A family-run business can be fraught with drama. Sibling issues, old resentments and too much familiarity can add up to a risky operation. But when a family enterprise works—when family members like and respect each other and are able, even under stress, to remain professional, with an unwavering eye toward the health of the business—it can be exceptionally successful.
Such is the case for the de Vere White family, whose convivial de Vere’s Irish Pub has been thronged since it opened in the old Firestone building at 16th and L streets in late January. The word pub is a shortened version of public house, and the de Vere Whites have created just that: a house for the public where people can feel comfortable and relaxed while socializing and downing thick, brown Guinness and devouring hot Cork City burgers.
The de Vere White brothers—Mark, Simon and Henry—run the business. (Two of the three were born in Ireland.) Their parents, Antoinette and Ralph, live five blocks away and come in frequently to chat with guests.
De Vere’s has the feel of an authentic Irish pub; the only thing missing is a thick cloud of cigarette smoke. Irish pub designers laid out the space, and Irish craftsmen built the bar furniture from Irish red oak, then traveled to Sacramento to install it. This created a unique opportunity for chef Tarick Abukhdeir to practice his Irish-cooking chops: He fed the craftsmen (and got their feedback) during the installation.
The pub’s front section, with its massive bar and faux stamped-tin ceiling, is marvelous. The walls are hung with family photos, and custom curio cabinets are filled with knickknacks and family heirlooms. There are several “snugs”—partially walled-in areas—that provide a bit of privacy for small groups. A separate bar in the back has a different, more somber feel, with dimmer lighting and intense, blood-red walls.
The de Vere Whites have provided a home away from home for local Irish Americans. But they aren’t the only ones enamored of this lively pub. Visit on a Thursday, Friday or Saturday evening, and you’ll find the place packed. De Vere’s doesn’t accept reservations, which can be uncomfortable if you come in on a busy night seeking a sit-down meal. There’s no hostess to seat you, though you’ll always hear a cheery “Hello, sit wherever you want,” called out by a staff member when you arrive (even when there aren’t any tables available, which is what happened to me recently). If you’re coming to dine, plan to arrive early in the evening or you may have to wait for a table. You also can dine at the bar—if there’s space.
If your only association with pub fare is greasy, bland, salty grub, de Vere’s food will be an unexpected pleasure. Abukhdeir, a veteran of the Paragary Restaurant Group, also has worked at Rio City Cafe and The Waterboy. He spent some time before the pub opened being tutored by Antoinette de Vere White, and many of the pub’s recipes are hers.
The most popular dish is Granny’s Shepherd’s Pie: a layer of ground beef freckled with tiny bits of vegetables, swathed in a creamy layer of perfectly piped (and prettily browned) mashed potatoes. You can get it topped with a fried egg (the traditional way, I’m told) if you wish. After plowing through The Fry Up (a full Irish breakfast with fried eggs, Irish bacon, sausages, sautéed mushrooms and soft-baked tomato wedges), you may wish you’d been born in Ireland. Served with Antoinette’s compact, oat-packed soda bread, it’s a comforting rib-sticker of a meal.
Other delicious dishes include Irish beef stew, toothsome fish ’n’ chips and Limerick Sliders (three mini lamb burgers topped with melted Dubliner cheddar). Sandwiches (always good with a freshly pulled brew) range from a fabulous Reuben to the Pub Club, a hearty sandwich piled high with grilled chicken breast, Irish bacon, lettuce, tomato and avocado. There are also some fun (and caloric) appetizers. Pair the crispy potato boats (potato skins filled with cheddar and Irish bacon) with a pint of Boddingtons Pub Ale.
I’m sure there are any number of beer and food combinations at de Vere’s I’d find appealing. I’ll be back soon to try an Old Speckled Hen ale (or maybe a Smithwick’s) with my bangers and mash.
RT, anyone? Parking can be a challenge, so plan accordingly
This Bud’s not for you: All the beers on tap are imported
No dessert: Looking to end your meal with something sweet? Tough luck. “You’re in a pub,” the menu reads. “See our drink menu!”
1521 L St., Sacramento; (916) 231-9947; deverespub.com l Daily 11 a.m.–2 a.m. l Prices: $