4S Ranch Allied Gardens Alpine Baja Balboa Park Bankers Hill Barrio Logan Bay Ho Bay Park Black Mountain Ranch Blossom Valley Bonita Bonsall Borrego Springs Boulevard Campo Cardiff-by-the-Sea Carlsbad Carmel Mountain Carmel Valley Chollas View Chula Vista City College City Heights Clairemont College Area Coronado CSU San Marcos Cuyamaca College Del Cerro Del Mar Descanso Downtown San Diego Eastlake East Village El Cajon Emerald Hills Encanto Encinitas Escondido Fallbrook Fletcher Hills Golden Hill Grant Hill Grantville Grossmont College Guatay Harbor Island Hillcrest Imperial Beach Imperial Valley Jacumba Jamacha-Lomita Jamul Julian Kearny Mesa Kensington La Jolla Lakeside La Mesa Lemon Grove Leucadia Liberty Station Lincoln Acres Lincoln Park Linda Vista Little Italy Logan Heights Mesa College Midway District MiraCosta College Miramar Miramar College Mira Mesa Mission Beach Mission Hills Mission Valley Mountain View Mount Hope Mount Laguna National City Nestor Normal Heights North Park Oak Park Ocean Beach Oceanside Old Town Otay Mesa Pacific Beach Pala Palomar College Palomar Mountain Paradise Hills Pauma Valley Pine Valley Point Loma Point Loma Nazarene Potrero Poway Rainbow Ramona Rancho Bernardo Rancho Penasquitos Rancho San Diego Rancho Santa Fe Rolando San Carlos San Marcos San Onofre Santa Ysabel Santee San Ysidro Scripps Ranch SDSU Serra Mesa Shelltown Shelter Island Sherman Heights Skyline Solana Beach Sorrento Valley Southcrest South Park Southwestern College Spring Valley Stockton Talmadge Temecula Tierrasanta Tijuana UCSD University City University Heights USD Valencia Park Valley Center Vista Warner Springs

Hooleys truly is a San Diegan Irish Pub

Visit for the corned beef tacos, stay for the boxty

The boxty is a Irish, stuffed potato pancake, here with a shepherd's pie filling.
The boxty is a Irish, stuffed potato pancake, here with a shepherd's pie filling.

Because I first spotted it at a mall, I walked around for years assuming Hooleys Irish Pub & Grill was part of a national franchise; like it was the Irish answer to Chili’s or TGI Friday’s. I should have known better. La Mesa’s Grossmont Center is home to many independent, local businesses. Facing out to Grossmont’s southern parking lot, Hooleys actually counts among the greatest examples of this.

Place

Hooleys Irish Pub & Grill Rancho San Diego

2955 Jamacha Road, El Cajon

That said, I’d still rather not go near a mall if I don’t have to. So when I realized Hooleys is one of the best spots in town to try a boxty, I went instead to the original Hooleys, found in Rancho San Diego. Established in 1999, this Hooleys isn’t part of a mall in the strictest sense, but it does sit at the end of a large shopping center, immediately next door to the multiplex, so either location proves a great spot to hang out, before or after catching a movie.

In that regard, Hooleys presents way more charm than most shopping center restaurants, and not only because it affects the usual Irish pub motifs of dark polished wood, stone brick, and folksy, old world artifacts. As I sat at the bar, eating boxty and sipping ale, it seemed as though the bartenders knew every customer who strolled in to take a seat. Not just by name, but the circumstances of their lives.

The original Hooley’s Irish Pub & Grill, next door to a Rancho San Diego multiplex since 1999

“How was your trip?” asked one, of her regular.

“How’s the new job working out?” asked another, of hers.

Being a stranger didn’t exempt me from the friendly banter, either. Of course, I was less interested in sharing details about my life than I was asking food questions, such as: “What the heck is a boxty, anyway?”

Friendly bartenders work behind the polished wood of an Irish pub.

When Americans think of Irish food, corned beef often comes to mind, and in the U.S. at least, the popular St. Patrick’s Day dish is a staple of Irish pubs. It is here, too, and if I needed further evidence this Irish pub is of San Diego origin, Hooleys provided it. One of the most popular menu items is a corned beef taco, served on a corn tortilla with piles of grated cheddar and shredded cabbage.

Albeit tasty, die-hard taco fans might take exception to this fusion, but Irish purists may as well embrace it. Turns out, corned beef is less a staple of the Irish as it is Irish-Americans, and those early Irish immigrants got theirs from Jewish delis (which helps explain that particular cultural crossover).

Dark wood booths and stone fireplaces fill out the Hooley's interior; outdoor patio seating is also available.

Now, foods that are more historically Irish in origin tend to feature the potato. (We can forget for a moment this tuber originated in South America). And it’s a potato dish that brought me too Hooleys. Because the main component of a boxty is an Irish potato pancake.

That’s not to be confused with other potato pancakes, including Jewish latkes, which are more like shredded potato fritters. A boxty, on the other hand, is closer to a crepe. It’s made by combining wheat with mashed potatoes, yielding a pancake almost smooth enough to top with maple syrup.

Cultures collide in this corned beef taco.

But that’s not what to do with a boxty. Instead, the potato pancake is served with — more likely wrapped around, like a crepe — a savory meat or fish filling, maybe bacon or smoked salmon. For $18, Hooley’s offers with a variety of fillings, including wine braised chicken, shrimp, or a traditional Irish stew. You may also order it filled with corned beef and cabbage.

I took mine with shepherd’s pie. That is, with the mixture of ground beef, carrots, peas, and onions that go into a shepherd’s pie. Here, the boxty itself replaces the usual mashed potato crust, and the whole thing is topped with gravy. My friendly bartender offered to bring an extra plate, in case I wanted to share with my wife. But I waved her off.

Instead, I bought the love of my life a pint of local IPA. I wanted the delicious boxty all to myself.

Here's something you might be interested in.
Submit a free classified
or view all

Previous article

Streamline Moderne at 4th and Palm loses out

Historic Resources Board overruled by city council
The boxty is a Irish, stuffed potato pancake, here with a shepherd's pie filling.
The boxty is a Irish, stuffed potato pancake, here with a shepherd's pie filling.

Because I first spotted it at a mall, I walked around for years assuming Hooleys Irish Pub & Grill was part of a national franchise; like it was the Irish answer to Chili’s or TGI Friday’s. I should have known better. La Mesa’s Grossmont Center is home to many independent, local businesses. Facing out to Grossmont’s southern parking lot, Hooleys actually counts among the greatest examples of this.

Place

Hooleys Irish Pub & Grill Rancho San Diego

2955 Jamacha Road, El Cajon

That said, I’d still rather not go near a mall if I don’t have to. So when I realized Hooleys is one of the best spots in town to try a boxty, I went instead to the original Hooleys, found in Rancho San Diego. Established in 1999, this Hooleys isn’t part of a mall in the strictest sense, but it does sit at the end of a large shopping center, immediately next door to the multiplex, so either location proves a great spot to hang out, before or after catching a movie.

In that regard, Hooleys presents way more charm than most shopping center restaurants, and not only because it affects the usual Irish pub motifs of dark polished wood, stone brick, and folksy, old world artifacts. As I sat at the bar, eating boxty and sipping ale, it seemed as though the bartenders knew every customer who strolled in to take a seat. Not just by name, but the circumstances of their lives.

The original Hooley’s Irish Pub & Grill, next door to a Rancho San Diego multiplex since 1999

“How was your trip?” asked one, of her regular.

“How’s the new job working out?” asked another, of hers.

Being a stranger didn’t exempt me from the friendly banter, either. Of course, I was less interested in sharing details about my life than I was asking food questions, such as: “What the heck is a boxty, anyway?”

Friendly bartenders work behind the polished wood of an Irish pub.

When Americans think of Irish food, corned beef often comes to mind, and in the U.S. at least, the popular St. Patrick’s Day dish is a staple of Irish pubs. It is here, too, and if I needed further evidence this Irish pub is of San Diego origin, Hooleys provided it. One of the most popular menu items is a corned beef taco, served on a corn tortilla with piles of grated cheddar and shredded cabbage.

Albeit tasty, die-hard taco fans might take exception to this fusion, but Irish purists may as well embrace it. Turns out, corned beef is less a staple of the Irish as it is Irish-Americans, and those early Irish immigrants got theirs from Jewish delis (which helps explain that particular cultural crossover).

Dark wood booths and stone fireplaces fill out the Hooley's interior; outdoor patio seating is also available.

Now, foods that are more historically Irish in origin tend to feature the potato. (We can forget for a moment this tuber originated in South America). And it’s a potato dish that brought me too Hooleys. Because the main component of a boxty is an Irish potato pancake.

That’s not to be confused with other potato pancakes, including Jewish latkes, which are more like shredded potato fritters. A boxty, on the other hand, is closer to a crepe. It’s made by combining wheat with mashed potatoes, yielding a pancake almost smooth enough to top with maple syrup.

Cultures collide in this corned beef taco.

But that’s not what to do with a boxty. Instead, the potato pancake is served with — more likely wrapped around, like a crepe — a savory meat or fish filling, maybe bacon or smoked salmon. For $18, Hooley’s offers with a variety of fillings, including wine braised chicken, shrimp, or a traditional Irish stew. You may also order it filled with corned beef and cabbage.

I took mine with shepherd’s pie. That is, with the mixture of ground beef, carrots, peas, and onions that go into a shepherd’s pie. Here, the boxty itself replaces the usual mashed potato crust, and the whole thing is topped with gravy. My friendly bartender offered to bring an extra plate, in case I wanted to share with my wife. But I waved her off.

Instead, I bought the love of my life a pint of local IPA. I wanted the delicious boxty all to myself.

Sponsored
Here's something you might be interested in.
Submit a free classified
or view all
Previous article

IPA’s IRL

Twitter trend doesn’t trump sales numbers
Next Article

Murder at 63rd and El Cajon Blvd.

A true San Diego bookie, talk of killings in jail, easy to steal cars and take to Mexico
Comments
0

Be the first to leave a comment.

Sign in to comment

Sign in

Ask a Hipster — Advice you didn't know you needed Big Screen — Movie commentary Blurt — Music's inside track Booze News — San Diego spirits Classical Music — Immortal beauty Classifieds — Free and easy Cover Stories — Front-page features Drinks All Around — Bartenders' drink recipes Excerpts — Literary and spiritual excerpts Feast! — Food & drink reviews Feature Stories — Local news & stories Fishing Report — What’s getting hooked from ship and shore From the Archives — Spotlight on the past Golden Dreams — Talk of the town Letters — Our inbox [email protected] — Local movie buffs share favorites Movie Reviews — Our critics' picks and pans Musician Interviews — Up close with local artists Neighborhood News from Stringers — Hyperlocal news News Ticker — News & politics Obermeyer — San Diego politics illustrated Outdoors — Weekly changes in flora and fauna Overheard in San Diego — Eavesdropping illustrated Poetry — The old and the new Reader Travel — Travel section built by travelers Reading — The hunt for intellectuals Roam-O-Rama — SoCal's best hiking/biking trails San Diego Beer — Inside San Diego suds SD on the QT — Almost factual news Sheep and Goats — Places of worship Special Issues — The best of Street Style — San Diego streets have style Surf Diego — Real stories from those braving the waves Theater — On stage in San Diego this week Tin Fork — Silver spoon alternative Under the Radar — Matt Potter's undercover work Unforgettable — Long-ago San Diego Unreal Estate — San Diego's priciest pads Your Week — Daily event picks
4S Ranch Allied Gardens Alpine Baja Balboa Park Bankers Hill Barrio Logan Bay Ho Bay Park Black Mountain Ranch Blossom Valley Bonita Bonsall Borrego Springs Boulevard Campo Cardiff-by-the-Sea Carlsbad Carmel Mountain Carmel Valley Chollas View Chula Vista City College City Heights Clairemont College Area Coronado CSU San Marcos Cuyamaca College Del Cerro Del Mar Descanso Downtown San Diego Eastlake East Village El Cajon Emerald Hills Encanto Encinitas Escondido Fallbrook Fletcher Hills Golden Hill Grant Hill Grantville Grossmont College Guatay Harbor Island Hillcrest Imperial Beach Imperial Valley Jacumba Jamacha-Lomita Jamul Julian Kearny Mesa Kensington La Jolla Lakeside La Mesa Lemon Grove Leucadia Liberty Station Lincoln Acres Lincoln Park Linda Vista Little Italy Logan Heights Mesa College Midway District MiraCosta College Miramar Miramar College Mira Mesa Mission Beach Mission Hills Mission Valley Mountain View Mount Hope Mount Laguna National City Nestor Normal Heights North Park Oak Park Ocean Beach Oceanside Old Town Otay Mesa Pacific Beach Pala Palomar College Palomar Mountain Paradise Hills Pauma Valley Pine Valley Point Loma Point Loma Nazarene Potrero Poway Rainbow Ramona Rancho Bernardo Rancho Penasquitos Rancho San Diego Rancho Santa Fe Rolando San Carlos San Marcos San Onofre Santa Ysabel Santee San Ysidro Scripps Ranch SDSU Serra Mesa Shelltown Shelter Island Sherman Heights Skyline Solana Beach Sorrento Valley Southcrest South Park Southwestern College Spring Valley Stockton Talmadge Temecula Tierrasanta Tijuana UCSD University City University Heights USD Valencia Park Valley Center Vista Warner Springs
Close