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If you are a devotee of good Irish fare and Guinness from Dublin, your fondest wish will come through while traveling through Santa Barbara, California, where you will find a few stellar downtown venues that are family owned and specialize in Celtic inspired food and drink. Dargan’s Irish Restaurant & Pub, Willie Quinn’s La Arcada Bistro and The James Joyce are all destinations that are overflowing with hungry and thirsty patrons on St. Patrick’s Day and every day.

Dargan’s Irish Restaurant & Pub

Since it’s opening at 18 East Ortega Street, Paul Dargan’s authentic Irish Pub has featured Irish musicians and dancers who entertain patrons of the pub. The menu includes original recipes of Paul’s mother, who was from the Belfast area in Ireland, and this food is a bit more formal than the average run of the mill pub. The Guinness onion soup with Gruyere cheese is quite amazing. They serve a hearty lamb shank covered with home made gravy, but also offer baked beans with bangers and a variety of additional entrees, sandwiches, appetizers and salads.

Dargan’s showcases an impressive collection of fine Irish whiskey, and a respectable variety of Irish and domestic beer and ale including Smithwick’s Ale from Kilkenny, Harp Lager from County Louth, Boddington’s from Manchester, England, Stella Artois from Belgium, Guinness direct from Dublin, and Manners Irish Apple Cider from Tipperary. The atmosphere at Dargan’s is upscale Irish all the way, with a wonderful wood paneled pool hall in the back, and a cozy fireplace room for dining with friends and family, while enjoying live Irish entertainment. (www.darganssb.com)

Lamb Shank with vegetable Entre

La Arcadia Bistro, featuring Irish Music with Irish & International Cuisine, is a local family owned restaurant. The owners Willie Quinn, originally from County Mayo Ireland, and Trini Quinn, originally from Mexico met in Santa Barbara and fell in love. Willie Quinn and his wife Trini took over the La Arcada Bistro on State Street ten years ago and turned it into an inviting restaurant, where live Irish entertainment is enjoyed on the patio throughout the week.

Breakfast, lunch and dinner are served at La Arcada Bistro 1114 State Street. Seating is available inside or on the patio, where diners get an up close and personal view of the bands who are performing during lunch or dinner. Celtic breakfast favorites include a traditional Irish breakfast special of two eggs over easy, imported Irish Bacon, sausages, black and white pudding, sautéed tomatoes and mushrooms, served with house-made sweet Irish soda bread, a wonderful variety of omelets and waffles, and John McCann’s Irish oatmeal special served with brown sugar, milk, bananas and candied walnuts.

Trio of La Arcada Bistro Favorites

The industrious couple have two daughters Aoife and Brigid Quinn who perform as The Foggy Dew Band. The girls are also accomplished Irish dancers and perform non-stop on March 17. Another group performing regularly is Shepherd’s Pie Band. Willie’s Irish authentic plates are from the south of Ireland area, and it is the exact food my grandmother and aunts cooked during their lifetime; making It a very nostalgic experience for me to dine on Willie’s corned beef and cabbage or lamb stew. Trini has helped introduce dishes from around the world; including Mexican and European dishes. Pouring a perfect Guinness is an ongoing happening in this fun and fanciful meeting place.

Slainte’ – The James Joyce at 513 State Street is considered the best by many locals to be the most authentic Irish bar in Santa Barbara. This venue is so reminiscent of bars I’ve visited in Dublin, covered with wooden everything, and offering favorite Irish beers and ale on tap, as well as Irish whiskey and specialty cocktails. It’s a place where people enjoy quiet conversations in the afternoon, and rowdy everything as the night goes on. There are very few places to sit down, and not unlike the Irish watering holes in Ireland people stand in crowds and order drinks, which are then passed back to them. Local musicians provide entertainment here six nights a week.

A Perfect Black Velvet

It’s a fun past time watching the bartender pour a perfect Guinness pint or make a lovely black velvet (Guinness and cider beer cocktail known as a poor man’s black velvet). I’ve had the pleasure to visit the Guinness Storehouse in Dublin and received a certificate for ‘pouring a perfect pint’ during a writing trip a few years ago, and it is an art that requires patience and a good eye. The black velvet is a softer-gentler drink combining Guinness and Cider that is a favorite on holidays in England and Ireland. The original black velvet was a cocktail made from stout and white, sparkling wine, traditionally champagne. It was crafted by the bartender of the Brook’s Club in London in 1861 to mourn the death of Prince Albert, and symbolizes the black or purple cloth armbands worn by mourners.

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About Bonnie Carroll

Bonnie Carroll has been a food/travel/lifestyle writer since 1983. She is the founder & publisher of Bonnie Carroll’s Life Bites News (www.lifebitesnews.com), does travel, entertainment and food reporting on local Radio/TV, and contributes to a variety of national and international travel/lifestyle publications. She is a member of IFWTWA and NATJA. Contact her at writebc@aol.com.