Location: H St NE
Rating: 4 out of 5
Summary: Hundreds of years of Irish and Jewish culture collaborate together to create one of the best places in DC to both cause and cure a hangover
It is important to start by saying we never intended to review Star and Shamrock Tavern & Deli. After the advice of a friend and a haunting hunger for corn beef, we made our way to the H St NE bar. We have been firm believers that when going into a restaurant or bar, you have to set your expectations accordingly. Don’t expect $50 steak when you walk into a deli. Don’t expect the half price happy hour food at the local bar to impress. We went to Star and Shamrock looking for a reuben and a pint. What we were reminded of is that good food is good food and can come from anywhere, even in an unusual form.
Our first choice was the Fried mac and cheese, macaroni and cheese frozen, matzo breaded and fried. Accompanied by a Tabasco-ranch dipping sauce, it had to be some of the better fried food we’ve experienced. The transformation from frozen to creamy was remarkably well done and made us think about expanding our own food preparation styles. Not to be outdone, our second fried selection of Rueben egg rolls also bent the rules of physics by not tasting like a greased abomination. Sauerkraut and corn beef wrapped in a rice wrapper and fried, we had seen examples of this kind of appetizer before, but never done well. The corn beef and sauerkraut still held their form and integrity without any greasy aftertaste. Star and Shamrock boasts to make these by hand daily and we can’t find a reason to doubt it. Our final starter was the Kosher kornies, Hebrew National cocktail franks wrapped in dough and fried. Accompanied with one of their homemade potato latkes (this became a theme during our meal), these were like any typical croissant wrapped franks, but that wasn’t necessarily a bad thing.
Once we looked at the menu (there were sandwiches and specialty sandwiches), there was little effort in deciding things that we wanted to order. Our first sandwich was the namesake of the restaurant, The Star and Shamrock, hot pastrami, corned beef, and chopped chicken liver stacked together with one of their homemade potato latkes, swiss cheese, russian dressing, and finally two pieces of rye bread to hold this monster together. Easily one of the better sandwiches we’ve had, the different meats worked harmoniously together and brought out a combination of flavors that paired surprisingly well with the latke’s crispy texture. The flavor of the swiss was largely lost with the rest of the filling, but was invaluable in cementing the many ingredients together in the sandwich. The rye bread did its best to keep the Star and Shamrock from busting at the seams, although it was a nearly impossible task. While we would almost never think of going to a pub to cure a hangover, this sandwich gave enough reason for us to come back for that very senario.
Yet, even The Star and Shamrock couldn’t compare to the behemoth that was our second sandwich. The Latke Madness was a combination of three potato pancakes, a generous amount of hot corned beef, griddled sauerkraut, swiss cheese, and russian dressing. Instead of bread, this sandwich relied on latkes and a few deadly sins to produce one of the more exceptional combinations of meat and potatoes we’ve eaten. Like the previous sandwich, the corn beef was savory, the sauerkraut was crisp, and the latkes were house made.This was the kind of sandwich that tasted so good that we knew it was terrible for our bodies. While we would be hard pressed to order this again, it is only because you can eat something this only once in a blue moon. If you have the appetite and enough confidence in your own self worth, we recommend you mark this sandwich on your list of things to eat or at least share.
The histories of the Irish people and those of the Jewish religion are full of strife and hardship. It would be poetic to say that Star and Shamrock somehow managed to rise above those historic pains and the differences between the two cultures to create something for the whole of DC to enjoy. As it turns out, the restaurant was simply the creation of a guy from Jersey who married an Irish girl and wanted a method to feed his own culinary desires. When you walk into this pub, keep in mind that Star and Shamrock bills itself as a “tavern and deli” and you won’t be disappointed. With a great beer selection, live music, and many weekly specials, Star and Shamrock is a great choice whether you need a craving for corn beef, need a quality pint, or just have a haunting hangover.