32 Grand Canal St., Lower, Grand Canal Dock
Colin Harmann made the move from investing in bonds to beans a few years back, right out of his third-floor Dublin flat (hence the moniker 3fe, or third-floor espresso). Nowadays 3fe has two locations in Dublin, but the original is tops for charm, and though it's a bit off the beaten track, Dubliners are a loyal crowd, and the place is always full. So much thought and time goes into each cup, roasted on-site and purchased using a direct-trade model from farmers many of the baristas have met in person, thanks to sourcing trips around the world. Sustainability is taken very seriously by Harmann, and the café generates barely any waste. Coffee grounds are composted; yogurt and ricotta are made from extra milk, and ferments and hot sauces from the vegetable trimmings. 3fe’s coffee is now available internationally from its website, so you can re-create that perfect cup that you remember from Dublin at home, anywhere.
Butlers Chocolate Café
4 Liffey St., Lower, City Center
As Irish as soda bread, Butlers is an institution—every Irish person's first port of call when they hit departures at Dublin airport or find themselves at the tail end of a rough day (or long night) in town. The hot chocolate is sublime—actual molten Irish chocolate whipped into the creamiest, frothiest, steamed milk and always served with a chocolate of your choice (go for the butter praline). The special white hot chocolate, even sweeter than the traditional version, is positively artery-clogging in its delicious richness. The coffee is also very good, and thankfully you’ll find Butlers cafés dotted throughout the city, although the most charming—and quick—iteration is the hole-in-the-wall across the road from Trinity College.
Fallon & Byrne
11-17 Exchequer St., City Center
The middle floor of this three-story gastronomy center is the marketplace and café every home cook wishes they had at their disposal, effectively Dublin’s answer to Dean & Deluca. The space is reason enough to visit, a vast, cavernous industrial-style room with warm redbrick walls and ornate parquet floors that, thanks to the shopping crowds, feels very urban. Fallon & Byrne offers a proper taste of Ireland with fish, meat, and cheese counters brimming with the finest product, much of it from smaller, artisanal producers around the country. The takeout counter is a great spot for a quick but proper lunch of curries, lasagna, roasted vegetables, salads, and coffee to go (or to enjoy at the few tall tables scattered amongst the boxes of mangoes and Wexford strawberries).
31 Drury St., City Center
On a lively stretch of Drury Street (conveniently right across from hygge shopping mecca Industry) in the heart of Dublin’s so-called Creative Quarter (although no one really calls it that), Kaph is an inclusive, happy haven for coffee lovers. Inclusive in the sense that it offers every type of alternative milk and delicious gluten-free and paleo treats to be enjoyed, ideally, sitting upstairs, gazing out the big windows onto the Georgian street below. Bring your own cup to pay less—good coffee with a conscience.
Sprout & Co
81B Campshires, Sir John Rogerson's Quay, Grand Canal Dock
What started off as a solo health-centric café concept has grown into a half a dozen locations across the capital. Dublin-born chef Jack Kirwin and his brother Theo noticed an appetite for the seasonal, vegetable-heavy, build-your-own-bowl food taking off stateside, and Sprout was born. The aesthetics of each location are broadly similar—subway-tile walls, cheery green menus, communal wood tables, plenty of greenery, and fridges stacked high with fresh cold-pressed juice (Kirwin essentially introduced Dublin to the concept). The food never disappoints, and for those craving a break from heavier Irish fare, Sprout is a welcome dose of SoCal-style cuisine—the falafel salad and kale Caesar drawing daily lines out the door. For a proper sit-down lunch, head to the Rogerson's Quay location, an old converted boathouse with stellar views, now topped with its own greenhouse, meaning that the lettuce in your salad was grown within minutes, not miles, of your plate.
The Cake Café
8 Pleasants Pl., City Center
Part of the Cake Café’s whimsical charm lies in the act of walking through a ribbon-and-stationery-filled printing press to get to the leafy courtyard it sits beside. The glass-walled café itself is a quaint collection of rickety tables, jugs of wildflowers, and cushion-strewn benches facing the open kitchen—stealing glances of the chefs rolling out cookie dough and carefully icing the Guinness chocolate cakes. There are few activities as comforting as tucking into a plate of the legendary tomato and beans on thick sourdough toast with a coffee (served in delicate, mismatched china cups and saucers) while the rain pelts against the windows. Pick up a box of miniature cupcakes, packaged adorably and sustainably in egg cartons, on your way out.
11 Coke Ln., Smithfield
Urbanity likes to do it themselves. Practically everything is made from scratch in-house by three friends crazy about good food and even better coffee. They bake the bread, pickle the pickles, toast the granola, and churn out the nut butters, oh, and they roast the coffee, too (single-origin beans straight from Oslo). Each menu item is elevated with an unusual flavor—classic porridge with Medjool dates and a citrusy honey, for example. The space is cheery and bright, with long communal tables ideal for a leisurely coffee and maybe a chat with the stranger sitting next to you.
Vice Coffee Inc.
54 Middle Abbey St., City Center
Vice coffee describes its vibe as “brews, bants, and beats”—“bants” being an abbreviation for “banter”, an all-encompassing term for good craic and conversation. Using a mix of domestic and international roasters, the menu has all the usual suspects (capps, flat whites, Americanos), alongside espresso-tasting flights, espresso-infused cocktails, and award-winning Irish coffee (they add a little orange blossom to the cream). All of this liquid versatility is accompanied by the seemingly humble toastie—Irish slang for what Americans call a grilled cheese. Except, these, like the coffee, are no ordinary toasties—try the banana-Nutella-and-mascarpone version, a sort of souped-up tiramisu for the sweet-toothed.
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