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Comfort Food

Being Irish in Loudoun

When Loudoun residents Susan Clark, Cindy Martin, Karen Stromberg and Pam Sullivan walk into O’Faolain’s Irish Pub in Sterling, they expect a few things.

They expect the hostess to know where they like to sit and the wait staff to know what they like to eat and drink. And they can always count on a personal greeting from the pub’s co-owner and general manager, Justin Holohan, and his brother, head chef Damien Holohan.

“Justin makes us comfortable and Damien is a great chef,” Clark said. “They make a point to come over and talk to us. They appreciate us here.”

The Holohan brothers are on a first-name basis with regulars and make a point to meet newcomers.

“They know what we drink, what we want, who we are,” Sullivan said. “It’s a neighborhood crowd.”

PUB OWNERS Justin Holohan and Patrick Whelan are both from County Laois, —pronounced “Leash” — Ireland, but they met in Washington, D.C., several years ago. After working in Irish pubs around the D.C.-metropolitan area for more than five years, the two men decided to open their own restaurant in the Sterling area. Justin Holohan invited his brother, Damien Holohan, to join the staff as head chef and manager.

Since the restaurant opened in June 2004, Whelan moved back to Ireland to live with his family. Justin Holohan and Damien Holohan live in the area and make a point to get to know the customers.

“We wanted to bring a family-style restaurant to Sterling,” Damien Holohan said. “We wanted to create a place where locals can come and meet one another.”

Stephen Jones and Kadie Summers frequent O’Faolain’s Irish Pub because of the friendly atmosphere. Moments after the couple arrived at O’Faolain’s Irish Pub Friday night, they were joined by their friends Sara Schweigett and Michael Krepinevich.

“We like the authenticity, the atmosphere and the friendly staff,” Summers said. “They take an interest in our day to day lives.”

ASIDE FROM the friendly atmosphere, O’Faolain’s Irish Pub offers traditional dishes including "Bangers and Mash," Irish pork sausages served with mashed potatoes and Irish gravy and "Guinness Casserole," sirloin beef marinated in Guinness beer.

“The portions are huge,” Clark said.

The pub also offers a Sunday brunch, from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. with a live Irish harpist. Traditional Irish bands play on Sunday evenings, from 6 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. The outdoor patio is now open with a full bar and menu.

For residents seeking not only authentic cuisine, but also the feel of Ireland, there is no need of a plane ticket, a trip to the Herndon-Loudoun County border is all that is needed.

TO JOHN GRACE, there’s no place like home.

Grace moved from Kilkenny, Ireland, to the United States six years ago. Now he is the general manager of Ned Devine’s Irish Village in Sterling.

“This is what you would see if you walked down the streets in Ireland,” Grace said.

Ned Devine’s Irish Village offers local residents an opportunity to leave Sterling and enter a traditional Irish town, for one night.

Ned Devine’s owner, Graham Davies, created an Irish village in the basement of the former Sterling Cinema Draft. The village is made up of six bars, each a replica of an original bar in Ireland.

WHEN STERLING residents Tim Moore and Janet Moore walked down the stairs of Ned Devine’s to join friends, they said it felt like they left Sterling and arrived in another land.

The party of five sat next to Irish landmarks, including Doyle’s Barber Shop and a seafood storefront.

“This is what you would see if you were in Ireland,” Grace said.

The Irish village has a lot to offer.

In addition to six bars, including a recently opened martini bar, Ned Devine’s offers a nonsmoking floor, a restaurant and two full menus, a dance floor and three large screens, ideal for watching the upcoming World Cup soccer games.

The open-air restaurant offers pub-style food and a seafood menu that changes daily. On Friday and Saturday nights, the restaurant transforms into a dance floor and a disc jockey plays popular hip-hop music. Village managers turn off the street lanterns and turn up the smoke machines.

“It creates a great affect,” Grace said.

In addition to hip-hop nights, Ned Devine’s hosts country night on Tuesdays and Wednesdays.

“Country nights are a huge success,” Grace said.

While Ned Devine’s offers something for everyone, Grace said there’s no place like it in the area.