The Red Leprechaun's outdoor patio. Photos by: Jason Ruiz
Next Tuesday, the green beer will flow like the River Shannon and “I’m Shipping Up To Boston” will become as unavoidable as shamrocks and “Kiss Me I’m Irish” t-shirts as St. Patrick’s Day takes over Long Beach. As nearly everyone of drinking age discovers that they’re tenuously connected to the Emerald Isle, it will whittle down the chances of finding an establishment to celebrate the Irish holiday without revisiting your party-self of yesteryear.
Tracy Ames, a first generation Irish-American and owner of The Red Leprechaun, believes she has struck the balance between a lively congregation point for the day celebrated with Irish grog, and a family-friendly atmosphere. For the third year in a row, the Leprechaun will open its doors to all ages to celebrate St. Patrick's Day at the Irish-American pub located at the corner of Anaheim and Termino.
“I think that people are almost in shock because they can’t believe that there is more of a kids’ environment in here than the green beer environment," Ames said.
As they have every year, the Leprechaun is upping the ante for St. Patty’s, offering up a literal buffet of Irish-American staples like corned beef and cabbage with red potatoes and fish and chips, as well as bread-pudding french toast and garlic chicken sausage. The Claddagh School of Irish Dance will perform at the Sunday “family day” event which runs from 12PM -6PM will also include children’s games, live music from The Whooligans—whose upcoming album includes a song they wrote specifically for the Leprechaun—and a green-beer alternative—a mixture of grenadine, Sprite and the traditional green food coloring—for the younger attendees.
Tuesday's adult crowd can look forward to all-day green craft-beer, corned beef and cabbage and a live set from Paddy's Pig. The pub will also have an outdoor tented area to accommodate the anticipated crowd that will start flowing through the doors when the Leprechaun opens at 10AM.
“Three years ago we were a startup,” Ames said, recounting their first run at celebrating the holiday. “This was a gutted Blockbuster. We didn’t know what we were doing. This has been a work in progress, even the holidays themselves, but each time we’ve done a holiday we’ve done it better.”
Corned beef, an integral part of celebrations in the United States, is a point of pride for Ames. The Red Leprechaun is one of few, if not the only establishment in the city that brines their own beef. And there will be plenty to go around. Ames currently has some 700 pounds sitting in brine, a process that takes seven days, creating a tender, juicy product that will be served with cabbage and red potatoes, or as savory sliders.
“When you actually brine the meat and you’re putting the juices, the salts, the spices, all of that goes into the meat and what it does is it takes the muscles and literally goes into and breaks down the tissue and makes the meat soft,” Ames said. “Our corned beef actually falls apart.”
Although her parents emigrated from Cork County on the southern tip of Ireland, her love for cooking originated in a vastly different geographic region of the world. Facing a crossroads in her career path, Ames moved to Santa Fe, New Mexico to undertake a crash course in cooking. Working with women of varying descents—Lithuanian, Mexican, Lebanese—she developed her passion.
Her menu includes bar staples like Irish Nachos and pulled-pork sliders, but it also offers a selection for the more sophisticated palate. The Chicken & Brie Melt Sandwich, a marriage of house-made walnut pesto and brie cheese atop a grilled breast of chicken and placed on a locally-baked brioche roll is a favorite among regulars. It’s also one of three rotating $5.51 lunch specials that earned the Red Leprechaun the designation from the Post's readers as the Best Lunch Special in the city—despite an accounting error on our part at the time the 2014 winners were announced.
Ames and her business partner, Mark Tuzzolino, pride themselves not only on the quality and freshness of their food, but also their menu’s departure from the cliche pub selection.
“People didn’t believe me when I said our food was going to be chef quality and that the food that came out of here was going to make our reputation,” Ames said. “They just kind of made an assumption that we were going to be an “Irish bar,” and that’s not true.”
But they have a bar—one that was hand-carved 114 years ago by the Brunswick Company in New York, and sat idle in a Redlands storage unit until Ames purchased it on Craigslist—and it has one Irish anchor-beer: Guinness.
Aside from that, Truzzolino, who curates the rotating tap list said that in three years the Red Leprechaun has never served a domestic macro-brew. Going against advice from “Big Beer” reps, Truzzolino opted for smaller craft beers which eventually led to Los Angeles’ Golden Road Brewing to contact him about contract brewing the pub's house blonde which will be served up green during the celebration. The Leprechaun also has its own bottle shop, selling craft beer and wine to go.
“We have something for everybody here,” Truzzolino said. “Whatever beer you like, we can figure out which beer we have that’s comparable and better than what you normally drink.”
The one thing absent from the Leprechaun’s decor, which is currently saturated in green and plastered with shamrocks and Irish tri-colour flags, is television. In keeping with pub tradition, the vision of the owners was to make it not only a place for people to eat and drink but for people to be able to come together as a community. Ames said that it’s refreshing to come out of the kitchen on a friday night and the buzz heard is coming from people talking to each other, and not from the speakers of a flatscreen.
“I think it’s really important for people to come to the pub to converse, to go as a group to enjoy why you’re going out together and I think that tv’s are distracting,” Ames said. “I think we’re equal as far as us being an Irish pub, but the family style makes us different.”
The Red Leprechaun is located at 4000 E. Anaheim Street Long Beach,CA 90804.