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Community Meets at Old Brogue

Katie’s Coffee House, Cars and Coffee, traditional Irish fare are signatures of local restaurant.

From left, Greg and Ken Fulmer examine a viper on display at Cars and Coffee.

From left, Greg and Ken Fulmer examine a viper on display at Cars and Coffee. Photo by Alex McVeigh.

— On most Saturday mornings, Matt Borland of Falls Church is up before sunrise, washing and waxing his red and white 1965 Mustang. Though Saturday is only one of two mornings during the week Borland doesn’t have to be in Washington, D.C. by 8 a.m., he doesn’t mind getting up early, he has a purpose.

"During the summer I try and drive the Mustang during the week, not into the city, but back and forth on errands. So by the end of the week, it’s getting a little dusty," he said. "And Saturday mornings are really the day it needs to look its best."

Borland’s car needs to look his best Saturday mornings because it will be on display among dozens of cars, many of which have been as painstakingly restored as his.

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Guests dine at The Old Brogue, a community fixture in Great Falls since 1981.

"Saturday mornings, after the car is clean, I head into Great Falls to the Old Brogue for Cars and Coffee, which is one of my favorite local traditions," he said. "As a car nut, it’s really paradise, because people come up asking me questions about what I’ve done, and I can wander freely to ask questions about what other people have done with theirs."

CARS AND COFFEE has been a weekly tradition at the Old Brogue, where local (and sometimes not so local) people come to get a cup of coffee, open their hoods and exchange information, stories and chat casually.

"I drive from Montclair, New Jersey to Naples, Florida twice a year, in February and August, to visit my brother and his family. It’s a 22-hour drive, and over the years I’ve cut down on as many stops as possible, so I only make one, right here in Virginia," said Martin Diego of Montclair, who drives a 2004 Nissan 350Z. "I found out about Cars and Coffee on one of my 350Z discussion boards, and after my first stop, I was hooked. Every single time I’m here I see a car I’ve never seen in real life before, and I speak to someone that knows more about cars than I ever could."

While Cars and Coffee is an informal event, its regularity makes it a popular draw from auto-enthusiast groups to casual car fans. It begins around 7 a.m. and by 9 p.m. the last cars are making their way out of the Great Falls Village Centre.

Until 2 p.m. on weekends and 3 p.m. on weekdays, the Old Brogue exists to most customers as Katie’s Coffee House. Open in the restaurant section, it serves coffee, tea, snacks and light breakfast and lunch items.

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From left, Steve Krop and Tim Burke, staff members at the Old Brogue in Great Falls, oversee the restaurant’s St. Patrick’s Day celebration.

"I’ve never been much of a coffee shop kind of person, not Starbucks or Dunkin’ Donuts, but I’ve also been coming to the Old Brogue since I moved here in 2005," said Debbie Smith. "So when Katie’s opened up, I thought I’d give it a try, and sooner or later I was telling people to meet me there, and now I’m a two or three times a week customer."

Smith said the coffee isn’t what keeps her coming back, but rather the sense of community that comes with knowing Katie’s is the local coffee shop.

"It’s a local business, and it’s hard to show up and not find somebody you know," she said. "It’s also nice to see the Brogue during the daylight, the patio is beautiful and the inside is very homey, with the wood, fireplace and the Irish art."

AFTER KATIE’S CLOSES, The Old Brogue reverts to the identity it has held since opening on St. Patrick’s Day 1981, a classic Irish Pub. Owner Mike Kearney’s family has been in the Irish hospitality business since 1930, when his grandfather purchased a hotel in Derry, Ireland.

They serve a variety of traditional Irish fare, and many longtime customers have come to find their favorite dishes.

"The beef and Guinness pie is my absolute top choice at the Brogue, it’s absolutely the best I’ve ever had," said Sidney Dannon of Reston. "The shepherd’s pie is also great, I find myself torn between the two whenever I eat here. That’s probably the only downside to coming here."