When I visited Ireland in 2009, I had scores of great meals. Although I didn’t do much foodie research prior to going there, we did end up eating at two restaurants and a cafe that had been recommended in my guidebook and none of them disappointed. In fact, were I to return to Ireland in the future, they are definitely spots I would frequent again. And so, if you’re headed to Ireland in the future, here are five culinary experiences you don’t want to miss.
I had the Irish breakfast’s cousin while I was staying in London during college in 2005 and absolutely loved it, so needless to say I was beyond excited to try the Irish version. While the differences between the English and Irish breakfast would probably escape the attention of most people, especially to their naked eye, I have no doubt that many can immediately spot the difference. The Irish breakfast consists of eggs, Irish bacon, Irish sausages, baked beans, black pudding (no, this is not the sweet type), grilled tomato, sauteed potatoes, Irish soda bread, and mushrooms. I only had it one time in Ireland, at our hotel’s restaurant, as it is a ton of food but thankfully it’s a common enough dish here in the United States at Irish restaurants.
-Bangers and mash
While this is not a dish unique toIreland (it’s enjoyed throughout the British Isles), it’s still an extremely popular dish found at Irish pubs. Bangers stand for sausage and in Ireland one is served Irish-style sausage, of course, along with mashed potato. I had this for dinner one night while dining at the Brazen Head, officially Ireland’s oldest pub dating back to 1198! It was delicious Irish comfort food in every regard.
-Fish and chips
Okay, so this is another popular British Isles food and yet to make it quintessentially Irish, be sure to get yours from Leo Burdock’s, which is an iconic fish and chips shop that dates back to 1913. It also received everlasting popularity when a certain Irish writer (James Joyce) featured it in his famous work Ulysses. While back in the day one took away their fish and chips in newspaper, today Leo’s just serves them in plain paper (a bit more hygienic I’m assuming..). The food itself consists of battered fish, commonly being Atlantic cod or haddock, which is then deep-fried and served along with chips (fries).
I didn’t get to try this while in Ireland but I have since and so it’s at the top of my list of things to eat whenever I made it back to Eire. A boxty is a traditional Irish potato pancake (yes, the Irish like their spuds) which is made with a mix of mashed and grated potatoes. It’s most common in the counties of Mayo, Sligo, Donegal, Fermanagh, Longford, Leitrim and Cavan, although I’m sure today you could find it just about anywhere. Peru and Ireland are two of my favorite countries since both revere the potato food-wise and that’s just key for me.
-Beef & Guinness stew
Yes, the Irish love their Guinness and even I, a non-beer drinker, quite enjoyed myself at the Guinness Storehouse while on the tour. The night we ate at the Brazen Head, D ordered himself a bowl of the piping hot beef and Guinness stew and was thoroughly satisfied. Beer, beef, bacon-for some that’s pretty much all they need when it comes to food-so all the better when these three crucial ingredients are all mixed together and allowed to cook and have their flavors waft together. It’s also popular to serve it with mashed potatoes. And since Ireland doesn’t ever really have heat waves, it’s perfectly acceptable to eat stew in the height of the summer.
Note: I want to give a Dublin shout-out to the Queen of Tarts cafe. It’s a delightful spot located right in the thick of the city center and serves everything from full lunch and breakfast offerings to a vast array of incredible sweets to of course, hot tea.
More in this series!