On the Road with Reid 'Round Ireland: Of Pub Grub and Toasteds and Cakes Made of Guinness
Navigating the dangerously expensive waters of Ireland's culinary scene with the aid of a good, strong pint
By Reid Bramblett
|O'Flaherty's, a corner carvery in the Co. Meath town fo Navan, serves up heaping platters of roasted carved meats for $9—and the Guinness with which to wash
(Originally published May 30, 2003 on MSNBC.com. Reprinted with permission. All photographs by Reid Bramblett, save the ones of Reid Bramblett, which are by Frances C. Sayers. This article won a Lowell Thomas award for travel journalism.)
OUR chief goal on most days in Ireland is not so much which sights are we going to see, or what scenic road should we drive next, but rather how to find the best grub in the most atmospheric pub. It is a challenge I welcome eagerly, but also a necessary one because I soon discovered that, once my culinary adventures strayed away from pub grub and cafes, the money started draining out of my wallet faster than a pint of Guinness in front of a pub regular on traditional music night.
I live in New York, where folks don't even blink at a $12 hamburger on the menu—most of us are not stupid enough to order it, of course, but it doesn't take us by surprise, either. Well, the menus posted at restaurants across Ireland made this New Yorker not only blink, but rub his eyes and blink a few more times. The prices were frankly outrageous. No matter if it was a city like Galway or Sligo, a tourist magnet village like Dingle, or some country bumpkin town, even the cheapest restaurant was unabashed to charge €15 to €25 ($18 to $30) for its main courses, even if just a chicken cutlet or personal-sized pizza.
But if you sit back and think about it, who comes to Ireland for a chicken cutlet or pizza anyway? Not I. The Irish are some of the ultimate meat and potatoes people, and the truly good grub round these parts are the traditional dishes.
- Irish stew means hunks of tender lamb (or long-marinated mutton) swimming along with carrots, onion, and quarters of potatoes so scrumptious they need no butter or salt.
- Fish 'n' chips is your standard batter fried fish sided with fat french fries.
- Coddle is a thick, slow-cooked stew of curling strips of back bacon, fat pork sausages, potatoes, and onion.
- Bacon and cabbage is pretty self-explanatory.
- Boxty are thick, belly-filling pancakes made from potatoes and often stuffed with meat or cheese (or even more potato); they're a specialty of Donegal but found elsewhere, especially in Dublin.