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.
111 South Circular Rd., Portobello
A "bastible" is a type of old-school, flat-bottomed cast-iron pot, used to cook everything from bread to meat in times long past. This place goes back to basics, reimagining the good, solid food of an Irish childhood for the modern palate. Contemporary Irish cuisine has borrowed a few tenets from the new Nordic—an obsession with seasonality and no cut corners are especially evident at this restaurant. Chef Barry Fitzgerald (formerly of Etto and London’s Harwood Arms) is turning out 48-hour fermented sourdough ready to be slathered in house-made butter, scallops, and salty seaweed potatoes, duck eggs with crispy parmesan croutons...you get the idea. The menu is set, with Sundays reserved for bigger pieces of meat or fish for the obligatory family-style roast dinner.
14b Emorville Ave., Portobello
Bibi's, on a corner of a sleepy Portobello terrace, can be hard to find unless you know about it—which everyone does. Run by brother and sister Geoff and Maisha Lenehan (their mother often lends a hand), the café is beloved for the reliably good breakfasts of creamy eggs, crispy bacon, and fresh ginger-and-honey tea. The menu rarely changes, which is just fine with the locals. People always want the same thing here anyway: spicy Turkish eggs and thick buttery slabs of sourdough. The space is small and cozy with a lovely familial atmosphere thanks to friendly regulars and servers who have bussed the same tables for years.
46 Harrington St., Portobello
Unanimously declared the best breakfast in Ireland, Brother Hubbard serves portions such that you probably won't eat much for the rest of the day. The food strikes the balance between health and indulgence; the classic but simple porridge is a reminder of childhood breakfasts—healthy, hot, with too much honey. Bravely opened at the tail end of the recession, no corners are cut here, and each dish has been constructed for maximum flavor. The beans on toast are topped not just with the perfect poached egg but with a zesty lemon-turmeric yogurt and pickled red onion; the homemade masala chai is the only coffee alternative we ever willingly order. The modern dining room is immediately appealing, super minimalist lifted by sculptural undulating lights that descend from the ceiling and give the space a golden glow. There's always a line snaking out the door, usually for the do-it-yourself hot cocoa: chocolate ganache and steamed milk in separate cups, a dream come true for those who like a little milk with their chocolate.
Cavistons Food Emporium
58 Glasthule Rd., Sandycove
Southsiders hold a special place in their hearts for Cavistons, a specialty food store and fishmonger brimming with artisanal Irish (and international) goods. The counter has the most incredible, reliably delicious, array of to-go meals, salads, molten-chocolate cakes, fruit tarts, and freshly baked bread (the rosemary sourdough is killer). Crates of fruit and interesting vegetables you rarely see anywhere else in Dublin—like jackfruit—fill every square foot of floor space. Run since 1940 by the Caviston family, who are on a first name basis with every local, long conversation across the counter, irrespective of whether or not the line is out the door—which it usually is—is the accepted norm. This is the kind of place where suited-and-booted fishmongers good-naturedly fill complimentary bags with fragrant bundles of fresh herbs to pair with the fish, where the young girl manning the patisserie counter immediately puts that Victoria sponge she knows you like to the side so you don’t miss out, where they always find another loaf of soda bread to serve alongside the salmon.
18-19 Parnell Sq. N., Parnell Square
A mainstay for Irish gourmands for the last two decades, Chapter One always gets it right. A Michelin-rated, white-tablecloth establishment housed in the elegant basement of a Georgian townhouse in one of Dublin’s most culturally significant squares (the Garden of Remembrance and the Dublin Writer’s Museum are mere moments away). The menu leans heavily on the products Ireland does well—fish, game, and especially good vegetarian dishes with the freshest vegetables, beautifully prepared. For the experience without the hefty price tag, try the pretheater menu before attending a play at the Gate around the corner.
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.
155B Rathgar Rd., Rathgar, Dublin, Ireland
Fia is the brainchild of two friends who felt a hyper-seasonal café was missing from sophisticated Rathgar, and who hired Dublin chefs, like Keith Coleman, to create the menu. The dishes are all supplier-driven, brimming with Gubbeen cheese and chorizo, vegetables from McNally’s Farm, and Roasted Brown coffee beans. Everything from the lemony yogurt that drapes the eggs to the cherry kombucha is made in house. It's absolutely tiny—there are only twenty-five seats—so expect a line, albeit a fast-moving one. But it’s worth it: This is one of the better breakfasts in Dublin.
128 St. Stephen's Green, Stephen's Green
Glovers Alley is Dublin’s shiny new kid on the well-trod restaurant block, the kid in question being thirty-two-year-old chef Andy McFadden. McFadden has taken over the old Thornton’s and transformed it into a glamorous Art Deco salon that marries texture—marble, glass, wood, velvet—with function. This opening has created buzz among the Dublin culinary crowd, the kitchen filled with some of the city’s best talent, some of those who had moved across the pond to London and were lured back to an Irish kitchen. Glovers Alley is the kind of restaurant where you start with a crisp glass of champagne before delving into a menu that hints at French influence. The dishes celebrate Ireland’s fields and rivers with gamey, wintry plates like sika deer with bone marrow, suckling pig, or a lighter crab with ponzu and kohlrabi. The desserts are really clever. Pastry chef Aoife Noonan infuses classic items with sake, coriander, and cheese creating dishes that are still sweet but not too much so.
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