Rosie McCann’s Irish Pub wins high marks for hefty portions and inventive fare
If you’re Irish, come into the parlour, there’s a welcome there for you—or so the song goes. And there’s certainly a welcome there for you at Rosie McCann’s. The popular Irish pub in the heart of Santa Cruz even has a sign over the door as you enter—Cead Mile Failte—derived from Celtic and meaning “A Hundred Thousand Welcomes.”
Guinness has always been a favorite of mine, and, of course, there’s no shortage of it at Rosie’s. The pub’s range of beer covers every taste, including a “rotating tap” from a guest brewery.” Danna Meek, who runs the bar and has been at Rosie’s for 15 years, is there to help customers who may not know which ale or glass of wine to choose. Rosie’s has an extensive range of specialty drinks and Meek can certainly shake up a fabulous cocktail.
“She makes her drinks with love,” says restaurant manager Kim Shankland.
It’s good to go hungry to Rosie’s. Head chef Cervando Maya, a native of Mexico, serves up hefty portions, and his tasty food is mouthwateringly good. Maya, who first came on board when owner Mina Shamsaei took over the restaurant in 1996, says he wouldn’t dream of going anywhere else and his dedication to preparing the best food possible means he uses the freshest ingredients and organic produce. Maya also uses grass-fed beef, premium pork, free-range chicken, and he prepares sustainable seafood. He is extremely proud of his food, emphasizing that no processed foods are used and no trans-fats or preservatives. The Harp Lager-Battered Fish & Chips are excellent—made with moist and tender Alaskan cod and served with fries that taste of real potatoes because Rosie’s doesn’t use frozen ones. And the kitchen even goes to the trouble of making its own hamburger buns.
“I try hard to serve the kind of food that I would put on my own table,” says Shamsaei. Hailing from Iran, she laughingly says she has no Irish blood in her, but that she “has the spirit.”
Shamsaei says she and Maya cook at her house sometimes to work on new recipes, adding that they make a good team. “I challenge him,” she says, jokingly, “because I’m a good cook.”
Maya, an affable man with a ready smile, says that all the kitchen staff works really well together. “I like everybody to be happy,” he beams. “They do a better job.”
Maya helped Shamsaei open the sister Rosie McCann’s in San Jose in 2004 in the popular shopping mecca of Santana Row. But the Santa Cruz locale is where Maya regularly heads to make his “good whole-wheat bread” because he needs this restaurant’s larger kitchen space. And Rosie’s Warm Bread Pudding is made from this same delicious bread.
Shamsaei says that helping out in the community is important. “We help the Women’s Shelter and the Homeless Shelter – and Cervando cooks for 80 now and again and takes it to the homeless,” she says. “We try to give back.”
Rosie McCann’s is open for breakfast and brunch, lunch and dinner—and the bar and restaurant are nonstop busy. Small plates can be ordered at the bar, with dishes such as Irish Cheese Board, Crab Cakes, Lager-battered Onion Rings and Irish Nachos (now there’s an oxymoron!) being some of the most popular.
And when it comes to breakfast, Maya says that Rosie’s serves the best pancakes—made from scratch with buttermilk. Among the many choices, there’s also an Irishman’s Breakfast – three eggs, thick-cut bacon, sausage, pancakes and country potatoes or hash browns—for those with a very hearty appetite.
With St. Patrick’s Day just around the corner, maybe it’s time to get your Paddy on and try Rosie’s traditional Irish grub—Shepherd’s Pie, Lamb Stew, Bangers & Mash or Corned Beef & Cabbage. And have a Guinness for me. Cheers!
Rosie McCann’s Irish Pub, 1220 Pacific Ave., Santa Cruz, 426-9930. Rosiemccanns.com.