For my second visit to Againn, a downtown gastropub now known for its contemporary spin on British and Irish fare, the backdrop was a little different.
I wasn’t with my parents, a pair of Irish restaurateurs who, on our February visit, digested the atmosphere and menu at Againn as part of some thinly veiled “competitor analysis” (they take any outing to an Irish or Irish-inspired restaurant as an opportunity to import fresh ideas to our Central Massachusetts business). This time around, I was with three friends interning downtown. Primed and ready for the summer’s inaugural happy hour, we got a not-so-subtle preview of the post-graduation life that the real world may bring.
Fears of the young professional life aside, when I arrived for day one at my New York Avenue office, I was happy to find Againn (pronounced “Ah-gwen” and translating to “with us” or “at us” in Gaelic) located just steps away. Naturally, when the four of us were brainstorming spots for our meet-up, Againn hit the top of the list. It didn’t hurt that they offered some reasonable deals for a high-class ambiance.
From 3 p.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Friday, Againn offers $5 select draft beers and $6 glasses of house wine. While my parents and I went for the full-blown dinner menu when we stopped in for a late supper, we cash-strapped rising seniors dove headfirst into the “pub grub” selections, which range from a Virginia Grass-fed Beef Burger with caramelized onion and farmstead cheddar ($15) to a Shepherd’s Pie with local Shenandoah lamb and scallion mash ($18). You’ll also find some Old World samplings, like a Scotch Egg — a hard-boiled egg wrapped in an Irish sausage, coated in bread crumbs and deep-fried. Againn serves up this sinfully delicious appetizer with curry mayonnaise ($6). Even for a bar menu, the prices are a bit much, but when you are yearning for guaranteed-local ingredients, Againn will satisfy. And don’t forget to try one of their desserts. Dive into the Banoffee Pie, Eton Mess or Sticky Toffee Pudding in particular.
Although its inspiration stems from cozy pubs across the pond, this spot just off of K Street doesn’t have a typical pub vibe. With rich ebony-colored wood used throughout, Againn’s stark-white metro tiles, metallic light fixtures and exposed wine storeroom add an urban edge. While we were wrapped up in conversation at a booth by the bar, a glance left revealed Againn’s floor-to-ceiling windows, which give onto a downtown cityscape laden with office buildings — not exactly a small-town scene, but a welcome collision of modern Americana and Old World charm.
That’s the appeal of Againn, a deliberately contemporary restaurant as it aims to bring cuisine typically scorned as bland to a discerning urban palate. If I wanted to go to a classic tavern, I’d look elsewhere. But when I go to Againn, I know I’m paying for something different — and that includes pub fare that is anything but bland.