The Irish spirit expresses itself to me joyously in literature, music, and dance. I feel “Irish” when I read Finnegan’s Wake by James Joyce, or listen to U2 or watch Michael Flatley’s Riverdance. There is, indeed, something different about “being Irish” that connotes fun and excitement.
This spirit is nurtured and amplified at one of San Diego’s newest pub restaurants, Dublin Square. Developed by Sam Ladki, with the consultation and assistance of the Guinness IPC (Irish Pub Concepts) team, Dublin Square recreates an authentic pub in the heart of the Gaslamp.
Sam Ladki, who is now an “honorary Irish citizen” complete with a “key to the city” of Kilkenny, conceived the concept while skiing at Whistler, British Columbia. After a day on the slopes, he and his friends would recuperate at the local pub, which was filled with happy customers. He realized that the concept would work well in San Diego and organized the venture. With the help of general manager Andrew Noone, who has opened 28 such pubs all over the world, Dublin Square has become one of the key attractions of Fourth Avenue.
Andrew Noone defines the pub as a “city pub, full of light and female friendly.” The doors to the outside patios swing open to let daylight penetrate deep into the interior of the premises. Passersby can see immediately the fun that is going on inside.
Everything in the pub is authentic. The furniture, moldings, panels and artifacts were all crafted in Ireland and reassembled here. The Horse Shoe Bar is a replica of Tynan’s Bridge House Bar, a well-known locale in Kilkenny. The lounge is a recreation of the Shelbourne Lounge in Dublin. The fireplace is over 500 years old.
Dublin Square offers nine beers on draft, five of them imported. Guinness Beer is featured. The beer is a dark, rich color with a gold color head that is full of the flavor of the malts. The brewery was found over 250 years ago and has become one of the most widely recognized beers in the world by creating an excellent array of products and through clever marketing and branding.
The food recipes are authentically Irish, prepared by Chef Charlene Kenny, who was brought overseas to run the kitchen. Potato Leek Soup ($3.50 per bowl) brings good warmth on a chilly day. Smoked Salmon ($9.95), served with toast tips and capers was thick and very tasty. The fish is “cold smoked” to give it a distinctive flavor. A traditional pub favorite, Irish Cheddar and Bacon Potato Skins ($6.95) was loaded with cheese. The restaurant will soon feature a new broad selection of bar appetizers. Tradition Irish soda breads have a sweet taste that goes well with lots of butter and brew.
One of Dublin Square’s signature dishes is Fish & Chips ($9.95). The fish is battered with a mixture blended with Harp beer and served with Killarney sauce. The recipe for the sauce is a closely guarded secret. It does add a lot to the taste of the dish. The chips were round cut rather than cut along the length, creating more surface area to absorb the malt and other flavors. The portions are large and the presentation was excellent.
Corned Beef and Cabbage ($8.95), another traditional favorite, was cooked in Guinness. It also included boiled potatoes. Again, the portion was large and tasty. Other entrees include Shepherd’s Pie ($8.50), ground sirloin topped with mashed potato and baked, and Traditional Irish Stew ($8.95), with large chunks of lamb in a broth. It was excellent. Irish Breakfast ($8.50) is served all day, offering eggs, sausage, bacon, soda bread and black pudding and white pudding. Be sure to ask your server how the puddings are made. Chef Kenny’s original training was in making desserts. Her Bread Pudding ($5.50) and Apple Crumble ($5.50) are really worth trying.
Dublin Square offers live entertainment on most evenings including Irish dancers and bagpipers. Be sure to call for the schedule. On Sunday afternoons, the entertainment is family oriented and children are encouraged to participate.
What makes a pub restaurant like Dublin Square different from a regular restaurant? “It is the atmosphere we create,” Mr. Ladki explained. “We offer good dining in a relaxed casual atmosphere where everyone can mix together and have a lot of fun!” The ambiance, brews and food at Dublin Square carry it off. Prices are inexpensive to moderate. Reservations are suggested at 619-239-5818. The restaurant is located at 554 Fourth Avenue in the Gaslamp.
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