The lights go dark at Star & Shamrock

Regulars and staff come together for the closing of Star & Shamrock Sunday night.
Photo by Jared Foretek

Bagels will live on at 1341 H St. in the District. But on Sunday night, surrounded by friends and family, perhaps the only Jewish-Irish bar in the world met its not-so-quiet end.

Star & Shamrock, an H Street staple for almost a decade, opened its doors for the final time Feb. 17. Taking its place will be Bullfrog Bagels, which has shared the space with the bar since 2014.

“It was very painful, it’s bittersweet,” said co-owner Mark Menard.

The bar opened in 2010 as a cross between an Irish pub and a Jewish deli. The Guinness was on tap, the Jameson bountiful and the matzah ball soup piping hot. According to longtime patrons, it was an anchor of the neighborhood as the redevelopment of Northeast Washington continued apace. It was, they said, where the locals came.

“It has been our pleasure to play a part in the continued reimagining of this storied neighborhood,” the owners wrote in a statement. Menard declined to share specifics of the closing, and his co-owner, Jay Feldman, was unavailable for comment.

The mood Sunday was one of upbeat commiseration. Hip hop blared and alcohol flowed, as patrons shared memories of matzah ball eating contests, trivia nights and even a “five-second seder.”

Emily W. (preferring not to share her last name) said she’d been coming since 2012, after her old haunt, The Argonaut, shut down. She quickly came to like the bar’s informal setting and Reuben rolls.

“I got to know all the bartenders, which is the important thing,” she said.

For Emilia Lekeman, it was truly the place where everybody knew you’re name. She’d been coming since 2017, when she moved to the area, and fell in love soon after.

Favoring a vodka soda, she worried about not seeing the other regulars anymore.

“I’d never heard of a Jewish-Irisih bar, but the food’s incredible, the vibe’s awesome,” Lekeman said. “You see the same people, the same bartenders, and we just got to know everybody.”

When Bullfrog Bagels moved in, the bar put bagel sandwiches on the menu and devoted a corner of its floor space to production. For now, the outfit will take over the whole storefront, and the bar’s logo — a four-leaf clover inside a Jewish star — will come down.

Eli Shwarz was a regular when he lived in the neighborhood, but moved across town in 2016. He said he had to make it back for the closing.

“It’s the quintessential neighborhood spot. A bit divey, comfortable. Every neighborhood’s got to have at least one,” he said. “And I guess as a Jew, yeah, I felt a bit at home.”

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