Discover Bethesda, Maryland...365 Days a Year!

Day 107: Union Jack's British Pub

Union Jacks Britsh Pub

I spent a couple of years as a single man back in 2000.  I decided to improve my image and so instead of buying a convertible I decided my teeth needed some work.  So I went to a popular orthodontist practice in the area (Dr. Caccaro on Bethesda Avenue) and he put me in braces for six months to straighten out my top teeth.  Long story short, I decided to go out one Friday night after the braces were installed and find some night life in Bethesda.  I asked a local bartender “where can you go and dance in Bethesda?” (having been out of the scene for a while).  He suggested The Shark Club.  The Shark Club is a now defunct nightclub in the current spot where the restaurant, sports bar, and night scene Union Jack’s is located at 4915 St. Elmo Avenue.  I ventured into the Shark Club and the techno beat was pumping, strobe lights blinding, and I felt pretty out-of-place in my late 30’s.  I found a spot near the bar and ordered a drink.  As I turned around I noticed two attractive, but very young girls, looking over my way.  Being the outgoing fellow I am, I smiled.  One problem.  I forgot that I looked like the evil metal-mouth character Jaws from the James Bond saga.  Upon seeing my metallic smile both girls looked at each other and began laughing uncontrollably.  This was not the ego boost a recently divorced man was looking for!  Needless to say I slipped back under the middle-aged rock I had crawled out from.  Fast forward almost a decade.  I’m out with friends and they suggest going dancing late one night at Union Jack’s.  I’d never heard of the place but a cold chill went up my spine when the car pulled up out front of the former Shark Club and we all piled out.  Boy was I relieved when we got inside.  I recognized most the music (until the rap words begin to drown out the song you used to know) and there were surprisingly some people my age in the place.  The braces were gone and I was ready to PAR-TAY.

12+ Beers on Tap

Union Jack’s bills itself as Bethesda’s British themed “mega-pub” occupying 7,500 square feet of subterranean space.  But this is not your father’s London pub my friend.  By day Union Jack’s used to be a sleepy food establishment but now has a renewed commitment to their menu and a new chef.  Now during the day you can find a wide assortment of traditional British fare including beer battered fish and chips and Bangers and Mash (Sausage and mashed potatoes).  Ever had a Welsh Rarebit?  Didn’t think so.  It’s “a classic British cheese and ale sauce served with diced tomatoes, chopped scallions, and rye toast. Served sizzling on a cast iron skillet.”  But there’s more American style cuisine in addition to the “Pub Grub.”  There are salads, burgers, oven fresh pizza, and even sirloin steak on the menu.

No pub could call itself a pub unless there’s beer.  Union Jack’s serves 12 beers on tap from England, Europe and the states.  They just added Fuller’s London Pride “known and loved for its distinctive, rounded flavour, London Pride is the award-winning PALE ALE for which Fuller’s is most famous. In recent years its popularity has grown to the extent that it is now Britain’s leading premium pale ale: a welcome fixture in many pubs around the country, and now winning new friends abroad. To the beer aficionado looking for the classic English pint, we say this: ‘Whatever you do, take Pride’.”  Union Jack’s is also a great place to catch a Washington Capitals playoff game.  They always have the games on their big screen T.V.s.  The next playoff game is Wednesday night so stop in for the Capitals drink specials (hint wear some red).

Play some pool!

But here’s the real reason I like to go to Union Jack’s.  I like to go to remember what it felt like to be in my 20’s (which most the patrons are).  I go to play some pool in the Billiards Room and dance.  They have about a half-dozen pool tables where you can rack ’em up and play a few.  Amy and I have come here a few times with friends on a weekend night, after our sophisticated Bethesda dining experience, relaxed and let our “hair down.”  We tip a few (sometimes a few too many) and then when the DJ kicks in, with a mix of Top-40, party rock and retro, we immerse ourselves in the sea of bodies that is the Union Jack’s dance floor.  We’ve had a great time bustin’ some moves and the young folk seem to accept us (especially when we know the intro words to their music before the rap kicks in!).  Late in the evening some classic Michael Jackson gets going and even some Frank Sinatra.  It’s a raucous good time really especially if you’re there with some fun friends.  Here’s a tip.  If you’ve had too much to drink here (which is easy to do) take a cab home.  The police circle the place at closing time like sharks at a chum club (get it –Shark Club).  So put on your dancing shoes, pack your pool cube, and head down to Union Jack’s for an evening of good food and fun. Ortho braces optional! ~ Brian

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