not that thick. All of the sauces were pretty good, but our favorites were the Marie Rose (think McDonald's special sauce) and the Fronch (French).
To finish off our meal, I couldn't help but get the deep-fried Snickers. This was my first deep-fried Snickers and until I had one, I really didn't know what I was missing. They batter and deep-fry the Snickers, and then dust it with cinnamon sugar. It comes out hot and oozing, is nothing pretty to look at, and is messy to eat, but it's worth the trouble.
At about 7 PM, I noticed the person who was running the front reach up and up some of the prices about $0.25 and $0.50. It seems that if you get there before 7 PM, they give you a discount. Perhaps it's a happy hour special.
After the meal, we exiting Eamonn's and attempted to get into PX, which lies upstairs from The Chipper, but alas, we were rejected like the common scum that we are. Actually, they were fully booked so next time I'll think ahead and make a reservation. Instead, we walked down to the Restaurant Eve Bar and had a couple drinks there, which were probably just as good in the end.
As for Eamonn's, if I were a local to Alexandria, I'd probably be there quite often, especially given the other option of the Popeye's a few doors down. However, I don't think it warrants a special trip to Alexandria just for the fish and chips.
Eamonn's - A Dublin Chipper
728 King St
Alexandria, VA 22314
Dress Code: Casual, very casual
Parking: Street or Pay lot around the corner.
Smoking: Not Allowed.
Closest Metro: King Street
Reservations: Not taken
friendly rating: 2 diapers - no child seats or kids menu, but it's a casual environment so it's definitely a place you can bring small children.
Amy's Bathroom Rating - the provide all of the basic functions...
A pinch is the penalty for failing to wear green on Saint Patrick's Day, but if you're looking to put together an Irish cheese platter to celebrate the holiday in your home, you would be smarter to avoid the green cheese and look at more traditional hues. It turns out the most recognizable green cheese, Sage Derby, is actually an English creation - not at all appropriate for celebrating your Irish roots!
There is a wealth of Irish cheeses that are readily available in the Washington area, including a mildly salty blue, a range of traditional Irish cheddars, and a pair of unique cheeses streaked with a Guinness-like porter and Irish whiskey from the heart of County Limerick. Any (or, if you're like me, all) of these provide a great taste of the Emerald Isle's rich cheese-making tradition and a colorful approach to a Saint Patrick's Day cheese platter.
I started with a cheese that I've heard quite a bit about lately - Cashel blue cheese from Tipperary. Last month's Food & Wine magazine featured an article that followed local celebrity chef Cathal Armstrong home to County Donegal. This is Ireland's first farmstead blue cheese, made from cow's milk and first created in 1984. It has a smooth, creamy texture that is reminiscent of Roquefort, but it tends to hold its shape better at room temperature. The flavor of the cheese is at once mildly sweet and bracingly salty. As Cashel warms up, you can even start to detect a bit of a musty scent - but the scent is not at all overwhelming. Cashel works well as a component to a varied cheese plate: the saltiness can balance against sweet accompaniments like apples or grapes, and the creamy texture begs for crunchy counterparts like peppery crackers or unsalted nuts.
The second cheese in my Irish cheese platter was at once an easy choice and a difficult one. It just wouldn't be an Irish collection if I did not include a cheddar, so that was the easy part. The difficulty was choosing one -- many of the most readily available Irish cheeses are cheddars. Rather than just pick a run-of-the-mill cheddar, I decided to seek out a truly unique cheese to fill this role in my platter. I went with a readily available option that blends the dry bite of an aged cheddar with the nuttiness of hard cheeses like parmesan: Kerrygold Dubliner. Dubliner is aged for about a year, and during that time it can develop naturally occuring calcium crystals that give the normally smooth cheese a little bit of a granular texture. It is a firm cheese that crumbles and grates easily, but I tend to enjoy it in small chunks with a slice of apple or pear.
My third and fourth selections came as a package. I set out fully aware of the porter cheese made by the Cahills in County Limerick, so it seemed only appropriate that I should include it on my platter. This is the cheese that many shops refer to as "Guiness cheese" because the porter used is very similar in style and flavor to that most famous of Irish exports. What I didn't know until I arrived at Bower's Fancy Dairy Products in Eastern Market, however, is that the porter is not the Cahill's only alcohol-infused cheese...and their other offering is perhaps even more appealing to those who like to celebrate with a bit of Irish cheer.
Cahill's Whiskey Cheddar has a network of deeper yellow veins running throughout the cheese where the whiskey was allowed to seep into the cheese through naturally occurring 'faults' that run throughout the mold. I was taken by the sweet notes that the whiskey imparts to the cheddar, smoothing out its normally dry taste and giving it a mellow, caramel-like flavor. The porter, as seen in the picture to the right, has an equally veiny appearance where the beer was allowed to run its course. If you love the deep, rich, chocolatey notes of a great porter, you're in for a bit of a disappointment with this cheese. The beer's impact on the flavor is more subtle - though it definitely gives the cheese a depth of flavor and a heft that the whiskey cheddar did not possess. Both of these cheeses struck me as more novelties than go-to choices for the future, but I enjoyed the unique character they lent to the platter.
The four cheeses I selected are fairly representative of the Irish cheeses you're most likely to find in cheese shops throughout the area (and through online retailers like iGourmet). If you're looking for more of an artisanal approach, however, I would encourage you to pay a visit to Cowgirl Creamery. A phone call to the shop resulted in no fewer than three recommendations of farmstead cheeses brought in through their relationship with Neal's Yard Dairy in England, including Cashel blue; a washed-rind cheese called Durrus; and Coolea, a gouda-style cheese made by a Dutch family in Ireland. If you're looking for the cheeses I've featured on my platter, you can find them at a multitude of price points. Normally, you can expect to pay $19 or more per pound for the Cashel blue, $12-$15 per pound for Kerrygold's Dubliner, and $16-$18 per pound for the Cahill's offerings (the porter is less expensive than the whiskey cheddar).
Because of the upcoming holiday, however, the good folks at La Cheeserie in Calvert-Woodley are running a special sale on Irish cheeses. They announce their sales on Wednesdays through their advertisements in the Post's Food section and they generally run until the weekend. I was told by an employee that this week's sale would feature Cashel blue and Cahill's cheeses at $12.99 per pound and that Kerrygold cheese would be on sale for $7.99 per pound. Those are significant savings relative to standard prices, so if you've been tempted by any of my descriptions above, I would encourage you to pay a visit to La Cheeserie and try them for yourself.