It's nearly time to dust off the kilt, dig out the green garb, and think about visiting your favorite Irish establishment. For many McLean residents, one popular St. Patrick's Day destination is McKeever's Pub.
McKeever's, located in the Balducci's shopping center has been serving local diners and Irish revelers for 28 years. And this year is no different.
McKeever's will have its special menu on St. Patrick's Day, featuring Irish food, such as Corned Beef Cabbage, Shepherd's Pie, Irish Beef Stew, Irish Chicken Pie, and of course, its famous Blarney Burger. Owner, Lori McKeever, is anticipating a fairly large crowd, as always, and was happy to get special permission to open an additional outdoor space to its customers for this year's St. Patrick's Day celebration.
McKeever's is open year-round, of course, and prides itself on being a family business. Lori, her husband, Jeff Judge, and daughter, Shelby are all Irish, and they all work at the restaurant.
Lori's six-year old grandson comes in periodically. He loves to cut up vegetables. "He's going to be our little chef," she said. And she was quick to point out that it is not just a bar. "That's one of our biggest problems here," she said. "People think that we're a bar, and we're not at all."
The restaurant is child-friendly. It has been a nonsmoking establishment for six years, and has a diverse menu, including a children's menu.
"We're so food oriented," she said. "It's definitely chef-driven, and it's good food. Everything is homemade." It's the homemade cooking that sets them apart from the big chain restaurants.
"We have the best steak here. It's delicious. And I love the steak salad. The burgers are great. People love the salmon here," she said. "It's not just pub food." Lori's husband Jeff says their biggest seller is the Blue Cheese Burger. It's a hand-formed burger with fresh blue cheese tucked inside.
Lori bought the business 28 years ago when it was George's Public House. A Falls Church native, she started waiting tables there in 1976, a year out of high school, while taking classes.
In 1983, the owner put it on the market. Lori was a 27-year old waitress and manager at the time, and asked if she could buy it. "George just laughed at me," she said. "But eventually after a lot of talk and a lot of negotiation, I bought it." In the end, the owner actually helped her finance it.
"It was pretty overwhelming and exciting," she said. "I'll never forget this. The day it was officially mine was a Monday. There wasn't a penny in the checkbook, and I'm writing checks to people for deliveries," she laughed. "Luckily we made enough money that night to deposit and cover it," she said.
Meggie Lofton grew up in McLean, and though she now lives in Florida, McKeever's is where she reunites with friends whenever she comes to town to visit family. "The food is delicious," she said. "And it's well-priced. Every time I come here we have a great time."
Sandra Papandrea, who works at the Century 21 office nearby, visited McKeever's recently with coworkers. "It's your classic Irish pub," she said. "The food was good. We had shrimp and nachos. You know, the classic happy hour food, and it was a good time. And the waitress was very good too."
Though this economy has been tough on small businesses, Lori and her husband Jeff Judge, said they are optimistic about business picking up. "It's always good around the holidays," Lori said. "They pick up in November, and then they drop off after the holidays. But so far this year, it's been good. So I'm happy. It looks like a good trend," she said.
McKeever's has a regular customer base, and Lori says she has known some of her customers for thirty years. "Some people I've seen meet in here, get married, have kids."
She also says there are politicians and "people you would know from the news. But we keep quiet about those things. I think they come in here because they can kind of remain anonymous."
Lori says restaurant business is hard work. But she and her family and staff enjoy it. "The people that work here and come in here I feel are my friends. Every day I'm just opening my house to my friends. It's fun."