Old Dublin Pub & Grill
1900 S. Victoria Ave.
In the last decade or so, I have found myself in an endless search for the perfect dive bar. Having been in too many dives to count, but one thing they all had in common: no pretentiousness, low lighting even during the day, good bar food, efficient service, plenty of games (pool, darts, touch-screen computer games, etc.) and plenty of places to sit and talk with the locals.
I don’t believe Old Dublin wanted to be ‘dubbed’ a dive bar, but due to my experience last weekend, I couldn’t describe it as anything less or more. Despite the skylights and sparse seating, the bartender was kind enough, there were several games to keep everyone happy, the food was good enough and not an upturned nose in the house.
The ‘Irish pub’ has been open for about four months with little fanfare, at least I haven’t heard much. Having replaced the sports bar Champs, and sitting in the parking lot of a dilapidated mall in Oxnard, Old Dublin has its work cut out competing with the string of new restaurants and bars across the street in the new harbor development.
While the bartender said Old Dublin had seen better times when it first opened, my family and I agreed, maybe we should have visited during its grand opening. First off, being in a broken-down mall just isn’t good for business. It is kind of like being the only man standing in a field of fallen soldiers. Either the battle has already been fought and lost and no one cares to fight there again or, in this case, the restaurant owner is an eternal optimist and is trying to turn lemons into lemonade.
Entering into the building, rock ballads and alternative music practically blasts you back outside. But we waged the war on our ears to find some place to enjoy lunch. Now if you think the music was a bit much, finding seating was a whole other endeavor. The choices: a few scattered tables next to the pool tables where about a half a dozen guys took turn taking shots, four bar tables on a dance floor, and an uninviting cove with booths and small tables. Since the bartender said there were no servers, we decided against inconveniencing him and sat at the bar tables.
Lucky for me, they also had the touch-screen computer games, albeit some adult-rated games were there, too; a few bucks and adult supervision kept my son quiet and entertained — unusual for a 5-year-old kid.
On tap, they had the usual brews: Guiness, Newcastle, Bass, Stella Artois, etc. But they also had Smithwicks, a red Irish ale. They also had Jagermeister on tap, a typical feature of dive bars. Being Irish, I had to go with my heart: Smithwicks. Pretty good stuff, lighter than Newcastle but definitely heavier than Bass.
Then came the food … or not.
Trying to stick with Irish cuisine, we ordered the Poutine fries — french fries smothered in gravy topped with mozzarella cheese. Unsure if Irish folk actually eat the artery-clogging dish, we thought it to be exotic and gave it a shot. First the bartender told us he didn’t think the new cook would know how to make it. Then he came back to tell us they didn’t have any gravy.
Next choice: hot wings, chicken tenders and potato leek soup.
We thought our picks for lunch would be quick and easy. Well, we all know what happens when you make assumptions. We enjoyed our drinks and my son his game, but when push came to shove, our lunch took more than 20 minutes to cook. Or maybe it just took that long for our cook to come in from a break or something.
I have seen and eaten meatier wings, but then again I have also eaten wings with very little meat. They weren’t anything special, but sufficient for our growing appetites. The chicken tenders were pretty big. My son wolfed them down with a mound of ketchup. We scavenged his leftovers.
The potato leek soup: Eek! Well, it may have looked bad and certainly didn’t compare to Google search images, but, eh, it tasted good enough. Would I get it again? Good question.
Seeing how long it took us to just get our appetizers, and my mom on the verge of getting a pounding migraine, we closed out our tab and called it a day.
For any review, the answer to one question is always the most important. Would we go back? If I were a single guy really into playing pool at 4 p.m., maybe. Or if the live music was good on a Friday or Saturday night, prolly. But on a Saturday afternoon with my family? No.