I come not to accuse Patsy's Irish Pub's patrons of spreading social diseases—though they are a shrieky lot, an odd Mission Viejo mix of doughy bruisers and girls in Uggs. I come not to discuss its very loud nightlife, which begins when Happy Hour dining ends and the karaoke machine swells with '70s yacht rock. I have nothing to say about the oval bar itself, which seems as wide as a track stadium and dark as your soul. I have little to say about the serving wenches, beyond that they are lovely and tattooed.
I am just talking about the crabs.
King crabs. A pound of them. For under $20.
This is Patsy's Irish Pub—in Mission Viejo, not Laguna Hills or Niguel or Woods or Swamp—and it used to be Reagan's, back when Phil Shane, fresh from Alabama with his bride (his first one) slept in an RV in its parking lot after nights of playing its stage.
It is somewhat dank, a little bit trashy, and its menu offers Irish pub food.
These are terrifying things, especially the pub food.
But despite Ireland's proximity to England, little here is fried, and the dreaded organ meats are in short supply. Instead, there are lovely dishes of flat lamb steaks served with grilled tomatoes and grilled onions and sautéed mushrooms and "Irish bacon," whatever that might be. There are preposterously good bangers fattened with, I don't know, love. There is a surprisingly flavorful shepherd's pie served with a wedge of boiled cabbage that reminded me of nothing so much as the blue cheese "wedges" that were inescapable last year at the county's finer boites, except boiled and more cabbagey. And there is the Connaught, a small but fat sirloin steak covered in a garlic whiskey sauce. There are salads topped with mangoes and studded with the juiciest popcorn chicken it has ever been my good fortune to taste. There are legs of lamb and legs of pork and not a single kidney anything—though the Avonmore, a penne dish with peas and garlic and cheese, played host to a corned beef that did have a whiff of liver to it, especially reheated the next day.
The menu, it turns out, is a peach. And the crabs aren't even on it.
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"We heard there was King crab," we told our tiny and delightful barmaid—Dana Wildes, once named one of OC's Hottest Bartenders in this very rag. And was there! Fat legs waited to be torn asunder and devoured while dripping hot butter onto Patsy's wide bar.
Trying desperately to reach the Weekly's food review budget limit, the three of us ordered five entrees and both desserts—an apple pie and a bread pudding in a thick, eggy vanilla cream. The desserts were served McDonald's-coffee hot, but after half an hour or so of settling were delicious; the next day, when I happened to be feeling a bit slumpy, puffy and sad, they actually cured my PMS. Even after adding a 35 percent tip, we only managed to make it to about a hundred bucks.
Then the small, plump girl down the bar started whooping and shrieking—I mean shrieking, like it was Spring Break at Daytona Beach or she'd just been given Sophie's Choice (but probably the first one). And what may have been a Melissa Manchester song rose from the karaoke machine. And things were starting to get a bit crowded between the bar and the pool table and the stage, with a plethora of lugs crowding the walkway like trans fats clogging an artery. It was 8:30 p.m., and it was time to go. Go at lunch, or go at happy hour. Get a little bit of the Irish in you, and then get it the hell out.
Patsy's Irish Pub, 25571 Jeronimo Rd., Mission Viejo, (949) 249-2604. Dinner for two, $25, food only. Full bar.