There has been a growing trend with the inconspicuous date of September 17. No, it’s not part of International Talk Like A Pirate Day (September 19, in case you were wondering). It is the half way mark leading up to St. Patrick’s Day, and lovingly falls under the umbrella phrase of “St. Practice Day”. Bands and venues are even starting to expand this day into the preceding and following weekends with music festivals and indoor hullabaloos that could make a passing bystander think that they’ve warped through 6 months.
Luckily, there isn’t a shortage of music sessions happening on Tuesday Nights. Finn McCool’s (Santa Monica) usually boasts a good musical talent for the evening, however, this particular night brought around a trip to Timmy Nolan’s in Toluca Lake.
This two story pub is cozy, to say the least. When the place is busy, it’s a hard-pressed undertaking to move through the lower area. Upstairs provides a bit more of an open space for dining, but seating is usually limited in the evenings. Both levels have a bar counter, and a good ol’ fashioned dumbwaiter is used to move food from the kitchen to upstairs with more ease. The warm wood colors, dim lighting, and a plethora of Irish themed décor create a relaxing atmosphere in the middle of a bustling valley.
A continuing staple of Timmy Nolan’s is their Tuesday night session. It’s spearheaded by Dan Conroy and Pat D’Arcy, with regular contributors of Melanie Nolley (fiddle), Kira Ott (fiddle), Kevin McKidd (guitar and vocals), Andrew Long (bodhran), and Steve Shapiro (banjo). The main focus is on the traditional celtic tunes, and despite the acoustic air, a rousing tune or two drifts up through the rafters accompanied by whistles and hollers.
It was starting to feel like a very festive St. Practice Day. Streamers were wrapped around the banisters, balloons were seemingly floating mid-building in the open ceiling space between the first and second floors, T-Shirt giveaways, and a drink with dinner special.
Now, if a person could only get a seat. It seemed like the pub may not have expected the crowd that showed. There was a private party upstairs that took just shy of half the tables, and then two more decent sized tables had “Reserved” signs on them. The “sign-in list” only had three names ahead of us. After 40 minutes of continuing a mantra of “just 10 more minutes and then we’ll leave”, a table opened up. In those 40 minutes, there were no less than 7 groups of people that had climbed the stairs, waited, and left in the interim. Granted, the pub’s normal nights don’t usually get this busy unless there’s a Dodgers or Lakers game on that is drawing out excited fans. If St. Practice Day is any indication of the crowd on St. Patrick’s Day, you should get there early and not leave.
Before being seated, the dinner and drink decisions were ready: A couple of Guinness’s, Irish Stew, and the corned beef and cabbage. Possibly dessert.
As true with any good Irish pub, Timmy Nolan’s can do a proper pour with a nice head on it. They have an array of various other Irish and European beers and ciders, along with American craft selections, but nothing that really puts them over the top in this aspect. If you need a drink with dinner or with friends, they can accommodate.
Timmy’s Irish Stew is a classic. Served in a sourdough bread bowl, the top portion removed usually gets a little dip and toasting with garlic butter. The bread is always soft and flavorful. The stew is simple and to the point: Meat, potatoes, and carrots. The meat is tender, but it usually turns out that the meat to veggie ratio is a little more in favor of the vegetables. The stew base is hearty but not overbearingly thick. It’s a really nice balance to a pint of Guinness.
The corned beef and cabbage left a lot to be desired. It should be noted that this is probably the most traditional plating to come across. On one side of the plate, a mound of roughly chopped carrots, and on the other side of the plate, some quartered red skin potatoes that were fairly tasty. In the middle was a modest wedge of boiled cabbage with a topper of 3 extremely thin slices (lunch meat style) of corned beef. Seasoning the mountain was a heavy helping of pulverized dill. At the bottom of the plate, there was an ocean of liquid (imagining that it’s probably some of the juice from the corned beef cooking, but it didn’t really have much flavor). It’s all served with a generous portion of horseradish. To be quite honest, the highlight of the plate was adding horseradish to the potatoes. If you end up with a corned beef itch that just needs to get scratched, go with the Celtic Burger.
Ah, yes, time to decide the dessert. After inquiring if there is a dessert menu, the waitress specified that they didn’t have one, but the options were a Jack Daniels Brownie, Jack Daniels Bread Pudding, or the special of the night, the Blueberry Pie. There’s a trend in there somewhere. Nope. If it had been a Jack Daniels Blueberry Pie, maybe… Perhaps the Irishness of their dessert options was hastily overlooked. Nothing with at least an Irish Cream sauce on it? Jack Daniels Brownie it is! What was delivered was a generous piece of chocolate cake in a caramel sauce (with a requested side of vanilla ice cream). Apparently, Jack Daniels was in the caramel sauce and playing hide and seek. Brownies are supposed to be dense and at least a thicker texture, but this was a light and fluffy cake. Overall, the cake was good, but mostly because it was chocolate with caramel sauce (Jack Daniels still not noticeable).
Having visited Timmy Nolan’s quite a few times, it is safe to say that they offer a wide variety of food for almost every palate, and just about every plate is a pleaser. Past trips have included the Steak Sandwich, Pasta Del Sol, Celtic Burger (a corned beef patty, and if you’re going to go all out, get it with the egg, onions, bacon, and cheese), Bangers & Mash, Ahi with Spicy Ponzu, Spicy Ahi, and a random salad (once upon a time). Unfortunately, there have been some meals where no dish at the table was spared a heavy hand of salt. These times can turn a warm and fuzzy stew into a meat-speckled-salt-lick. In all honesty, it’s kind of hit or miss on how salty the food might be on a particular day. Luckily on the most recent trip, the salt was not overbearing.
To date, personal favorite dishes are the Irish Stew, Celtic Burger, and the Ahi with Spicy Ponzu.
Overall, there isn’t really much that puts Timmy Nolan’s to the forefront of evening activity options. It’s just something to do. They had advertised St. Practice Day, which is the sole reason for visiting this last time. If you go on a game night, it’s going to be very loud. If you have a hankering for traditional music on a Tuesday night, it can take care of that.