Multi-American | How immigrants are redefining 'American' in Southern California

St. Patrick’s Day L.A.-style: Taco specials in Bell, Irish whiskey in Koreatown

Yes, it's the Irish Nachos, that pinnacle of culinary fusion. A Guinness helps.
Yes, it's the Irish Nachos, that pinnacle of culinary fusion. A Guinness helps.
Photo by TK/Flickr (Creative Commons)

It's St. Patrick's Day, the religious feast day turned celebration of Irish culture that in the United States is, well, marketed to and celebrated by everybody. And in the Los Angeles area, it's celebrated in parts of town where Irish tradition isn't the first thing that comes to mind.

In Bell, the taqueria Tacos El Unico has posted green shamrock-studded coupons on its Facebook page for a "St. Patrick's Day Exclusive" special of street tacos and mini cheeseburgers.

In Boyle Heights (named for Irish immigrant and settler Andrew Boyle) the Chicano hipster bar Eastside Luv Wine Bar y QUEso is celebrating what it's calling “St. Pochi's Day,” a St. Patrick's Day party and a celebration of Eastside-bred pochismo rolled into one. “St. Pochi's is kind of tipping our hat to the Irish, and not so much being satirical but more of being a show of respect,” explained bartender Ed Castellon.

For Mexican Americans, the connection to Ireland isn't that much of a stretch, really. There are Mexicans with Irish surnames, like O'Hara and Quinn (including the late actor Anthony Quinn), thanks to an influx of Irish Catholics to Mexico in the 19th century. Perhaps best known is the St. Patrick’s Battalion, referred to as "los San Patricios," a group of mostly Irish American soldiers who deserted the U.S. Army to fight on the Mexican side during the Mexican-American War of 1846-1848. The U.S. executed them for treason, but in Mexico, they're remembered as martyrs. Not surprisingly, some towns in Mexico celebrate the holiday.

But what about everyone else? Will there be St. Patrick's Day celebrations in say, Koreatown?

"We'll have a special on Jameson and corned beef and cabbage," said Noi Gosyasook, a bartender at the HMS Bounty, a decades-old restaurant and bar and whose presence in Koreatown predates the neighborhood's many waves of immigrants. "And Irish lamb stew."

The patrons are what Gosyasook calls "a mix:" office workers, white barhoppers, Asian American barhoppers, locals and older folks. And when the bar pours Irish whiskey tonight and serves up its St. Patrick's Day specials, "we'll get the same mix," she said.

There will be people celebrating their own non-Irish mini-traditions, too. One will be Roberto Cantú, a literature professor at Cal State Los Angeles who happened to be researching the San Patricios when his son was born on St. Patrick's Day four years ago. While he wasn't christened Patricio, little Roberto Jr. is now a Mexican American kid whose parents dress him in green each birthday.

“I told my wife, although my son was born in this country, in my son’s Mexican heart there will always be a place for the Irish for the rest of his life,” Cantú said.

How else is St. Patrick's Day being celebrated around town in ways and places you wouldn't expect? Tell us, please.

- Guest blogger Ana Facio Contreras contributed to this post