The Ould Sod: A fine place to let your impulse for global conquest evaporate.
“God invented whiskey to keep the Irish from ruling the world,” as Ed McMahon once said, but that hasn’t stopped them from exerting a considerable influence over Normal Heights nightlife. A Guinness-branded butcher board along Adams insists: “YOU’RE ‘DYING’ to try our NEW! BEER GARDEN & PATIO.” Finding no reason to object, you duck into Ould Sod’s doorway and find you’ve stumbled back in time and space to a classic Emerald Isle pub. Cozy, reeking of authenticity (or is that stale beer in the Naugahyde?), and giddy as a gadfly on inauguration day, the Sod welcomes you with 13 taps, including a house pale brewed by Red Hook, several Irish suds, and a two-step, 20-ounce pour of what is widely regarded to be the best Guinness in town.
3373 Adams Avenue, San Diego
But you’re here for a stiff drink, so you ask Warren, a longtime bartender with a sixth sense for an empty glass anywhere within about a quarter-mile, what he suggests. He slides you a glass of Redbreast 12 ($7.75), a single-pot still Irish whiskey that is smooth and full-bodied in the mouth and leaves a mild, lingering spice. You feel your impulse for global conquest evaporate as you scour the Sod’s selection of Irish and Scotch whiskeys (including top-tier picks Yellow Spot and Middleton), bourbons, and ryes. Intrigued by a neon sign reading “Elbo Club” over the entrance, you ask your barmate about the location’s history and discover that the bar is the third oldest licensed establishment in town. Debuting in 1940 as Ryan’s Bar and then the Elbo Club 1943, the locale re-opened as the Ould Sod on New Year’s Eve, 1989, by current proprietors Tommy Quinn, Ron Stout, and Mick Ward.
Nearly 30 years later, the slim restroom doors still read “Fir” and “Mná” (Gaelic for gentlemen and ladies) and a handful of musicians still gather every Tuesday evening at 7 on the small stage for an open jam of traditional Irish tunes played on banjos, fiddles, flutes, guitars, and the occasional concertina. On Mondays and Wednesdays your third drink goes for a dollar. Thursdays and Saturdays see some of the sloppiest karaoke in town starting at 9. Every Sunday, Irish pints (Guinness, Harp, Smithwick’s) are $4.50 all day. And the new beer garden you’re “dying” to try? It opened over the summer and nearly doubled the bar’s capacity, but the whole place is still standing-room only on weekends.
Prices: Pints, $5.50–$6; bottles, $3.75–$6; cocktails, $6–$7.50; shots, $5.55–$22; wine, $5.75–$10.75; add $.50 during entertainment
Hours: Monday–Friday, 2pm–2am; Saturday–Sunday, 10am–2am.
Happy: Monday–Friday, 2–7pm. Fireball shots, $3.50; All 16 oz drafts, $4.50.
Food: Bring your own from nearby Greek and seafood joints
Parking: Adams if you’re lucky, side streets on weekends
Capacity: About 70 inside, 55 on the patio.
The Deal: $4.50 Irish pints on Sunday