Well, geographically it’s about 6,000 miles away, but authentic Irish cuisine, with a flair, can be had right on Main Street, Santa Monica, at that bastion of all things Irish, Finn McCool’s pub & restaurant.
The owners at McCool’s really have done a splendid job in recreating an authentic pub and restaurant that possesses an Irish ambience that is as convincing as one can find anywhere in California, that I am sure.
I popped into Finn’s recently and immediately had that green sensation. From the etched windows, the extensive wood paneling, a swathe of genuine (I asked my server) curios and imported staff to the ubiquitous pints of Guinness being consumed, there was no mistaking the genuineness of this place.
Just a few moments after I had seated myself at a large, sturdy dark wood table, my server, Brian, appeared and presented me with a warm Irish smile, a pleasant Irish lilt in his voice and a menu.
The fayre here is definitely Gaelic with just a few international staples (burgers, chicken sandwiches, Bombay chicken etc.) to cover all the bases, and includes a classic Irish beef stew (beef in Guinness stout with parsnips, carrots and rutabagas, $12.95), the traditional and obligatory corned beef and cabbage (lean corned beef, horseradish cream, cabbage and champ [an Irish mashed potato with scallions], $14.95) and an enticing-sounding dish called Salmon Finn McCool (poached or grilled salmon with champ, fries or side salad, and served with fresh vegetables and mustard dill sauce, $15.95).
I started my Irish tour with the Clifton Bay-style crab cakes (two crab cakes with lemon caper remoulade and field greens, $10.95), and was delighted to be served two rather large and crispy crab cakes, on a very generous bed of greens with a nice dollop of remoulade right in the middle.
The crab cakes were a delight, the greens super fresh and the lemon caper remoulade sweet and tangy, a good compliment to the crab cakes, used sparingly.
Even though this is an appetizer, it could easily make for an entrée for the “not so hungry.”
The menu, although not large, is complete, and I was intrigued with an array of dishes called “Boxty’s.” Described as “large Irish potato pancakes,” I decided that I simply had to try one, and from the choice of seven fillings I opted for the Curried Vegetable Boxty ($11.95).
Now, my research tells me that a Boxty originates from the counties of Leitrim and Cavan and is rarely seen outside of these areas, so a real Irish treat I was to have.
Upon arrival of the Boxty at my table, I immediately concurred with the word “large” in the description, although the word “massive” came to mind. This was a thin, potato pancake filled with a bounteous helping of mixed vegetables in a slightly spicy curry sauce. Although the mix included carrots, celery, onions and tomatoes, the dominance of the cabbage, spinach and peas gave it a certain green appearance that seemed highly apropos for an Irish restaurant.
This was an absolutely delicious dish. Crisp veggies in a mildly spicy curry sauce with a hint of coconut juice, and paired with their own baked soda bread (to live for!) made for an entirely fulfilling dinner.
As I mentioned, this was a rather large serving, and I only managed to get about half way through before being defeated, so I asked Brian to prepare it for me to take home, which he obligingly did and returned a few moments later with the food sealed in Styrofoam containers, so, I suppose you could say I had a Boxty go.
All in all, a great pub and restaurant with a warm and inviting atmosphere, and darn good Irish food.
I’m glad it’s close to home.
Finn McCool’s, 2700 Main Street, 310.452.1743