Fitzpatrick’s Tavern isn’t just the only Irish pub in Solvang; it’s the only farm-to-table Irish pub in America, says owner Patrick Hartmann, adding that it’s also the only place within at least thirty miles to get a perfectly poured pint of Guinness.
As lively Irish folk music plays in the background, Hartmann explains that the perfect Guinness pint must conform to strict standards of execution. The required materials are a mix of nitrogen and CO2 gases comingling in chilled lines between keg and tap, and a 20-ounce tulip pint glass. For demonstration purposes, I volunteer myself for a beer, and Hartmann obligingly fills it at the prescribed 45-degree angle until the foamy mass of bubbles reaches the top of the harp. He then sets the frothy pint down to rest for nearly two minutes. This, it turns out, is possibly the most important part of the Guinness pouring ritual: allowing the bubbles to settle, “to bring out the toastiness of the stout,” says Hartmann.
This kind of precision can be found in every aspect of the Tavern, where attention to detail and efficiency come together to create an easygoing, unrushed atmosphere most restaurants take months to acquire. His servers sport iPad minis with which they send orders from the table straight to a printer in the kitchen. Even the menu items are precisely designed, like the Dubliner Burger, for which a local baker created a custom 100-gram bun to complement the 6-ounce patty, in order to achieve the ideal bun-to-meat ratio much sought after by hamburger aficionados. Similarly, the shepherd’s pie comes in a short, wide dish to ensure exactly one bite of fluffy potato topping with every spoonful of rich, savory meat and vegetable filling.
While these details are impressive, Hartmann’s passion is for his ingredients. He likes his beef grass-fed, alfalfa-finished, and dry-aged; his produce organic and local; and his bangers free of nitrates, nitrites, antibiotics, and hormones. One might think that is a perfect recipe for overpriced pub-grub, but Hartmann says that the challenge he set for himself initially was to have top-quality ingredients and affordable, local-friendly prices. A few of the locals have already claimed their “regular” seats, so the plan appears to be working.
Although you won’t find the tavern’s ivory walls plastered in shamrocks, nor the copper-topped bar festooned with Emerald Isle memorabilia, Hartmann has managed to create the genuine atmosphere of a friendly neighborhood pub. Just a few short weeks since opening, Fitzpatrick’s Tavern hums with local gossip, elderly couples bickering about who can claim the most Irish lineage, men catching up on the World Cup tournament over those perfectly poured pints, and old friends bumping into each other unexpectedly with loud and enthusiastic greetings.
Handing a patron a Guinness, Patrick turns to me over his shoulder and says “This is why I started this place, right here.” The customer replies: “Best beer in the world.” We raise our glasses.
Fitzpatrick’s Tavern is located at 490 1st Street, Solvang. Sun. 11am-8pm; Mon.-Thurs. 11am-9pm; Fri.-Sat. 11am-11pm. 688-5500.