Sláinte! That is “cheers” in Gaelic, and once you enter Hooleys Public House, you too will be toasting to the presence of this charming and authentic Irish pub at Grossmont Center. From traditional dishes such as Shepherd’s Pie and Scotch Eggs to the brass whiskey still imported directly from Ireland, Hooleys Public House takes you straight to the Emerald Isle without ever leaving La Mesa!
The pub gets its name from the Irish slang for “an extended celebration,” and that is what you find at Hooleys Public House with its festive and fun atmosphere. The restaurant opened at the Center in 2009 and immediately attracted patrons with its warm and welcoming pub ambience. “Hooleys is truly a public house—friends, neighbors, and family all gather here,” says Craig MacDonald, the restaurant’s publican (or owner, as we call them in America). MacDonald was inspired to bring the pub experience to San Diego after his first visit to Ireland and his commitment to authenticity has made Hooleys Public House a resounding success.
That adherence to tradition especially shines in the menu’s array of mouthwatering dishes. “We are not a chain.” MacDonald says. “We are a scratch kitchen and everything is made fresh.” That includes the famous Hooleys corned beef. This delicious signature item can be ordered in a sandwich or mac and cheese, as an entrée with cabbage, and, perhaps most notably, in the award-winning Corned Beef Tacos. “Our guests try to replicate these tacos at home all the time,” MacDonald says proudly.
Another popular menu item: Fish and Chips. This pub favorite is made with Golden Alaskan Cod and comes in a hearty portion with an accompaniment of hot and delicious fries. Other Irish-flavored fare includes Guinness Irish Stew, Guinness Bratwurst, and Irish Boxtys. The unique Boxty is a stuffed potato pancake topped with Irish cheddar cheese. The delectable fillings include White Wine Veggie, Lobster & Shrimp, and, of course, Corned Beef & Cabbage. One bite and you would swear you are in Dublin!
The ample menu also boasts appetizers such as sliders and chicken wings, soups, salads, sandwiches, taco plates and steaks. Mac and cheese options come with add-ins such as blackened chicken or bacon and jalapenos, while pub burgers are made with ground sirloin and served on a fresh brioche bun.
In addition to the regular menu, Hooleys Public House has an updated brunch menu. Offered until 2 p.m. on weekends, the brunch lineup now includes savory and sweet choices such as Eggs Benedict, Cinnamon French Toast, Steak & Eggs, and the customer favorite Hooleys Breakfast Skillet. This savory wonder elevates scrambled eggs with the addition of corned beef, breakfast potatoes, and caramelized onions, plus a blanket of melted cheddar cheese on top!
Cooking the food from scratch is a point of pride for MacDonald. Another highlight is the full bar. It is stocked with Irish beer and whiskey, naturally, as well as a variety of wines and craft beers on tap. The beverages pair wonderfully with the menu and Hooleys Public House offers you great opportunities to taste new items (or old favorites) with happy hour deals and nightly specials.
A pub can serve great food, but it’s the lively atmosphere that makes it a true pub. The staff at Hooleys Public House is super friendly to all guests and known for its excellent service. There is a family feeling among the employees, and that extends to how they treat their customers. Live music completes the pub experience. Any day is a great day to visit Hooleys Public House, but it is especially celebratory during the annual, all-day St. Patrick’s Day event or the Irish New Year’s party that begins at 4 p.m. every December 31 (which is midnight in Ireland). The pub also participates in all of Grossmont Center’s community events.
MacDonald says he loves being part of the La Mesa community as a small business owner, as well as a member of the Center’s tenant community. “Grossmont Center is also a family-run business like us,” he says. “The mall cares about each and every one of its businesses. We are proud to be a part of the Center and all is has to offer!”
Businesses such as Hooleys Public House give back to the community in so many ways, which is why it is important for consumers to buy local. Independent businesses add unique character and flair to a town—after all, how many cities can boast that they have an authentic Irish pub? Buying local also allows these businesses to contribute financially to the community’s economy. For instance, Hooleys Public House provides local jobs—waiters, cooks and kitchen staffers, bartenders, and many more. It also supports other local entrepreneurs whenever it books a musician to play there or serves a San Diego-made craft beer on tap. When local businesses are successful, it enables them to reach out and help others—and more successful businesses make for a more robust economy.
Stop at Hooleys Public House the next time you are at Grossmont Center for a meal at a true Irish pub. “We welcome everyone to our family,” MacDonald says. “We can’t wait to meet you!”