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Photograph by Stephen Laufer

How Green Is Their Valley

Santa Cruz corners the market on Irish exports with a new Rosie McCann's on San Jose's Santana Row

By Jessica Neuman Beck

Santa Cruz may turn up its nose at Silicon Valley businesses creeping into our precious real estate, but we're not above doing a little exporting of our own. Santana Row is about to get some Santa Cruz-style pub action, in the form of a new Rosie McCann's that will open its doors over the hill on June 1.

"It's a little more upscale," says Rosie's manager Mike Tosney, "but it's still an Irish pub, with that casual pub feel to it. Santana Row needed a more casual kind of dining place, someplace where you could kind of let your hair down."

Locals have long known that the Santa Cruz Rosie McCann's is all about letting your hair down, from the $3.50 well drinks at happy hour to the enormous sign proclaiming "Cead Mile Failte," which means "100,000 welcomes" in Gaelic. Thursday nights find the restaurant, located up a narrow flight of stairs, packed with revelers ready for a night on the town.

"For some reason, all the students like to go out on Thursday night," Tosney says, "and they all congregate here."

Since the restaurant opened in 1995, it's served a combination of hearty Irish pub food and beer.

"We offer only wild salmon on our menu," says Tosney, "and all of our steaks are certified Black Angus."

The menu, which includes pub favorites such as bangers and mash and shepherd's pie in addition to meat and pasta, has undergone some subtle changes in the last few months, as Rosie's has hired consultant Paul Salazar to ease the transition to the new restaurant.

"We hired an executive chef to help with the menu," says Tosney. "He's also helped us here in Santa Cruz to add some recipes and new sauces and stuff like that."

Tosney is quick to add that almost all the dishes have remained the same. After all, they must be doing something right. "We just improved our menu in a few areas," he says. "No drastic changes here."

The new restaurant promises more of the same, but don't expect a carbon copy of the Santa Cruz restaurant. Aside from the baffling question of how to bring in all those stairs, the Santana Row location needed to be a little more swank to fit in with restaurants like Left Bank Bistro and Amber India.

"The new location is wonderful. It looks like a Victorian Irish pub," says Mina Shamsaei, Rosie's owner since 1997. "I've traveled through Europe quite a lot, and I have seen hundreds of Irish pubs around the world. Most of the U.S. pubs are not very Victorian. They are more down to earth, not very sophisticated."

Shamsaei's vision was perfect for Santana Row. She brought in architect Mark Stevens from Architecture and Light to design the restaurant, and interior designer Eugene Anthony to decorate it. The new Rosie McCann's evokes the 19th century, complete with a custom bar.

Boutiques like Gucci and Salvatore Ferragamo may be a little more upscale than most San Jose shoppers are used to, but the dining scene is taking off like a shot.

"The restaurants and bars in Santana Row are really busy," says Tosney, who started at Rosie's as a doorman and worked his way up. Now he's splitting his time between the two locations while the new restaurant gets off the ground, but there's no doubt which side of the hill he calls home. "I've been spending so much time over there. I'll be managing in Santana Row," he says, hastening to add, "but I'll be living in Santa Cruz."

Rosie McCann's Irish Pub & Restaurant is located at 1220 Pacific Ave. in Santa Cruz. Restaurant hours are 11:30am-11pm daily (open at 9:30am on Saturday and Sunday for brunch); the bar closes at midnight Sunday through Wednesday and at 2am Thursday, Friday and Saturday. Reach them at 831.426.9930 or at www.rosiemccanns.com.

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From the May 12-19, 2004 issue of Metro Santa Cruz.

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