It was Samuel Beckett who said, “Try again. Fail again. Fail better.” So, it’s appropriate that my first post is on Samuel Beckett’s, an Irish gastro pub in the Shirlington village of Arlington, VA.

The restaurant welcomes its visitors with books and candleholders haphazardly strewn along bookshelves, black and white vintage photographs imported straight from Ireland, and quotes from Samuel Beckett, himself, scrawled along the warmly toned walls. With the warm welcome of the comfortable and subtly quirky atmosphere of Samuel Beckett’s, the experience of my meal here became one-part relaxing and one-part exciting.

As someone who has yet to travel to Europe, though, I wasn’t sure what to expect. I tried to search through the scarce  knowledge I have of Irish culture and cuisine. Potatoes? No, that’s Scotland. Fish ‘n’ chips? No, England. Hmm. All I could do was hark back to my days as an English major at Longwood University. Stuck on the question as to why Samuel Beckett was chosen as the title for the restaurant, scenes from Endgame flashed in my mind. People in trash cans. Death. The dreariness of postmodernism. No, that’s not right. Forget I said anything about Endgame. Let’s get back to the food.

Browsing through the menu, it appeals to the travel buff and the homesick European with entrees like shepherd’s pie and bacon ‘n’ cabbage. The more literary-minded will also be pleasantly surprised by the sporadic allusions to Irish writers, such as with Joyce’s Beef Burger. Sometimes, the titles simply harkened to Irish heritage, itself. Would you like to order “The Paddy Power”? Little, subtle, occasional jokes on the menu eased me into the comfortingly playful atmosphere.

For anyone with an aching itch to learn more about Samuel Beckett, the back of the menu includes paragraphs and paragraphs of biographical information on the writer as well as the history of how the restaurant, itself, came to be.

On the Samuel Beckett’s website, it says, “Our menu is a collaboration of items from old Ireland to modern Ireland. We are trying to present to you an example of what we loved to eat growing up in Ireland and what is now popular from some of our favorite haunts back home.”

Crispy, tangy, and a little spicy! Delicious!

My meal began with fried calamari. The lightly breaded squid legs were served with accompanying fried and sliced cherry peppers atop shredded iceburg lettuce. The subtle spice to the crispy calamari and cherry peppers had less heat and more of a satisfying kick. A roasted tomato sauce titled, “Sam’s Spicy Sauce,” was served in a small cup alongside the dish and allowed a tangy and citrusy sweet addition.

No amount of Photoshop will make this mush look as delicious as it tasted.
For my entrée, I ordered bangers ‘n’ mash. The sweet and savory gravy melted into the buttery mashed champ potatoes seasoned with tangy capers. The sausages, or “banger,” were so savory and really added the “bang” to this new comfort food favorite of mine.

In the end, the term, “authentic,” doesn’t sum up the experience as a dinner at Samuel Beckett’s. It’s quirky. It’s fun. It’s a cultural culinary experience without the plane ticket attached. The establishment respectfully shies away from the excessive “Kiss Me, I’m Irish” green and tacky exaggerations that become more caricature than culture. Samuel Becket’s is as Irish as Irish can be, plain and simple. The food speaks for itself. It doesn’t have to shove it down your throat.

Find Samuel Beckett’s on Facebook and Twitter.

About Michelle Goldchain

Michelle is a photojournalist who loves to live life by never sitting still. You can find her in art galleries in Dupont Circle, ethnic restaurants in Adams Morgan and comedy clubs in Arlington. In her spare time, when she's not typing away at a computer screen, she's probably listening to moody electronic music, watching cat videos or doodling.
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