While drinking with my roommate Jonathan not long ago, our conversation turned to a topic I bring up often — food. Somehow, we got on the topic of foods that he misses from his time spent studying in England. “I wish I could find a proper chipper around here,” he lamented. “The crispy fried fish. The thick cut fries. The malt vinegar. The side of mushy peas. I want that.”
For a moment, I sat there staring at this skinny man who was in the midst of a taste back in time. Mushy peas? What the hell are the Brits into? Nonetheless, if the man craves a chipper, I would find him a chipper. After a bit of Google research I found a place called Eamonn’s: A Dublin Chipper… in Alexandria. Thankfully, IKEA was on the way. So, it was time for a daytrip in the name of Swedish furniture and English fish and chips.
Cody, Jonathan and I loaded into my SUV, got ourselves a fresh cup of coffee and hit the open road for our midweek excursion. For those who have not yet experienced IKEA, what are you waiting for? It is the best theme park/museum/adult make-believe experience you can ever have. It has the excitement of thrill rides, the unique displays of a nice museum and the “ohh, what if we did this” of imagination. Plus Swedish meatballs. Get going, my friends. If you want a great comedic take on IKEA, search out the bit by comedian Kyle Kinane titled “IKEA Breakdown”. It’s amazing.
Here are some generally helpful IKEA planning tips from a veteran. Knowing IKEA doesn’t open until 10am and it takes an hour and a half to get there, we planned to leave at 9:30. This helps you avoid almost all traffic which helps make for a smooth trip. Pack bungee cords and ratchet straps. You can buy straps at IKEA if need be, but be prepared ahead of time. You can’t, in faith or good conscious, tie precious IKEA boxes to your roof with their provided twine. Know how to work your straps before you arrive. Browse the website ahead of time for sizes of potential purchases. That way you can measure at home to make sure your purchases will fit. Bring a list and a tape measure. Finally, don’t go alone. IKEA is so much better when you can share the experience.
I won’t bore you with the play by play of our visit. Here are just some highlights. IKEA was rocking the pop hits radio. A fair amount of singing and dancing happened among the displays. Mostly by me, but that isn’t the point. We bought a sleeper sofa on impulse. The dog destroyed our last free couch because she doesn’t respect a good cushion. Time to replace and upgrade. Meatballs, four side orders of them, plus mac n’ cheese. Had to keep our strength up. Jonathan purchased only one thing… it was mind blowing. I didn’t know that happened in real life. They didn’t have a piece to our sofa, so that would get ordered online later. Finally, we had to strap boxes to the roof. Thankfully, I came prepared.
After spending a few hours in a Swedish paradise, it was time for a quick beer. We hit the highway and drove 20 minutes north to Forge Brew Works in Lorton. Make sure you GPS this one, folks. It is a bit off the beaten path in a converted warehouse. We got there at 3pm when they opened and were the first customers of the day. The space isn’t huge, but it was pleasant. There was an ample amount of tables and extra seats at the bar. The woman behind the bar was very amiable and knowledgeable. Jonathan and Cody committed to drafts while I went for a flight to try to cover as much beer as possible. The menu is constructed of mostly lagers and Belgian ales with a few other styles sprinkled in. My flight had the Slake IPA, Red Dead Ale, Ryes up & Stout and Threat Level: Midnight. Each was very good and a nice representative of its beer style. I especially loved the hoppyness of the Slake IPA. It was what I personally desire in an IPA and it scratched that itch. If you are in or near Lorton, take the time to find Forge Brew Works and get a beer. It’s worth the hunt.
After our beer, we jumped back into the car to FINALLY get this fried fish. Another quick 20 minutes up I-95 to Alexandria and we were there. Our destination was in Old Town Alexandria, a place none of us had ever been. We found parking in a paid lot on King St. with relative ease and didn’t fear leaving our IKEA box strapped to the roof. As we walked east on King, I was surprised with how bustling the street was. There were a ton of people out and about despite the chilly temperatures. I took it as a good sign for the area.
We walked a few blocks and suddenly there it was, Eamonn’s: A Dublin Chipper. Situated on the ground floor of a corner brick building, Eamonn’s has an old-school look to it. Its two giant windows give you wide views of the hubbub on both King St. and Columbus St., which never seems to cease. The front door has a wooden sign over it which gives it a classic pub-esque feel. Upon walking inside, you see how the brick exterior carries on indoors. Rustic wooden benches, wooden floors and simple wall artwork complete the Irish feel of the place.
The guy at the front counter was incredibly accommodating and helpful. I wasn’t shy in letting him know we had never been here and we were on a mission for food memories. He took the time to go over the whole menu with us, which isn’t big but I found it helpful. Once he was done, decision time had arrived. Jonathan and I went with 6 oz. portions of cod and chips. He added a side of mushy peas while I opted for coleslaw. Cody got the codwich and chips. All around good choices, according to the front counter guy.
Cody and I got our table while Jonathan finished up at the counter. Upon his joining us, he informed us that according to the counter guy, Eamonn’s was going to close in April and be converted to a ramen joint. I’m hoping that isn’t the case, but that was the news as of our visit on March 7th.
Our food didn’t take long to arrive from the kitchen. This isn’t surprising as it was 4:50pm and we were the only customers. Everything arrived piping hot with steam rising off of it. My portions of fish were generous, to say the least, while Cody’s portion dwarfed the bun. My order consisted of two thick pieces of cod, each with a crispy layer of breading. The fries (chips) were thick and numerous, spilling out of their bag. The coleslaw was a fair portion served in a plastic cup. Jonathan took a moment to explain the proper way to flavor your fish which is simply malt vinegar and salt. Then we dug in.
I split my fish in half so that I could try a piece flavored as taught and a piece au natural. I started with a bite of the unflavored fish. The batter around the fish was delicious. It was crispy and dry, which in this case is a good thing. I was worried it would be soaked in oil and thus taste as such. There was no hint of the cooking oil, just the natural flavor of the breading. It wasn’t a thick coating either. Instead, each bite was mostly warm fresh fish and an accent of breading. I, not being a fried fish guy, was struck by how good it was. I then tried a bite with the malt vinegar and salt. This added a tangy complex layer of flavor to the fish, but did cause the breading to lose some of its crispness. I enjoyed the bonus flavor of the vinegar to accept this trade-off. The fries had a nice snap to with each bite. You got plenty of potato flavor, but I recommend adding salt upon their arrival to the table. It just gives a bit more oomph to each bite. I can’t rave about the coleslaw as it didn’t knock me out of my seat. As far as coleslaw goes, it was fine. Fine doesn’t get you any fancy words here. I had a bite of Jonathan’s mushy peas… I think the folks across the pond can keep that dish.
Cody took her time attacking her sandwich. There was just no other way. It was so big that your first few bites were pure fried fish with no sandwich, which isn’t a bad problem to have. By the end of her meal, she seemed pretty well impressed with the whole shabang. Even I had a touch of sandwich envy.
I went into this meal knowing that I have never been a cheerleader of fried fish. It was something I have never really been on-board with, except fried catfish because it’s awesome. This meal took a significant chunk out of my distaste. Did it make me a true believer? No. Still, it set me on the path to being more receptive in the future. That, in my world, is incredibly high praise. I truly enjoyed this taste of Dublin in Northern Virginia. If I lived closer, I would make it a frequent stop. I was glad that I had been persuaded to give it a try. If you can get there before they potentially close in April, then do it! Find a reason to visit IKEA and end the trip with crisp fried fish and chips. Until next time, fearless reader, may your assembly instructions be all pictures and your cod be battered.