The closest party-goers can get to Ireland without leaving the Valley this St. Patrick's Day is Ireland's 32 in Van Nuys. From the Guinness and Harp served on tap to the timbre of the bartenders' Irish accents, the atmosphere at Ireland's 32--named for the country's 32 counties--takes patrons across the Atlantic and into a traditional Dublin pub.
THE SCENE: A bar ringed in Christmas lights runs the length of the west wall. Booths line the opposite wall, and brick arches divide the pub into two rooms. Paintings of rustic scenes of Mother Ireland hang on several walls.
Hungry patrons can enjoy fish and chips, soup and sandwiches from the pub kitchen or simply elbow up to the bar for a pint or two. A small dance floor gives everyone a chance to let loose to the live music played on weekends. Sports at Ireland's 32 are limited to four dart boards and whatever game is on one of the televisions.
THE CROWD: This is a neighborhood bar that attracts a variety of locals. There are 50-something executive types sipping mixed drinks as well as young construction workers downing pints after a hard day's work. The dress is casual; some come in T-shirts and jeans, others in jackets and dress pants. People seem more interested in good conversation and the next drink than in what a neighbor is wearing.
THE ENTERTAINMENT: There is a variety of live blues, early rock 'n' roll and Irish folk music Thursdays through Saturdays. A recent Friday night showcased Irish theater and music with a presentation of the play "Voices From the Liffey" and a musical performance by the band Irish Eyes. The play was created specifically for pubs and is what author Stephen Brennan calls "combat Irish theater."
"It's a cobweb of tidbits and highlights from some of the great moments of Irish theater that made my life magic," Brennan said. Nearly 200 people crowded into the pub to see the play, which highlighted the lives of about 100 Dubliners, both real and imaginary. Unfortunately, it is not a regular feature at the pub, but according to bartender Tom Bell, there may be more theater pieces in the future.
THE GOOD: Ireland's 32 gives you a taste of traditional Ireland without the plane fare. Friendly bartenders and Irish accents take you across the Atlantic and make you feel at home all at the same time.
THE BAD: Get there early, especially on weekends, when the pub is usually packed by 9 p.m. Tonight there is a $10 cover charge. Every other night of the year there is no cover.
THE WORD: "You almost feel like family when you come here," said Rick Ruud of Pacific Palisades.
Ireland's 32, 13721 Burbank Blvd., Van Nuys. Hours: 10 a.m. to 2 a.m. daily. Information (818) 785-4031.