At Griffins of Kinsale, the 115-year-old church pews creaked beneath us and the music of tin whistles rose above the din of conversation and laughter. It’s just what you’d expect to hear at a pub in Ireland. But Griffins of Kinsale is the new traditional Irish pub on Mission Street in South Pasadena.
“Authentic” is the credo of proprietor Joe Griffin. Crafted to mimic the atmosphere of a public house from his family’s hometown of Kinsale, everything from the Victorian lighting to the faux tin tile ceiling to the magnificent mahogany bar hand-carted across the United States engenders a feeling of warmth and community. Add to that the nostalgia found in a pint of freshly pulled stout, ale or lager and you could be in County Cork.
Sure, the walls are a bit bare and the acoustics could use softening, but Griffin promises he’ll get to that when the time is right. Putting things on the wall simply to decorate would be disingenuous. One gets the feeling this place will grow organically, as a pub should. There are no light-up beer signs, no shamrocks and, to my great pleasure, no televisions. Not one. So instead of people looking at screens, people are looking at each other and talking. All kinds of people, as well. We saw young lovers, elderly couples, guys from work, children (yes, they’re allowed, as they are in Ireland), and locals coming in alone but meeting new folks at the bar.
The bar is stocked with good Irish whiskeys, Scotch whiskys, American bourbons and every other kind of hooch. The beer, namely Guinness, Smithwicks, Kilkenny, Harp and a daily IPA, are poured slowly and at the proper temperature. They could have stopped the authenticity and quality at the bar but it continues right into the kitchen.
The menu is tight and charmingly handwritten on paper. Chef Andres Moya, a 25-year veteran and award-winning chef from Fiddler’s Green in Orlando, really captures the new Irish cuisine sensibility, most notably in his Shannon salmon with champ and veggies ($17). Though the priciest item on the menu, it is delectable. First off, it arrives steaming hot with two perfectly cooked filets in a delicate cream sauce on top of fluffy scallion-scented mashed potatoes (champ). Alongside are carrots like my Irish aunt used to make — sliced on the diagonal, steamed to a tender crunch and coated in a buttery sauce with a hint of nutmeg? Ginger? Moya does not divulge his secrets.
The shepherd’s pie ($14) is gorgeous. A personal casserole of fresh ground beef and garden vegetables in gravy is topped with champ then browned in the oven. The cabbage dog ($5) is a house favorite with its steamed sauerkraut and an all-beef frank. The potato wedges ($3) and Griffins wings ($10) are done differently than at your average sports bar. They’re a little wetter, less fried and great with some malt vinegar and a pint.
Happy Hours might happen one day but only if it feels right. “Every hour’s happy here,” Griffin says.
Live music takes place now and then. Sometimes a spontaneous Irish music session happens near the piano in the back corner. Just like in Ireland.
It is ironic that after all this tradition, you settle your bill on an iPad. It’s a tad annoying at first, but now that I’ve put in my information, I’m in for good. Guess I’ll have to become a regular. That’s fine with me. I’m a fan of good food, good drink, good conversation and no televisions.
LISA DUPUY has written about food, travel and entertainment for more than 25 years. She can be reached at LDupuy@aol.com.
Griffins of Kinsale
Where: 1007 Mission St., South Pasadena
When: Monday to Thursday, 4 p.m. to midnight; Friday to Sunday 4 p.m. to 1:30 a.m.
More info: (626) 799-0926