It’s actually possible to do an Irish pub crawl in San Diego; here’s how
I have always loved the warmth and familiarity of drinking in an Irish pub. Though I happily call San Diego home these days, I’m originally from New York, where good pubs reminiscent of the Emerald Isle are truly a dime a dozen. I’ve also traveled to Ireland for … let’s call it research on said pubs. All of which is to say: I feel like I’m a pretty good judge of the genre. I’m happy to report that despite being 5,197 miles away from Ireland, San Diego is positively spoiled with Irish pubs.
Because I care about my readers as much as I do, I decided to tackle eight bars on one night to see if it was possible to craft an informal Irish pub crawl. The verdict? It is, though it is admittedly a feat of physical endurance. Whether embarking on one’s own crawl or just picking one place to party, here are eight Irish pubs to visit just in time for St. Patrick’s Day. Sláinte!
Because any good pub crawl needs to include food (for safety reasons more than anything else), my first stop was The Field, which is right smack dab in the middle of the Gaslamp Quarter. I like The Field for one specific reason: Rather than decorate with Irish-inspired décor, the family (which also owns Half Door Brewing Co.) actually brought artifacts from its ancestral town to decorate the cavernous bar. This is the pub where you want to eat. The Shepherd’s Pie is the best in town, and the Whiskey Chicken Boxty with Jameson cream sauce, Irish cheddar and mushrooms is exactly the gut-busting base one will need to start an Irish pub crawl.
A few storefronts down from The Field, also on Fifth Avenue, is the Blarney Stone. Admittedly, this is kind of a strange bar — one that, on the surface, seems to exist for grizzled, hard-core drinkers only. But St. Patrick’s Day is a day for imbibing, and true to form, the Blarney Stone seems to know its role. Order the Irish Trash Can, which is a terrifying but potent mix of gin, vodka, rum and Red Bull that interestingly does not include any Irish ingredients. “Oh, there’s Blue Curaçao, too,” the bartender told me. “You know, to make it blue.” Drink up! (619-233-8519)
Formerly known as Dublin Square, The Dubliner has a lively regular crowd, frequent live Irish music, good pub grub and Kilkenny red ale on nitro, which, as far as I can tell, is the only place in San Diego to serve such a delightful beer in that manner. One of my favorite Irish pub fun facts is that there exists a company, called O’Sullivan Interiors, based in Ireland that essentially builds pub interiors from scratch and ships them to would-be Irish pubs all over the world. The Dubliner is one such pub — it was designed to be an exact replica of 300-year-old Tynan’s Pub in Kilkenny, Ireland. It’s hard to get more authentic than that.
Patrick’s Gaslamp Pub
Known mainly for its live music roster, which includes a lot of jazz and blues and is offered every night of the week, Patrick’s Gaslamp Pub is also one of the smaller and cozier bars in the neighborhood. The bar, which sits on the ground floor of the historic Keating Building, is one of the oldest in the Gaslamp. It opened in 1933, just after Prohibition lifted, and became the first place in the neighborhood that offered live music. More Irish in theme than anything else, this is the spot to drink and boogie down.
Stout Public House
Another favorite of mine, Stout Public House, which serves as off-duty headquarters for musicians playing at the many nearby music venues, is the real deal. While, owing to the giant Irish flag sitting on top of the door, it’s clear this is an Irish pub, the Irish owners don’t beat patrons over the head with it. Instead, it’s an implied vibe, one that seems to say, “Get cozy. You will be comfortable here.” Stout also serves the best pint of Guinness in town, with a bubble-less, thin head after being rested for the proper amount of time.
Half Door Brewing Co.
Easily one of the most underrated breweries in San Diego (which is saying something), Half Door Brewing Co. is owned by an Irish family and sits in a gorgeous, historic Victorian home in the East Village. In addition to serving the finest Irish stout in town, the Coleman Stout, there is also a full food menu boasting updated pub classics, including the ever-elusive but should-be-required-for-heavy-drinking Scotch egg. Pro tip: Take a look at the old black and white photographs adorning the walls. Those aren’t history porn — they are actually photos of the family that owns, operates and brews all the beer for Half Door.
One of San Diego’s most beloved bars, Normal Heights’ Ould Sod is heavy on craic — Irish slang that essentially means a rip-roaring good time. This is where one comes to get plastered. The bar originally opened in 1940 as Ryan’s Bar, then changed to the Elbo Club in 1943. Since 1989, when it was bought by three friends, it has been lovingly known as Ould Sod. The bar runs straight back, railroad-style, and is flanked by a few cozy booths. A small stage up front regularly hosts live Irish music, and the back patio is the perfect place to take a breather.
Across the street from Ould Sod, also on Adams Avenue, is Rosie O’Gradys, which was a beloved neighborhood Irish pub until it was bought by the Social Syndicate restaurant group in 2019. Admittedly, a lot of the charm has been erased. The pub is in the middle of a renovation, so it remains to be seen how that bears out, but thankfully its iconic neon sign, adorned with a shamrock, still burns bright. With friendly staff and a big bar, this is a good place to plunk down at the end of the night.