Garman’s Pub
932 E. Main St., Santa Paula

It was two hours before taking the stage for the first time ever that I decided I’d have two imperial pints to calm my nerves, and Garman’s Pub was the obvious choice to fulfill my dreams.

The Irish pub sits right along Santa Paula’s main drag, just around the corner from the Santa Paula Theater Center, and is rather nondescript from the outside, but once you step through the doors, it’s as if you’ve landed on the Emerald Isle. A surprisingly open dining area with a long, sleek bar decked out with Irish flags and tap handles greet you, and it seems as if one could get lost in exploring the Irish paraphernalia on the walls.

The name of the game, of course, was to have a few pints. Imperial pints, that is. Unlike us weaklings here in the States where a pint is 16 ounces, an imperial pint is 20. As if that wasn’t a tall enough order, Garman’s has a full bar along with at least 19 combinations of beer with Guinness as the base. So food would also be included, to which Garman’s is a wonderland of Irish fare.

Everything one would expect from an Irish pub is here, with a few interesting fusion takes on traditional dishes. First, our beverages. I placed an order for a combo I hadn’t had in a while: the Black and Tan ($8), half Guinness and half Bass Ale. My companion ordered a MadeWest Poli ($6.50, 16 ounce), an American IPA, because she wanted to be difficult.

Soon, two glasses of delicious brew were headed to our table, and we contemplated one of the enticing pub grub offerings: Would it be the fully loaded Irish nachos or fries ($10)? Thick-cut chips (similar to what we call steak fries) or thin fries smothered in cheddar cheese sauce and topped with sour cream, green onions and bacon? Or the curiously named Reuben Tail Pipes ($9) — deep-fried egg rolls stuffed with what I could only assume would be corned beef, sauerkraut, Swiss cheese and Thousand Island dressing as in the Reuben sandwich, also on the menu. 

In the end, we chose a big plate of sweet potato fries because we’re simple. Also, the Black and Tan “Orion” Rings ($9) piqued our interest, but seeing that we could order a side of onion rings with our upcoming sandwiches, we chose to do that instead.

For a main, I chose the grilled portobello melt ($11) with a side of onion rings ($2.50 extra), though typically it comes with a side of chips or fries. My companion chose the grilled veggie salad ($11), taken in by a recommendation printed on the menu from someone named Courtney Fit ’n Fine, and if it’s good enough for whoever that is, it’s good enough for us.

Grilled veggie salad.

Elsewhere on the menu are the traditional pub foods that we passed over: the fish and chips ($14); corned beef, cabbage and mashed potatoes plate ($15); and even a shepherd’s pie ($10/$14); but when the enormous plate of sweet potatoes arrived, along with our main meals, we were happy to have something that weren’t fried as a counter. The onion rings were stacked high, a large portion for a side that I was extremely pleased with, and even the grilled veggie salad was something that looked like a centerpiece for a family-style meal.

The sandwich itself was stuffed with grilled portobello mushroom, slightly tangy from the marinade, and grilled veggies tucked neatly within a ciabatta roll. Served alongside a small ramekin of ranch for dipping, I assumed, this sandwich proved a perfectly pleasant main course, even though my mind thought longingly about the corned beef — which is something I’ll have to sample on my return.

Having finished our initial round of brews, we went for a second. This time, I chose the Black and Coffee, half Guinness and half Founder’s Porter. There are 19 variations of “Black and (insert word here)” with the 20th reserved for your own concoction. If you finish all 20 (over time; I was assured that this didn’t need to be done in one sitting), you get your name on a plaque and a percentage off beer at the bar for life. Some longtime patrons even have a beverage named after them.

Santa Paula isn’t where you’d expect to find a raucous Irish pub, but why wouldn’t you? It’s a friendly neighborhood joint for the young and old alike. Just as we finished our second round, a man yelled from the entrance, “I found the leprechaun!” I turned to see him carrying his smaller friend, clinging to his side. Turns out, this was exactly what I needed before standing in front of a crowd of strangers and pouring my heart out.