Ireland may be one of Europe’s more diminutive island nations, but when it comes to food and drink, it has a culinary passion that burns brighter than you’d ever expect. Dublin City in particular has become a hotbed of foodie fantasy in recent years; gone are the days when its cuisine was limited to traditional, no-frills pub grub (though even that’s definitely an artform in and of itself!) – today, it’s all about variety, fusion, and delightfully elevated takes on countless tried and true Irish classics. In fact, when it comes to bars and restaurants in Ireland’s capital city, the range of options is so broad that simply choosing where to eat your next meal can be surprisingly large challenge. Thankfully, that’s where we at Shamrock Gift come in!
Below, we’ve compiled a list of Dublin’s ultimate dining options, covering a wide range of go-to spots for every occasion and taste imaginable. So, what are you waiting for? Tuck in!
BEST TRADITIONAL IRISH FOOD:
The Hairy Lemon
Time-honored yet trendy, the Hairy Lemon has been a fixture on Dublin’s Stephen Street since the 1950s, when it was named in reference to one of the most well-known figures in the city center at the time: a local dog catcher, who supposedly had a face shaped like the citrus fruit in question and an abundance of rough, wiry facial hair. Going along nicely with the pub’s quirky namesake is its interior decor — make sure you check out the collection of wellington boots hanging from the ceiling when you visit!
Of course, the Hairy Lemon has more than its aesthetic character going for it. Time and time again, its culinary team have been lauded for their mouth-watering renditions of all of the Irish classics: traditional Irish lamb stew, cottage pie, beef and Guinness pie, and bangers and mash are just a handful of the comforting dishes served up to immense customer satisfaction on the daily.
The pièce de résistance of the Hairy Lemon menu, however, is its “Famous Dublin Coddle.” Confirmed by food writer James Fenton of LovinDublin.ie to be the best coddle in the entire city, this plate of traditional Irish heaven combines bacon, sausage, root vegetables, and potatoes in a steaming savory broth. Served over creamy mashed potatoes, it simply can’t be beat!
BEST FINE DINING EXPERIENCE:
If it’s pure luxury on a plate that you’re after, look no further than Chapter One, Dublin’s only one Michelin star restaurant. This high-end establishment is located in the basement of the Dublin Writer’s Museum (hence the name) and its kitchen has been presided over by award-winning head chef Ross Lewis since 1992.
Particularly praised by Irish Examiner restaurant critic Leslie Williams is the the terrine of wild game, preserved cherries, marinated foie gras, and brioche appetizer, for its “admirable depth and meaty richness, counterpointed by blobs of foie gras parfait and textured, creamy squares of fresh brioche.” For the main event, the restaurant’s menu covers all of the bases in a selection of entrees prove unique despite their simplicity and universal appeal: braised Irish short rib, organic chicken, and sika venison with elderberries and green peppercorn all wow diners on a nightly basis.
And, while desserts are often treated as something of a superficial add-on in fine dining establishments, this is far from the case in Chapter One: dark, rich, and warm chocolate mousse with Guinness stout flavors, barley puff pastry with bourbon ice cream and Irish coffee sauce, and a delectable selection of Irish cheeses are treated with the utmost care and attention to detail, making it clear why Chapter One has maintained its place as a stronghold of Dublin’s fine dining culture for over 25 years.
BEST LUNCH ON A BUDGET:
Taking in the sights and sounds of the beautiful city of Dublin is hungry work. As such, it’s always a good idea to have a secret lunchtime weapon up your sleeve: somewhere you can grab a quick and inexpensive bite to eat with a friend, without breaking the bank or compromising on quality. For us, this ace in the hole is Alfies.
Located at 10 South William Street in trendy Dublin 2, this bar and restaurant venue is simultaneously cozy and fun, with a glittery aesthetic that’s guaranteed to make even the most casual meal feel a little fancier. However, if you think you’re on the road to paying a premium for this glitzy atmosphere, think again — because the best thing about Alfies is its €10 lunchbox.
This three-piece meal option is infinitely-customizable, making it a fantastic go-to for lunching partners with markedly different ideas of what perfection tastes like. Fill up one third of your plate with the soup of the day, garlic bread, chicken wings, or caesar salad; a second with a pulled pork bap, Thai yellow curry, beef lasagne, or even a 5oz sirloin steak; and the final portion with homemade fries, mixed vegetables, rosemary potatoes, or a cup of Alfies’ house-made macaroni and cheese. The best part of all, you ask? These aren’t even half of the options!
BEST SPOT FOR BIG GROUPS:
Finding the perfect place to enjoy a meal with the whole family, tour group, or even office population can be an extremely stressful task, no matter what city of the world you’re in. Thankfully, when in Dublin, there’s a natural solution that dozens of locals turn to on a daily basis, whether it’s for lunch, dinner, or tapas-style appetizers. Market Bar is located on Fade Street, a stunning red brick area favored by artists for its rich, 250-year history. The restaurant is unapologetically massive.
Thanks to its, sweeping ceiling and bustling atmosphere, a meal planned at one of Market Bar’s long tables is one guaranteed to be a hit with everyone in your party. The Market Bar menu is particularly favored for its small plates, with plenty of hearty, flavorful dishes on offer, such as calamari, chicken and chorizo skewers, goat cheese crostinis, and patatas bravas in a scrumptiously spicy tomato sauce.
Looking for something more in the way midday eats? Swing by for lunch between 12pm and 3pm on weekdays — their €9 lunch deal gets you a sandwich, bowl of soup, and a cup of coffee or tea, too.
BEST SPOT FOR A DATE NIGHT:
The Vintage Cocktail Club
Hidden away behind an unsuspecting doorway in Temple Bar, Dublin’s most lively social district, the Vintage Cocktail Club is a step back in time to the glamor of the 20s. Its uniquely dramatic atmosphere, paired with the relative exclusivity of the bar (you’ll only recognize it if you know it’s there, and then have to ring a secret doorbell to gain entry) makes the Vintage Cocktail Club one of the most sought-after spots for a romantic evening out in the city.
Boasting a self-described atmosphere of “raucous yet refined debauchery,” the Vintage Cocktail Club is strictly available only to patrons over the age of 23, guaranteeing a mature crowd on any evening of the week. There, they enjoy intimate sharing boards of antipasti, mozzarella with sun-dried tomato, and deep-fried brie with apricot — the perfect excuse to get a little closer with your date for the evening. Our best advice? Get the famous “Trio of Chocolate Textures” for dessert. There’s nothing like the feeling of indulging to the fullest with that special someone!
And speaking of indulging, it’s important to note that the Vintage Cocktail Club’s menu of homemade drinks more than live up to the establishment’s evocative name. The entire cocktail selection is listed in the drinks’ order of appearance in history: there’s everything from the “Golden Age of the Cocktail” roundup of whiskey smashes, sherry cobblers, and the like, to the “Roots of the Tiki Craze” of 1935, featuring everything from mai tais to traditional navy grog. The array of choices is truly mind-boggling!
BEST RESTAURANT FOR VEGETARIANS:
When travelling as a non-meat eater, eating out can prove to be tricky at the best of times, and an outright chore at the worst. Thankfully, Dublin caters for visitors of all dietary requirements in some manner or another, and when it comes to vegetarianism and veganism, there’s no better place to go to calm that rumbling stomach than Umi Falafel, on Dame St.
As explained on the restaurant’s website, umi is the Arabic word for “mother,” and was chosen as part of the restaurant’s name in a reference to the loving care that goes into each and every one of its plates. This is no exaggeration, either — Umi Falafel’s large selection of falafel and halloumi sandwiches, traditional Middle Eastern salads, fillo rolls, and hummus dips taste so good, it really is like it’s been dished up for you by the devoted hand of a parent.
When visiting Umi, be sure to round off your meal with a tall glass of one of their freshly-squeezed juices. Their selection covers all of the basics, like orange, apple, and carrot juice, but the house special is the Jazar Surprise — a stimulating blend of carrot and apple, spiked with a sinus-clearing hit of ginger.
BEST PUB FOR WATCHING THE MATCH:
Located just outside the grounds of Trinity College, the Porterhouse is the perfect spot for a pick-me-up directly after you’ve been working on your Irish cultural knowledge, viewing the Book of Kells, Harp of Brian Boru, and more. A trip to this beloved establishment lets you settle down at the long bar with a pint, and dive into an entirely different kind of Irish culture by watching the soccer, rugby, or GAA game of the hour on on their gigantic projector screen!
With sister restaurants now existing in Co. Wicklow, London, and New York, the Porterhouse bar on Nassau Street (differentiated by the others with the title Porterhouse Central), boasts a huge range of beers that come from the Porterhouse Brewing Company itself, such as Porterhouse Oyster Stout, Porterhouse Plain Porter, and Porterhouse Nitro Red Irish Ale. Its food menu also features a ton of perfect match-watching snacks (think black pudding sausage rolls, battered scampi, and ham and cheddar croquettes) as well as heftier plates.
BEST PINT OF GUINNESS:
It’s no stretch to say that since Guinness stout was created at St. James’s Gate, Dublin in 1759, one question has been inextricably tied to its legacy. Where can the best pint of Guinness be poured? There are many who have their own answer, but one of the most recurring responses in Dublin City is Toners Pub, located on Baggot Street. Since the pub was established in 1818, only 59 years after the genesis of Guinness itself, we think that there could be something to it.
This classic, old-style pub is also much-loved for its traditional Irish snug (a small, private room once common in most Irish establishments) and charming beer garden. Also drawing in visitors from far and wide is its strong literary connections: many famous Irish writers have frequented its barstools over the years, including poets Patrick Kavanagh and W.B. Yeats.
BEST SELECTION OF IRISH WHISKEY:
The Palace Bar
So, now that we know where to find the best pint of Guinness in Dublin, another essential question is begged: where should one go in order to come face to face with the best selection of Irish whiskey in the city? It’s a close call, but the results are in. If it’s the strong stuff that holds the key to your heart, the Palace Bar of Fleet Street is the place for you.
Described by DublinTown.ie as “untainted, unspoiled, and unperturbed by the passage time,” this Victorian pub was built in 1832, though most of its iconic character was accrued in the 1940s and 50s, when it gained a very significant patron: namely, R.M. Smyllie, the then-editor of the national newspaper, the Irish Times. It wasn’t long before many of Smyllie’s employees and colleagues followed in suit. Suddenly, the Palace Bar had become home newsmen, correspondents, and compositors aplenty of Dublin’s three main newspapers. Being that the Irish Times headquarters were (and still are) located a mere three-minute walk away from the pub, it’s natural that it became a popular place for its staff to compose articles, conduct interviews, and unwind with a high-quality whiskey after a long, hard day’s work. In fact, many of their contemporaries continue to follow in their footsteps over the Palace Bar’s threshold – so if you stop in for a tipple, be sure to keep an ear out for the next big scoop!
Today, the decor of the Palace is entirely unchanged to what it looked like 187 years ago; and while most of the whiskeys on its bar aren’t quite that old, you can bet there’s some that come very close!
Have some recommendations of your own? Be sure to let us know in the comments below!