Let me start by clarifying that the name is Irina’s Bar & Grill and the exterior and interior do not convey that it is much more than that. Until you look at the menu and notice that there are several German beers on tap, there is no obvious sign that some of the best German cooking in San Diego is coming out of this kitchen.
Let’s start with Irina, who heads up the kitchen and runs the restaurant with her daughter Lana and stepson Jonas. They hail from a small town in Westphalia, Germany, not far from Hanover. Nadja is the bartender and server and while not related she is a vital part of this family restaurant. Irina’s dishes are known and appreciated in any part of Germany but it is her execution that makes them stand out. Kartoffelpuffer, also known as Reibekuchen, are a couple of specialties local to her area of Germany that Irina whips up for breakfast on NFL Sundays. Translated, they are basically amazing potato pancakes usually served with applesauce and sour cream and are pure comfort food.
Before I get into the meat of the menu so to speak, l will preface it with the fact that the German dishes are hand-made from scratch with fresh ingredients including all sauces and side dishes. The Sauerkraut is Irina’s specialty and she made it for the whole family as a young girl. You can taste that love in every dish I’ve tried here and before this story hits The Coast News I will probably have been back to eat my way through the rest of the menu.
The Jagerschinitzel is a massive plate of breaded pork cutlet topped with hunters sauce and served with potato wedges or mashed potatoes. Hunter’s sauce is a brown gravy sauce common on German dishes and Irina’s version is delicious. The pork cutlet is pounded thin so the impressive plate coverage should not intimidate. I managed to polish it off basically because I could not stop eating it. I could envision a more restrained approach and some fabulous leftovers, maybe on a sandwich, but that would be exhibiting portion control and that was not happening.
The Kohlroulade was amazing as well. Cabbage leaves stuffed with beef, rice and a creamy vegetable sauce served with mashed potatoes. Just FYI, when you see the word roulade it usually translates into the dish being served in the served in the form of a roll, usually stuffed with goodness and hot damn this was good.
Another fabulous dish I sampled was the Geschnetzeltes Vom Schweine, one that I did not even try to pronounce but devoured heartily and with a big smile. It’s a pork ragout in a mustard crème sauce with honey, pickle, bell pepper served with sautéed spatzle. The spatzle was light and the perfect carb to accompany this hearty but not heavy dish.
Other big sellers at Irina’s include the Bratwurst + Sauerkraut, Currywurst + Pommes, Kasespatzle Bowl and the delicious sounding Erbsensuppe, which is basically a split pea soup with bratwurst slices, bacon, veggies and served with sourdough bread.
There is one dessert called Schneegestöber that translates to “snowstorm” and it is a sweet, creamy treat made with raspberries and white chocolate. I’ve not saved room for that one yet.
In addition to the stellar German food menu, they have a big lineup of German beer including Bitburger Pils, Krombacher Pils, Hofbräu Münchner Helles, Paulaner Oktoberfest Märzen and Köstritzer Schwarzbier on tap. Their German bottle selection includes Bitburger Radler, Paulaner Salvator, Paulaner Hefeweizen and Weihenstephaner Kristall Weissbier and Erdinger Dunkel. Nadja will be happy to pair a German beer with your meal.
I should make note that there is a nice variety of appetizers, burgers and sandwiches, including some with German touches. We had a basket of fries while waiting for our entrees and they were top notch. That said, make the trip from wherever you are for Irina’s German cooking, it’s that good.
I don’t want to bad mouth the other German-influenced restaurant down the road in Carlsbad as it’s still one of my favorites, but I’ve never had anything like Irina’s German cooking there. And remember, Irina’s is a bar and grill on the surface with a pool table and a very diverse crowd, but that’s part of the appeal and the beauty of Oceanside. One final note, please go to Irina’s with an appetite and forget about your food restrictions and diets for a night and indulge a little.
Check them out at 3375 Mission Avenue, #J, Oceanside. For more, call (760) 433-5086 or visit www.irinasbarandgrill.com.
Lick the Plate has interviewed over 700 chefs, restaurateurs, growers, brewers and culinary personalities over the past 10 years as a column in The Coast News and in Edible San Diego. He can be heard on KSON, FM94/9 and Sunny98.1. More at www.lick-the-plate.com