San Marcos eatery, bar serves Irish fare with Texas flair

When Brian Harper decided to open an establishment six years ago in San Marcos, he had been in the restaurant business for more than a decade, so he knew exactly what he wanted.

"I took three concepts that I love—the Texas roadhouse kind of feel; the Irish pub concept, of course; and the sports bar, hence the 23 TVs," said Harper, who owns and operates Sean Patrick's Irish Pub with his wife, Jami.

The theme of the restaurant is "Irish pub, Texas grub," and it is a goal Harper takes seriously.

He creates the recipes for the more than 60 items on the menu, and he updates that list often. There are 26 beers on tap, with one section of the bar dedicated to Irish and Texas products such as those from the (512) Brewing Company, Fireman's 4 and, of course, Harp and Guinness.

Harper uses many of those beers in the recipes he creates.

Pork chops ($10) marinate in Harp Irish lager before they are breaded and fried. The Smithwick's chicken-fried steak ($10) is named for the Irish red ale used as a marinade. And nearly half the traditional menu items, including shepherd's pie and fish and chips, call for Guinness.

"We use a lot of alcohol in our cooking," Harper said. "Traditionally, Irish food, it's bland. So we've taken a traditional Irish meal and spiced it up a little bit."

Instead of the usual cod, for example, the fish and chips ($12) is made with catfish and served with hand-cut french fries.

Manager Jenn Moran described the food as a modern take on the traditional.

"Our authentic items are probably my favorite," she said. "The beef on weck is absolutely delicious."

Harper said the pub is committed to offering customers as much Texas and Irish fare as possible.

"Everything is made here. We try to get as much local product as we can," he said. "We're a Go Texan restaurant, so everything—all the beef for the hamburgers—everything's from Texas."

Among the menu items are nods to some of Harper's favorite movies or television episodes. Tommy Wants Wingys and a Reuben sandwich served on "Jerry's marbled rye" reference a Chris Farley movie and a "Seinfeld" episode, respectively.

"I'm a movie kind of guy. That's what's great about having your own place, because no one's going to tell you, 'Hey, you can't put that on the menu,'" Harper said.

No matter how inventive or traditional the offerings, however, he said one item outsells them all.

"I hate to say it. I know it's a good item, but for six straight years, our chicken strips [have been] the No. 1 seller, month-in and month-out," he said with a laugh.

When everyone is Irish

Patrons can sample a few Irish classics when Sean Patrick's hosts its annual St. Patrick's Day party March 17.

Manager Jenn Moran said the event will include live music, a special menu, and, of course, green beer—"lots of green beer."

Owner Brian Harper said the restaurant went through about 80 kegs of beer during the 2011 celebration.

Sean Patrick's Irish Pub, 202 E. San Antonio St., San Marcos, 512-392-7310,