City Center Restaurants
S. Great George's St., City Center
Ireland’s claim to culinary fame certainly does not lie in the arena of Mexican cuisine, but 777 makes an admirable stab at the real thing, helped by the broad selection of top-class mescal served at the bar. The owners have successfully managed the often impossible at 777—they’ve created an atmosphere, a buzz, a place people want to be. The bar is a destination in and of itself, mixing the best margarita in the country. The interior is fun and brave, with sexy murals painted onto the subway-tiled walls, a yellow-and-black checkerboard floor, and a golden glow cast by the yellow-tinged light fixtures—it all feels a bit off-color, a bit explicit. The menu lists only a few dishes and sides, but all are done well. The yellowfin sashimi with pickled cucumber, served on a crisp tostada with habanero and a punchy chipotle mayo, is especially good as are the elotes and chicharrón tacos.
1 William St. S, City Center
Few restaurants manage to keep up as solid an ambiance and loyal a crowd year in year out as Coppinger Row—literally, it never disappoints. Named for the narrow alley it occupies between two of the capital’s busiest and buzziest streets, the space is small, with every ounce of square footage filled with tables, chairs, and people. Dining is not compulsory, and sitting outside the restaurant, sipping one of the excellent cocktails (top choices include the flo and basy and the gunpowder gin and tonic with grapefruit and star anise) wrapped in a blanket with one of Coppinger’s mini hot water bottles in your lap is one of the town’s true pleasures. The food is Mediterranean/Irish: messy garlic and chili prawns à la plancha, black pudding salad (an Irish staple—the pudding, not the salad), crispy pork belly and stewed apple. Sometimes it’s not the meal itself but how it ends that’s most memorable; in this case, the bonbon coffee, a shot of espresso and condensed milk served with a lone almond, is strangely more satisfying than any dessert.
18 Merrion Row, City Center
Etto, a small, informal slip of an independent restaurant on one of Dublin’s better gastronomic strips, is one of the most exciting, envelope-pushing places to eat in a city that is, despite what people say, bursting with good food. The simple, completely informal white-walled, wood-floored room serves up Michelin-rated, Italian-inspired food flecked with Irish influence. The result is totally unexpected: You won’t find regular pizza or pasta here. The menu changes daily, and a sampling might include duck-heart toast with pickled turnips, deer carpaccio paired with artichoke and pickled pear, sea bream crudo and blood orange, mussels and salty samphire, a creamy panna cotta with poached clementines to finish. Wine-wise, the list is heavy on old-world labels, with many available by the carafe. Despite the unceasing accolades, Etto is not expensive, and the beloved staff will always do their best to find you a seat.
109A Baggot St. Lower, City Center
Partners in the kitchen and in life, Derry and Sallyanne Clarke have operated one of Dublin’s most successful fine-dining establishments for nearly thirty years. Walk through the cobbled courtyard into the old Georgian coach house—often to be welcomed by Sallyanne herself. Chef Clarke showcases the very best of Irish cuisine inflected with a French sensibility; every dish and detail is thoughtful, right down to the bread basket (which in itself is a solid introduction to Irish gastronomy—the malty, dark Guinness bread, the umami-strong sourdough, the traditional soda loaf). Diners will notice a fish- and game-heavy menu paired with the unexpected flavors that keep this establishment in the Michelin guide: Wicklow sika deer with salsify and juniper, duck with black garlic. The atmosphere is never stuffy or precious, instead, laughter fills the high-ceilinged space that’s always full of that heady Dublin mix of politicians, creatives, bankers, and the occasional out-of-towner that gives L’Ecrivain its personable, familiar character.
Molesworth Ct., School House Ln. E, City Center
Like many of Dublin’s fine-dining establishments, One Pico has withstood the test of time, surviving the rise and fall of the Celtic tiger and subsequent recession—a true feat. Fueling celebratory dinners and long lunches since 1997, longtime chef Eamonn O’Reilly does what some would call modern Irish cuisine really well, with a nod to the French flavors Ireland has developed a taste for. Beef tartare with charcoal mayo and pickled carrot, turbot with cockles and roasted scallops, and an array of inventive deserts (we’re partial to the honey parfait, honeycomb, bee pollen, and milk ice cream in particular), served out of a discreetly elegant dining room in a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it mews house down a quiet laneway in the city center.
43 Camden St., City Center
Chef Sunil Ghai is no stranger to the Dublin food scene having done stints in the Ananda and Jaipur kitchens over the last few years. Pickle, however, is his first solo venture. Ghai has chosen to highlight the street snacks and home cooking of Northern India, creating punchy, assertive dishes packed with flavor and perfect for sharing. Don’t play it safe; try something new like the lamb-and-bone-marrow curry cooked for close to twenty-four hours or spice-crusted scallops. Venison, something eaten a lot in Ireland, is wholly reimagined with bright pickled cauliflower, wild berry chutney, and a smoky chili yogurt. The décor is as exciting as the food—patterned tiles, green-and-yellow accents, and colorful posters of India adorning the walls.
The Woollen Mills
42 Lower Ormond Quay, City Center
The Woollen Mills is the newer sister restaurant to the Winding Stair, and while the resolute dedication to Irish producers is the same, the menu and setting are different. The four-story building—every corner of it occupied with gastronomic something—is an iconic Dublin landmark preserving many of the original features. The breakfast here is good, really good—the Ha’penny fry-up for the traditionalists, the squash bhaji topped with the perfect poached egg, yogurt, and bright mango marmalade for the more adventurous. Dinner is even more impressive: Irish oysters with pickled seaweed, roasted monkfish with kohlrabi, and the best vegan burger in the city.
The Pepper Pot
60 William St., City Center
Most people sort of stumble upon the Pepper Pot, which is built into one of the rooms along the terrace of Powerscourt House. It's an ode to the traditional tea parlor, with the obligatory waxy floral tablecloths, pretty china, and sandwich menu. This is a casual spot that's also great for kids as there's so much to see with people shopping in the surrounding rooms and the piano usually tinkling away. A must-order is the roasted-pear-and-bacon sandwich—unexpected and so delicious.