Richard Foss

Cork’er brings books, beer, and authentic Irish fare together in Redondo Beach

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Irish breakfast at Cork'er. Photo by Brad Jacobson

Irish breakfast at Cork’er. Photo by Brad Jacobson

Every true Irishman takes pride in their culture’s literary history, even if they don’t happen to have read any of it. It’s enough to know that O’Casey, Yeats, Joyce, and their companions are out there somewhere, available to be savored if the mood strikes. Putting an Irish-themed restaurant in a bookstore therefore makes conceptual sense.

Redondo Beach’s Cork’er shares a roof with Mysterious Galaxy, which specializes in mysteries and science fiction, but the spirit is the same – stop in here any day and you’ll see people with books open on the tables. It’s the brainchild of Larry Killian, who previously owned Killian’s Irish pub in Torrance, and it has an artsy vibe that mixes coffeehouse, café, and pub. Whimsical outsider art hangs on the walls, country and blues plays on the sound system, and a jugfull of water sits on the bar with a sign on it that says “Free Coors Light.”

Cork’er opens at 7 a.m. and offers full meals, including their version of the traditional Irish breakfast. This involves eggs, potatoes, half a banger sausage, bacon, baked beans, and a chunk of bread pudding with mocha-cream for dipping. It’s as massive as it sounds, and though the bacon is American-style rather than the meatier Irish rasher, the banger had the right texture and light peppery flavor. My eggs were well poached, the potatoes crisp, and the beans… well, let’s just say that I’ve never understood the Irish love for baked beans at breakfast, but these tasted just like the ones I didn’t understand in Ireland. The star is the bread pudding liberally studded with raisins, a wonderful dense, rich thing with balanced sweetness and a hint of cinnamon.

Cork'er's Larry Killian, who has brought an authentic taste of his family's heritage to the bookish little cafe attached to Mysterious Galaxy on Artesia Boulevard.  Photo by Brad Jacobson

Cork’er’s Larry Killian, who has brought an authentic taste of his family’s heritage to the bookish little cafe attached to Mysterious Galaxy on Artesia Boulevard. Photo by Brad Jacobson

The coffee that was served with breakfast was bracingly strong – they grind it fresh here, and have all the usual variants like cappuccino and lattes. It was another beverage that caught my eye – the line of bottles and taps for local craft beers – so I came back with a friend another day for lunch. The restaurant is proud of their corned beef so we ordered a Reuben sandwich, and I tried a cottage pie, which as is usually the case, is a casserole topped with potatoes instead of a pie with a dough crust. We also ordered a King Harbor Brewing Company’s “The Quest” IPA and a bottle of “Rosa’s Hips” Belgian-style ale from Monkish Brewing of Torrance. I found the IPA to be too assertively hoppy for my tastes, but my companion found it delightful, and we were both enchanted by the Belgian ale, which had a gentle rose scent thanks to the use of rose hips in the brewing process.

Our meals were both delicious but had distinct departures from the norm. Reubens are traditionally made with corned beef, Swiss cheese, and sauerkraut – this one added cooked red cabbage and Munster cheese to the tender, thin sliced beef instead. It didn’t have the tart vinegary tang of a standard Reuben, but was tasty on its own merits – my companion liked it better than a classic Reuben.

The Reuben at Cork'er. Photo by Brad Jacobson

The Reuben at Cork’er. Photo by Brad Jacobson

Beef pies in Ireland are usually a meat and vegetable stew topped with potato, but the beef in this one was concentrated and slightly chewy, as though an Irishman was trying to invent carnitas. The peas and carrots were a layer between meat and potatoes rather than being cooked in, so there were three different textures rather than the soft, moist version that is standard. It was like no meat pie I’ve had before, but I’d come back to see what their shepherd’s pie (made with lamb) or “pigs in pie” are like.

On another visit I tried Cork’er’s bacon jam, which is just as sweet and smoky as you might imagine, on a waffle, and it also is featured in a BLT that has received rave reviews from friends. I also had a cider-brined chicken sandwich which had a gentle apple tang – whether this was Irish or not, it was quite good.

The menu here has been going through changes as Killian finds out what can be done in the small kitchen, and after a period of being open for breakfast and lunch only they have reopened for dinner. Wine and beer tastings are planned, as are other events, and it seems likely this this otherwise retail and fast food-entered stretch of Artesia has developed a social center. Cork’er is a fine fit for the neighborhood and an asset to the area, a mélange of Irish and California ideas that deserves to succeed.

 Cork’er is at 2810 Artesia Boulevard in Redondo, between Inglewood and Kingsdale. Open daily 7 AM – 9 PM, parking lot, wheelchair access good, wine and beer served. No website, phone 310-499-2480.

 

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