Dublin dining

The best restaurants in Dublin, and a primer on Irish food, cuisine, and drink

The Irish have a reputation, not entirely undeserved, of being a meat-and-potatoes—and nothing else—sort of people. This isn't really true, but even if it were, Irish lamb and mutton (you're in serious sheep country now) are quite excellent.

So is the steak, especially the beef from central Ireland around Mullingar.

As for those potatoes, the Irish have managed to cultivate potatoes from a poor man's food almost into an art form. Some varieties are so buttery and soft they need no condiments or accompaniment.

Recomended Dublin restaurants

These are my ten favorite places to eat in Dublin. None are overly expensive; you can get a full meal, with drinks, for at most €20–€35 per person (maybe €8–€12 at the last three).

★★★ Sixty 6 [Modern Irish]
★★★ Jaipur [Indian]
★★★ Gallagher's Boxty House [Irish]
★★ Chez Max [French]
★★ Bewley's Cafe [cafe]
★★ Dunn & Crescenzi [Italian]
Shebeen Chic [Modern Irish]
Silk Road Cafe [Mid-Eastern/Asian]
Leo Burdock's [fish 'n' chips]
Epicurian Food Hall [ethnic fast food]

Other traditional Irish foods that may grace your table are roast chicken, boxty (potato pancakes wrapped around meaty fillings), coddle (boiled bacon, sausages, onions, and potatoes), and lamb stew.

Alongside almost every meal you'll find slabs of incredible, dense Irish breads, the best being moist brown bread and the dry soda bread.

The other great food of Ireland, not nearly so well-known, is the wild salmon that swims in its rivers, especially in the mighty Shannon.

This and other freshwater and sea fish (Ireland is an island, and Dublin Bay offers up wonderful prawns) give Irish chefs great seafood bounty with which to work. And believe me: these days, they really do work it.

Modern Irish cuisine

Ireland is no longer a land of blackened meats and overcooked veggies.

Irish cooks have examined the French nouvelle and California eclectic schools of cooking and drawn from them techniques to apply to traditional ingredients and recipes.

Irish food has made even greater strides toward refinement than British food has in the past few decades.

Plus, in cosmopolitan Dublin, you'll find plenty of continental, French, Italian, and other ethnic restaurants to satisfy any hunger craving.

Pub grub

The most common pub snack is a toasted ham and cheese sandwich, which is just as basic as it sounds.

Many pubs will offer fuller menus (think of your typical burgers-and-fries-and-nachos bar fare, then add shepherd's pie, a bowl of ground beef, carrots, and peas under a lid of mashed potatoed baked golden brown).

Other pubs do a traditional carvery lunch of carved meats.

Many traditional pubs look askance at the entire concept of pub cuisine and stick to serving nothing but pint after pint of beer—though there will probably be some bags of crisps (potato chips) on the wall.

The Full Irish Breakfast

A traditional hearty Irish breakfast is a cholesterol convention you should indulge in at least once. A bowl of deliciously lumpy porridge, eggs, country bacon, scones with marvelous jams and marmalades, black and white puddings (scrumptious, especially if you don't think about what's in them), and a slice of tomato are all fried up—well, except for the scones and porridge—and served on a plate.

Irish beer

No survey of Irish cuisine would be complete without discussing the true main course of an Irish meal: beer. The Irish will tell you that imported Guinness in a can or bottle is another animal entirely from a pint properly pulled in an Irish pub—and they're absolutely right. Some purists insist on patronizing only the pub at the brewery itself in order to guzzle the rich, black, creamy, yeasty elixir straight from the proverbial vat.

Don't miss out on the Guinness rival from Cork, the dark Murphy's. (Everyone seems to look down upon Ireland's third stout, Beamish, and it often costs less than anythgin esle on tap, though no Dublin barman could tell me why.)

Smithwicks (pronounced "Smitticks") is tops when it comes to ales, though some prefer Kilkenny. Both are red ales (like Killian's—though, ironically, you can't find Killian's in Ireland).

Guinness's lager is called Harp—though hardly any Irish drink lagers, or if they do they guzzle an import like Heineken (and the younger generation does seem to be developing a taste for lager).

For a break from the barley-based brews, quality hard cider is also on tap (and, for some reason, usually slightly pricier than the beer).

Irish whiskey

The Irish invented whiskey—the legend pins it on a 6th century monk, who called it uisce beatha, which in Irish means "water of life." In fact, Old Bushmills (established in 1608 in what is now Northern Ireland) is the oldest distillery in the world.

The "e" near the end of the word isn't the only difference between Irish whiskey, Scotch, and American or English whisky. The unique Irish distillation process gives the stuff a cleaner, less smoky flavor—and whiskey is distilled three times, compared to just twice for Scotch or once for American whisky.

In addition to Bushmills, other brands sample include Dublin-brewed Jamesons, ever-popular Powers, ples Paddy's, Tullamore Dew, Murphy, and Dunphy.

The Irish drink their whiskey neat, and a few decades ago they started dumping it into coffee, mixing in sugar, topping it off with whipped cream, and serving it to arrivals at Shannon airport (this Irish Coffee may be touristy, but mm, mm, good).

Tours Under $995 G Adventures

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This article was by Reid Bramblett and last updated in September 2011.
All information was accurate at the time.

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Copyright © 1998–2013 by Reid Bramblett. Author: Reid Bramblett.