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The Ould Sod


There are many countries I long to visit during my stay on this lovely planet. Unfortunately with life’s many responsibilities and the cost of travel these days, there are only so many soils that I will actually be able to set foot on. Having no blood attachments myself to the beautiful green isle, I have often steered my vision to the latin countries. But I will tell you that the Ould Sod in Normal Heights gives a pretty convincing argument favoring those Celtic roots.

I first stumbled upon this traditional pub on Saint Patrick’s Day, maybe eleven years ago. Having some new friends in town, I decided to take them on a pub tour. I accidentally took them to The Princess Pub in Little Italy and soon saw my mistake. Oops, wrong country. I was quickly redirected to the Ould Sod and we ran a seemingly wild goose chase trying to find our way there. Success being ours after a bit, we were richly rewarded with irish song and regalia. The bar was crowded and full of life, with green clad revelers at every elbow. Somehow a random photo was taken of my friends and I which ended up on their wall of fame in the smokers patio out back.

Not much has changed since my first visit. You will still find a groovy crowd here most nights. There are plenty of seating options available. My preference is usually one of the four low riding naugahyde booths where you can sit with your good friends or new acquaintances and share stories of the day. There are a bounty of barstools and some high tops in the back room near the juke box. Irish paraphernalia decorates the walls, i.e. old street signs, black and white photographs of some Celtic organization’s officials, and advertisements for beer or townships. There is a small stage near the front door and the cool, glass-blocked entry. Here, you can see live traditional folk music every Tuesday, and various local acts on Fridays. If you’re preparing for your audition on American Idol, you may want to test your chops here on Thursday or Saturday when they have raucous karaoke sessions. If you’re a sports fan, their are several TVs to watch your favorite rugby team do battle from whichever vantage you choose.

This bar has some history, too, which always excites the researcher in me. Apparently, this bar has the third oldest license in town, originally opening their doors in 1940 as Ryan’s Bar. Ryan’s business savvy must have left something to be desired, because in 1943 it reopened as the Elbo Club and remained so for 46 years. The old neon sign still exists inside the bar over the front door. On New Year’s eve in 1989, Tommy Quinn, Ron Stout, and Mick Ward took their chance and opened as the Ould Sod. The clever crest which features the emerald isle in appropriately bright green also has their names emblazoned beneath.

There are 13 taps featuring the classics you would expect to find in an establishment such as this. There is a signature Ould Sod brew which I will have to try one of these years. I can’t help it, I always crave a Boddington’s when I look at the shiny mirrored back bar. It always creates a Pavlovian effect on my taste buds. There is a wide array of irish whiskies including my new favorite, Red Breast. And I have wondered since the dawn of my drinking age, what the heck is Irish Mist? The barkeep informed me that it is irish whiskey blended with honey, herbs and other spirits. Sounds a bit intriguing, maybe it’s something akin to Drambuie. Do the Irish have an equivalent for the rusty nail?

For the beer lover, I would recommend getting your fix here on Sundays when all irish beers are only $4.00, all day. They also feature “buy back” Mondays and Wednesdays when they will buy back your third drink for only $.25. If you crave a snack, there are bags of Cheetos and Chex Mix to get your bad breath on. But I suppose it’s better to have something to soak up all the booze in an attempt to curb the oncoming hangover the next morning. I’d stay away from the wines by the glass though, unless of course you are allergic to gluten, but maybe you should still sway towards a rum and diet cola.

I love watching the ‘tenders utilize the old school chromed out cash register which avoids the computer brain we have become so reliant on. The restrooms are set in a wonderfully curved wall and bear the titles Fir and Mna, gents and ladies respectively. I noticed a random light switch on the ceiling and was ignited by curiosity as to what special purpose this might be meant for. Afraid of the potential black out and beating I might be awarded I fought that idea down a bit. I suppose now that will always occur to me when I stand underneath it, an arm’s length away. Maybe on December 21st, 2012, I will be bold enough to try it out. But that’s neither here nor there.

The bottom line here is that this is an awesome representation of a neighborhood pub, no matter your walk of life. Their motto here is “Cead mile failte” which translates to “a hundred thousand welcomes”, and I always feel there is a smile coming from the friendly staff whilst pulling tap handles. If that’s not enough, the warmth and vivacity of the patrons will envelope you and bid you return in good time. I know I thank the gents involved for bringing me a piece of their culture to my doorstep just in case I never make it to theirs.


Details »
  • City: San Diego
  • Phone: 619-284-6594
  • Name: The Ould Sod
  • Address: 3373 Adam's Avenue