One of the greatest joys about eating in Long Beach is finding that unassuming, unexpected and surprisingly authentic ethnic fare; and this column has proved that you can easily wander your way through the cuisines of El Salvador, Cambodia, Trinidad and Peru, all without ever leaving city limits.
But on the West Coast, where "Irish bars" are more likely to be Bud Light-slanging dives with a tacky green touch than actual public houses slathered in dark wood, it's hard to find a place that serves true Irish fare in a Dublin-reminiscent setting.
Thankfully for Long Beach there's The Auld Dubliner, which opened 10 years ago directly across the street from the Convention Center to bring traditional and modern Irish food to locals and tourists alike. And don't let Auld Dub's location in the heinous concrete mistake that is The Pike at Rainbow Harbor fool you: this is not Irish Disneyland, designed to reflect what Americans think a Dublin pub might look like.
In fact, Auld Dubliner (which is owned and managed by transplants from Limerick and Donegal, respectively) has the full package of traditional food, aesthetics and booze, making it a true home away from home for anyone who misses the perfect Guinness pours, walls crowded with historic ephemera, and bangers-and-mash lunches of Temple Bar's famous and oft-copied pubs.
Classic and original bar food here is made with gourmet in mind. Instead of the watery curry sauce you get for fry-dipping at other California Irish bars, Auld Dub's curry sauce is thick and pasty, sweetened with brown sugar and served warm in a soup bowl. And for the bangers and mash dish (of which a lunch portion is available), two fried pork banger sausages are gently placed atop a pile of not basic mashed potatoes, but "champ," an Irish-style mixture that loads up the carbs with butter, scallions, salt and pepper.
Uncommon Irish foods like boxtys and lamb burgers, line the lunch menu as well, making it the only place in Long Beach to get both rarities. Boxtys are thick potato pancakes, similar to the French crepe, except it looks like the bubbled flats of a barren moon landscape and comes folded over various Irish ingredients (think: shepherd's pie and corned beef), omelet style.
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Because the owners are constantly returning to their motherland to explore Ireland's contemporary culinary scene, Auld Dub has also updated some of its offerings to reflect the growing Asian and Latin influence in modern Irish cuisine. Take the banger wontons, for example, which from appearance could be cream cheese wontons from any basic Chinese restaurant, but the crispy presents are actually filled with thick-skinned herbed pork sausage and steamed Irish cabbage. An appetizer of stuffed mussels finds the mollusks steamed in Guinness, stuffed with a garlic bread dressing and served with a side of chipotle dipping sauce.
Long Beach's downtown-crawling tourists and conventioneers may be the most common patrons of Auld Dubliner's traditional Irish experience, but plenty of locals have also made the South Pine Ave. pub their daily spot for drinks and eats. Ten years after opening as the city's most authentic home for Irish food, drinks and music, The Dub remains the most progressive connection between the Emerald Isle and the International City.
Auld Dubliner, 71 S Pine Ave, Long Beach, (562) 437-8300, aulddubliner.com