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Coming Up Rosie's

[whitespace] Mina Shamsaei
Dai Sugano

Darts and Smarts: Rosie McCann's owner, Mina Shamsaei, specializes in giving patrons a genuine pub experience.

Laden with pubaphernalia, Rosie McCann's offers multifaceted entertainment for sociable diners

By Douglas J. Kincaid

CEAD MILE FAILTE. Unpronounceably Gaelic, it means, simply, "100,000 Welcomes." Though 100,000 may be excessive, Rosie McCann's is a friendly local gathering place in the heart of downtown Santa Cruz. It features music, games, beers on tap and a limited but more than adequate pub menu.

When the 1989 earthquake took out shockingly large pieces of the Pacific Garden Mall, many of the old institutions went with it. Flattened was the old brick Cooper House with its Sunday jazz on the sidewalk. Gone too is the ancient Flatiron Building (c. 1850) with its Tea Cup restaurant. Although no one remembers the food up there, I do miss that snappy, one-of-a-kind wooden bar.

Amid the sitar players, puppeteers, professional dawdlers, tourists and locals, new institutions have sprung up to fill the vacuum on the Mall. Rosie McCann's is emerging as one of them. Located up a longish mine shaft of a flight of stairs, Rosie McCann's, since 1995, has been establishing itself as one of the stalwarts on the new Mall.

Rosie McCann's offers a "pub experience." Pubs serve a multifaceted social-gathering purpose back in the old country, and certainly this is true of Rosie's. Laden with pubaphernalia, this nouveau mead hall features several big-screen TVs; a pool table; a wall of semi-pro dartboard courts; neon beer icons; Bass, Harp and Guinness wall mirrors; the requisite 30-foot-plus bar with 29 spigots (two of them Guinness); and booths and tables that can be moved aside to create dancing space.

Fittingly, Rosie's is stuffed with goateed males in below-the-knee shorts and their bare-midriffed female counterparts, as well as a healthy mix of local Santa Cruz pub characters. This can be a lethal combination. Things can and do get going here at Rosie's, after the dinner hour.

Alcoholic discretion should be exercised here. Above the lengthy queue of beer spigots sits an impressive array of spirits, mostly from the British Isles. Jameson, Glenfiddich, Glenlivet and other Irish whiskeys and scotches fill out the shelf. The board downstairs warns of such ominously named concoctions as the Sliding Shamrock (Mudslide with green crème de menthe) and Irish Ice Tea (Long Island Iced Tea with Midori instead of Coke).

On our first visit, my companion was impressed with his Rosie Burger ($6.50). "Good meat temp," he gurgled enthusiastically, sloshing back his first 12:01pm Newcastle Brown Ale. Served with fries, the burger came coated with blarney cheese and mushrooms sautéed in Guinness. Encased in a fresh-tasting bun, it was a pub-fare hit.

I sampled the corned beef and cabbage sandwich ($6.50): clean, thin-sliced corned beef stacked nicely on a fresh francese roll, sprinkled with raw cabbage and served with tomato and red onion slices on the side. The fries, drenched with the vinaigre condiment, were quite delicious and begged for another beer.

On our second visit, we went with one menu favorite, shepherd's pie ($7.95), and one chalk-board special, blackened rib-eye steak ($12.95). How could anyone pass up a prototype pub selection like shepherd's pie? Ground top sirloin, simmered with onions, peas and Irish herbs, topped with mashed potatoes and Guinness gravy, it is the ultimate in comfort food.

The gravy, indigenous to Rosie McCann's, is also served with the pot roast ($8.95), the lamb stew ($8.95), the bangers and mash ($7.95) and the corned beef and cabbage ($8.95). The blackened rib-eye was quite tasty. My companion received an excellent piece of beef thoroughly dusted in lively spices which made the meat delicious but about as piquant as anyone would want it.

The entertainment is also a large part of the appeal of Rosie McCann's. Live music and DJs fill out the bill. Everything from pipers to Brazilian dance bands can be found most nights. From an overheard conversation at the bar, the fate of the bagpipers is yet to be decided, due to the complaints of some of Rosie's downstairs commercial neighbors. It's no wonder--my ancestors used the pipes in war to frighten the bejeezus out of the Brits.

Rosie McCann's is a meeting place in the true pub tradition. One can find all the beer, spirits, light pub fare, entertainment and good cheer one could want from such a place. We would not be doing the place justice by commenting only on the food; Rosie McCann's is much more than that. While diners receive decent food at fair prices, people come here to dance and hoot, play darts and shoot pool, as well as to eat. Only four years old, this pub already is an integral part of the still re-emerging downtown Santa Cruz.

Rosie McCann's Irish Pub & Restaurant
Address: 1220 Pacific Ave., Santa Cruz
Phone: 831/426-9930
Hours: 11:30am-11pm (lunch and dinner); 11:30am-noon (bar, Sunday-Thursday); 11:30am-2am (bar, Friday-Saturday)
Prices: Inexpensive
Ambiance: *** Cheery downtown gathering place for a beer, games, and entertainment
Cuisine: **1/2 Informal pub fare with reliable execution
Overall: A friendly spot in the heart of the city.

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From the September 1-8, 1999 issue of Metro Santa Cruz.

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