Is it healthy? Hey, there’s greenery in there. Besides, as the Irish say, “A little of what you fancy does you good!”
1125 Sixth Avenue, San Diego
Why do I always get these cool vibes here? I mean, it’s an area that can be a little scrubby, around 6th and B downtown. Lots of people hanging around the 5th Avenue trolley, specially since places like House of Blues and the San Diego Symphony’s headquarters at Copley Symphony Hall have closed down. Right now, they are dead as dodos. Covid has sapped the life out of this neighborhood.
Then, oh yeah. I remember the place I was trying to think of: Stout Public House. An Irishman and a Canadian ran it. Wonder if they’re still open? Ah, and there it is. Maroon tile frontage, maroon canopy, small patio.
But cool vibes? Way cool. I always think of those crazy nights at Stanley Cup time, when the entire hockey world gravitates to this little joint to watch the Kings of Cool zinging around, whacking pucks and each other with their sticks. Mark Prendergast (the Irishman) and Dave Toth (the Canadian) ran what a lot of the faithful say is San Diego’s nearest thing to an ice hockey fan’s heaven. Also, a genuine Irish pub. And they’re open!
Their proudest claim is that they pour a Guinness like a Guinness needs to be poured. Two-part pour. Patience.
Their other proudest claim is that they also serve a beer that’s older than Guinness: Smithwick’s Irish Ale. “John Smithwick brewed it first in 1710,” says Mark. “Guinness bought them out in 1965, but Smithwick’s Ale is still more popular in Ireland than Guinness.”
My skins. That’s Shepherd’s pie, minus the pie, on top.
I look for somewhere to sit. I can see they’re hurting here. With outside-only eating and drinking, they’ve got just a two-table frontage, plus a couple more tables beside their little deck. Right now, there are four people eating and drinking. Even so, and I remember this tradition here among the folks who’d choose to sit outside; they’re a talkative bunch, arguing between jokes, yakking between tables. Still, with that whole two-level inside area out of action, it must be slim pickings for the owners.It’s a pity for the customer, too, because the crowd —hockey fans from all over the world — gave the place a real international flavor. I’ve seen Russians, Canadians, Finns, Icelanders, Norwegians, Koreans, guys and gals from any of those colder countries where hockey is a religion, crammed in, glugging, arguing, cheering. More revival meeting than rivalry.
So first decision right now is for a Smiddick’s. (That’s how they pronounce it, not “Smith Wick’s.”) It’s a nice red ale that’s more malty than hoppy, good to go with pub food. Second decision is for the nosh that this ancient booze will wash down.
Mark seats me in the only separate-enough space available, at the end of the left-side table. One other gent’s here, eating fries ($5) and slurping his beer. Rusty. Software designer. Pretty soon we’re into it, arguing about whether software designers are designing humankind out of a role on this earth. “Well,” he says, “we all do it. AI is here. I have designed software that streamlined the laying off of a bankrupt corporation’s staff. Thousands of jobs. I have always felt bad about that.”
“It feels a bit like that here,” says Mark. “We used to depend on House of Blues for a lot of customers, along with Symphony Hall and all of the orchestra players. That was like 500 or 600 regulars we could depend on. Now, they’re both closed. If it wasn’t for the likes of Rusty here, our faithful regulars, we’d be out of business.”
The bona fide Irish public house on Sixth Avenue.
The menu is pretty huge, for a small pub. Of course, being Irish, they have to start off with corned beef and cabbage (plus potatoes and baby carrots). Costs $16.
By far the best deal seems to be the mini angus burgers, $4 each, or three for $11. Also poutine, the French-Canadian fave of fries drowned by gravy and cheese curd. That goes for $12. The Stout Salad, with candied walnuts, pears, goat cheese and apples, actually looks like the most interesting dish so far. Costs $11, or $16 with chicken. Or $18 with shrimp, grilled salmon, or steak. But I’m just hungry for something plain and hot. I ask Mark about the potato skins. They go for $10. “A lot of people like the skins with shepherd’s pie on top,” he says. “Basically, beef, lamb, and carrots.”
That costs $3.50 extra. But sounds interesting, and kinda self-indulgent, taste-wise, too. So skins and pie it is. And a second Smiddick’s, even though to this Arrogant Bastard-raised boy, it tastes kinda tame in comparison to San Diego beers.
But the skins and Shepherd’s Pie make a wonderful, flavorful, protein-filled combination. Something of Worcestershire sauce in the meat. It all sits on the skins and infuses them with juiciness and salty flavor. And there’s plenty of sour cream, greens. And cheese, lots of golden cheese, capturing the meat. It’s more than I can eat. I have to pack two skins to go.
Next time, I’m going to want to try the Guinness Stew ($15), to see how the stout (here at Stout, heh heh) flavors the meat. And for a breakfast, their corned beef hash and eggs ($15). Meantime, I feel like coming back every day just to help keep these guys afloat. At least until hockey season kicks in.
- The Place: Stout Public House, 1125 6th Avenue, downtown, 619-702-7933
- Hours: 4pm-10pm, Saturday-Wednesday; 11am-11:30pm, Thursday, Friday
- Prices: Corned beef hash and eggs, $15; Fries, $5; corned beef and cabbage, $16; mini angus burgers, $4 each, 3 for $11; poutine (fries, gravy, cheese curd), $12; The Stout Salad (candied walnuts, pears, goat cheese, apples), $11, with chicken, $16; with shrimp, grilled salmon, or steak, $18; potato skins, $10; with shepherd’s pie, $13.50; Guinness Stew, $15
- Buses: all downtown
- Nearest bus stops: 6th and Broadway
- Trolleys: Blue Line, Orange Line, Silver (vintage) Line
- Nearest trolley stop: 5th Avenue station, at Fifth Avenue and C Street