Old Town Alexandria is an incredible blend of old and new. King Street and the blocks surrounding it seem to be a constant mix of places that have been in business so long they are truly landmarks and places that just opened.
Union Street Public House is one of those landmark institutions. A block off the Potomac, between King Street and Prince Street, this iconic brick front pub/restaurant is the quintessential “public house.” Greg and I stumbled upon USPH when we were looking for a venue for our wedding reception. It wasn’t on the list, but we stopped in for a cool drink while we were venue shopping and before we were done sipping our chilled beverages, we had asked for the manager to give us a tour and we’ve been going back ever since.
It has the perfect blend of casual and classic.
The Tap Room has booths, high tops and belly-up-to-the-bar stools with big screens showing several sports channels so you can angle yourself to see what interests you and never be too far from a refill. Bruce, the head bartender, has been with USPH for nearly 30 years! We’ve made USPH such a regular stop, that when Bruce sees us come in the door he has our drinks started before we even get to the bar.
The restaurant is upstairs and oozes 18th Century charm. The dark paneling, brick walls and wood floors give you the feeling you’ve stepped back in time into an old world public house.
It’s been two years since we found “our bar” just off King Street. While the drinks are a constant because of Bruce and our other favorite bartenders, Johnny and Wendy, the menu is ever-changing. Since we started frequenting USPH, the restaurant has changed chefs four times. That’s good news and bad. The menu changes with each chef (although certain standards never go away). Some chefs are better than others and the mediocre one only lasted about five months. In every case though, the food is at least good, solid fare.
We were back last week. Having been away for several months because of our busy schedules, we were surprised to find another new chef and another new menu. We dove in, sampling an intriguing-sounding tidbit off the Bar Menu – short rib nachos. Honestly, I can’t wait to go back now! The rib meat smothering the crunchy chips was melt-in-your-mouth perfect. It was topped with tomatoes, guacamole and, of course, slathered with a melted cheese blend. If desired the jalapeno slices offer a blast of heat (we pushed them to the side).
There’s a lot that’s new on the menu, but the “Wally’s” on the bar menu remain. A “Wally” is a raw oyster, topped with butter and bacon and quick-crisped under the broiler. I had never had an oyster until I tried these and I am now a regular consumer of these scrumptious delights.
We’ll be back soon. We like having a place where “everybody knows your name” with drinks and comfort food to match, but we’re also trying many of the old and new restaurants that dot the King Street landscape. Alexandria is such an amazing town. If you haven’t been, you really don’t know what you’re missing.