Most desserts involve Hershey's chocolate, cookies, candies, and ice cream in various combinations. The creamy New York cheesecake is the sole grown-up offering.

Prices here are easy to take, and most of what we ate was reasonably appetizing, even though it tasted as if it were manufactured in some stainless-steel food-factory, untouched by human hands. Not soul food but soul-less food, it's about as Irish as I am. "Is St. Pat's the only day of the year you have Irish dishes?" I asked our server. "Yes," she said, "but if you want real Irish food all year long, you should try Hooley's in Spring Valley [actually Rancho San Diego]. They do a great Saint Paddy's Day," she advised.

I didn't have time before deadline to get to Hooley's Irish Pub and Grill (2955 Jamacha Road, Suite 21, Rancho San Diego, 619-670-7468; Maybe next year. It's a sister-pub to the Field (listed below), and like its sib, Hooley's serves boxty (Irish stuffed potato pancake). That alone might make it worth a drive.

Here are some other pubs where I know firsthand that you'll find reasonably authentic Irish food along with genuine high spirits:

The Blarney Stone, 510 Fifth Avenue, Gaslamp Quarter, 619-233-8519. This dark and handsome establishment serves mainly American and gringo-Mex snack foods, including an "Irish quesadilla" (corned beef and cheese on a flour tortilla) -- but you can also get the standard corned beef and cabbage that defines America's culinary celebration of Saint Paddy's. Food prices inexpensive to low-moderate.

Dublin Square, 554 Fourth Avenue, Gaslamp Quarter, 619-239-5818. The entire pub was handcrafted in Waterford, Ireland. Its interior has authentically dim lighting and spirited Irish music, including live bands. The fare includes superb corned beef and cabbage -- it's that wee touch o' the garlic that does the trick. Other choices include Guinness beef stew, shepherd's pie (made with ground beef, not lamb), chicken pot pie, steaks, lamb chops, fish and chips, and grilled fish, plus standard pub grub and Irish breakfast at any hour. Moderate prices.

The Field, 544 Fifth Avenue, Gaslamp Quarter, 619-232-9840. This spirited, colorful saloon, physically transported whole-hog from the Old Sod, offers delicious live Irish music and serious forays into Irish cooking. Try the herb-rich Irish stew, or the boxty, potato crêpes rolled around your choice of fillings (salmon, beef, etc.). Or start the day here with a huge, carnivore-friendly Irish breakfast. Low to moderate prices.

McDini's, 105 East Eighth Street, National City, 619-474-6771. This 57-year-old bar offers a diverse, mellow family scene that includes all ages and all races chatting, playing pool, feeding the jukebox, or smoking under a roofed front "patio." The food is mainly industrial-grade pub grub (corned beef as bland as packaged ham). The vegetables and the vibes are good. No wheelchair bathroom. Inexpensive.

McP's Irish Pub and; Grill, 1107 Orange Avenue, Coronado, 619-435-5280. With a crowd ranging from Navy retirees to chic singles barely of drinking age, the patio at McP's is a perpetual party. The Irish fare includes a pleasing Mulligan stew served in a hollowed bread loaf, and scrumptious corned beef and cabbage, with tender, thick slices surrounding cabbage so young it ought to be carded. To start your celebration early (and with lots of ballast), try the huge Irish breakfast. Inexpensive to low-moderate food prices.

R. O'Sullivan's Irish Pub, 118 East Grand Avenue, Escondido, 760-737-0954. One year old this month, this is the younger sister to Carlsbad's Tom Giblin's (below), with a similar menu. Escondido was obviously thirsting for a pub like this: The room and front patio are always filled with a cheerful crowd. Inexpensive to low-moderate.

Tom Giblin's Irish Pub, 640 Grand Avenue (at Roosevelt Street), Suite A, Carlsbad Village, 760-729-7234. Occupying the whole of a handsome, sprawling, Elizabethan-style building, this friendly saloon offers above-average Irish pub food, especially the perfect, moist corned beef with firm-tender cabbage, house-baked brown bread, and rather doughy boxty (Irish "peasant" potato pancakes with a choice of fillings). Live music and a heated patio next to the parking lot are pluses. Inexpensive.


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