Irish Grub: Our Restaurant Experiences

by Gavan on October 10, 2008

Being born and bred in Ireland I grew up eating the foods that are still eaten there today. There are traditions that have been handed down from generation to generation that are not only found from home to home but also found in restaurants and pubs, which are commonly referred to as extensions of our homes. Homemade brown bread, for instance and homemade fish chowders are commonly found. As much as I love these foods, I also crave the diversity in foods that we sometimes take for granted in the States. And yes, I crave healthy food (i.e. foods without cream and butter and cheese…the Irish LOVE these ingredients!) With the Missus being a fishetarian, as she likes to call herself, eating out can be challenging in a land of lamb and beef. Thankfully fish and crab run also run a plenty.
Our first restaurant stop in Dublin was at a place walking distance from our hotel in Ball’s Bridge called Real Gourmet Burger, where all burgers are handmade with 100% organic, naturally reared or free range Irish meat. All relishes & sauces are made fresh each day in their own kitchen. Bingo. Right up my alley. I ordered a chicken burger which was spot on and the Missus ordered a towering Portobello burger. It was a monster. Watching her eat that was pretty amusing! The chips (or fries) were perfectly cooked and were actually made of potatoes. Sprinkled with rosemary salt, they were the business. (I was on holiday after all!) Pretty good for our 1st stop.

Continuing in Dublin we hit up Davy O’Byrne’s pub along Grafton St. the next day for lunch where their fresh open faced crab sandwich and Heineken were spot on. That night was the family dinner celebrating my sister Sue’s birthday. First we hit up a very cool bar called the Cellar Bar in The Merrion Hotel which pretty much describes the decor and following was dinner at some swanky spot around the corner in called Pearl Brasserie. If only my camera happy wife had captured the ambiance of this place as it was cozy and cool. The service was impeccable (never mind the broken vase and wine glass that our family get togethers seem to bring) and the food was fantastic. It’s a great place for romance or just as good with a group of good friends or family. But note if you’re looking to spend the equivalent of the national debt of Botswana, this is where it’s at.
Another place worth mentioning in Dublin is Diep Noodle Bar in Ranelagh (Ranelaa) for delicious Thai curries. It’s great for a quick bite and a beer.

And that was Dublin.

The next day, we I drove (while the others slept), down to Tralee in Kerry. On the drive I noticed a new Pizza Hut and KFC not too far outside my town (WTF) and noticed the local McDonald’s in town was generally pretty packed (not good). Subway is the newest fast food chain to pop up not only in my town but in smaller towns such as Dingle, which I must say, shocked the shit out of me. I suppose times change. Of course we ate at some of our own dodgy places along the way (not worth mentioning unless they were really dodgy) but there were more highlights along our travels definitely worth mentioning. For instance, the veggie pizza we had at La Scala in town (the Irish & Italian eatery, hence our nervousness) was surprisingly good.

But by far, our best eating experience of the whole trip was in a town called Dingle about 40 miles from my home town. It’s a fishing village with one famous dolphin. Many moons ago (14 years or so) fresh out of culinary training I worked at The Beginish restaurant which is now gone bye bye but back in the day it was never empty. It was definitely a test to see if I could swing it in the kitchen and well, I survived. Ever since we arrived the Missus had been on a quest to find the perfect fish n’ chips, we got it at Murphy’s Pub in Dingle (and that was breakfast!). For dinner we ate at Out of the Blue where this statement is proudly posted on the chalkboard: “Out of the Blue is Dingle Peninsula’s only SEAFOOD ONLY restaurant. We source our fish directly from the Dingle & surrounding peninsula fishermen. We only give you the freshest fish available, and if there is no fresh fish we DON’T open”. And fresh fish is what we got. The mussels were the best I’d ever had and our entrees were perfect. This would be my strongest recommendation by far. Not only is Dingle a gorgeous little escape but the food and fiddly diddly music at night time, not to mention Fungi the famous dolphin (who yes, came out to visit us) made the hour long bus ride from Tralee worth while.

Remember when I said I wouldn’t mention the bad and the ugly unless worth it? Check this out for a doozy. Some may say we were brave by trying Mexican food in Tralee (aptly named Gringo’s) but we were starving and it sounded good however, we questioned our smarts afterwards (the one table in there when we arrived should’ve been a clue). Indeed our hopes started high when we saw the margaritas but no no…not so good. Then there were the nachos. I didn’t think you could mess up nachos but what do I know? Try chips with pasta sauce and melted cheese, mmm delicious. I’ll let you imagine what the fajitas were like, though I’ll give you a hint, rhymes with duckin’ chit.

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{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Kathleen October 24, 2008 at 4:16 pm

Hey this is a site to behold! I love your new entries and new foods and the new logo is just fabulous. Can’t wait to try some of them. You certainly did a lot of good work on this – I look forward to much more from you. It’s fun when you take us on your journeys! All our best, Kathleen & Hans

Caroline Radway October 21, 2010 at 7:28 am

We go to Castlegregory windsurfing most years – got engaged there last year (somewhere a little warmer for honeymoon this year) and LOVE OOTB in Dingle! Never tried actually eating out in Tralee, far too risky! They have fab health food shops though…

I’ve windsurfed past Fungi in the harbour – he jumped right over the back of my board which was kinda scary…

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