Suds and Spuds

dining_rosieFrom Irish specialties to burgers, organic salads, and house-made desserts, at Rosie McCann’s every day is St. Patrick’s Day

Rosie McCann’s has been a downtown fixture for a decade and a half, balancing the fine line between restaurant and disco. At each of my three recent visits the wait staff made me feel welcome and cared for, and I found comfort in the food of my ancestors.

For lunch Rosie’s offers Irish Classics ($8 to $13), entrées ($13 to $15), burgers ($6.95), salads and house-made soups ($4 to $7).

They pour an extensive list of micro-brewed draft beers ($5), so I enjoyed a nicely priced pint of Anchor Steam’s 2010 Christmas Ale ($3 during happy hour). It’s Anchor Steam’s 36th unique seasonal brew and was as dark and spiced as I had hoped.

The rotund Surf City Burger was topped with an evenly melted slice of jack cheese and a generous scoop of guacamole. The crisp fries were soft inside and served with a wonderful tart, herbal ranch dressing.

An oval boat of Shepherd’s Pie ($9) was covered with lightly browned cheesy mashed potatoes topped with green onions and slivered tomatoes. Underneath, in a rich, dark stock, was ground natural beef with carrots and plump green peas. It was served with a large side of organic greens salad.

At dinner some prices kick up a couple of dollars, and appetizers are available which range from Garlic Fries ($5) to Bacon-wrapped Prawns ($14) stuffed with Parmesan. From our window seat we had a bird’s eye view of strollers on Pacific Avenue and the sunset through a cloud-streaked sky over the roofs of downtown.

The huge bowl of Lamb Stew ($15) held chunks of flaky, lean lamb in a rich, brown stock with leeks, peas and carrots and a pile of mashed potatoes that hinted of garlic with Guinness gravy. It was more than one man could eat.

I opted for the platter of Grilled Skirt Steak and Fettuccini ($20). Mildly flavored Gorgonzola cream sauce, not overly applied, clung to ribbons of fresh noodles. Vivid sautéed spinach brought back favorite childhood meals. The dark, juicy, grill-marked steak was sliced to reveal tender, medium-rare middles. Served with triangles of garlicky toasted ciabatta, half of this dish went home as well.

It’s hard to avoid house-made desserts ($5). The texture of Bailey’s Chocolate Cheesecake was the perfect fusion of dense and fluffy in a moist homogenous crust. It was not too sweet, with the grown-up flavor of tart cream cheese overwhelming the delicate Bailey’s. Served with whipped cream and thin apple slices, it was drizzled with chocolate sauce.

I enjoyed the Chocolate Mousse so much more. Sweet-tart apple slices arose from the cloud of whipped cream like sails. Underneath was a traditional cocoa-colored mousse. It was thick yet airy and smooth on the tongue, bittersweet, and lusciously rich.

Rosie’s is also known for its nightlife. Pint Night Thursdays each feature a brewery with specially priced beers. DJs hit the stage on Fridays and Saturdays when the kitchen closes at 10 p.m., and live music will soon be heard on Thursdays.

Rosie McCann’s Irish Pub and Restaurant, 1220 Pacific Ave., Santa Cruz, 426-9930. Full Bar. Serving lunch Monday through Friday 11:30 a.m. to 4 p.m., and dinner 4 p.m. to 10 p.m. On Saturday and Sunday enjoy brunch 9:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. and dinner 2 p.m. to 10 p.m. Visit rosiemccanns.com.

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