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Dublin: 2 °C Tuesday 28 January, 2020

38 of the best casual dining places around Ireland... according to top chefs

We asked those in the know for the best cafés, takeaways and casual restaurants.

A takeaway bowl at Miyazaki in Cork
A takeaway bowl at Miyazaki in Cork
Image: Miyazaki

HIGH-END RESTAURANTS frequently get all the love, but where do you go when you want tasty food without breaking the bank?

We asked some of Ireland’s leading chefs for their recommendations on the best cafés, casual eateries, gastropubs, takeaways and more.

Domini Kemp

Domini Kemp is a chef and food writer. She runs Hatch & Sons, Alchemy Juice Co, Feast Catering, Joe’s and ITSA.

Our local and one of my favourites is Juniors. The staff are wonderful, we always manage to bag an early table and it’s a perfect neighbourhood restaurant in so many ways. Plus the food is simple but consistently good.

For quick and easy brunch, I love Foodgame. In a world full of hipster menus, Foodgame keeps it incredibly real. Their tomato soup is always delicious and they do a great omelette. For something a little fancier, you can’t go wrong with Bibi’s. A really fantastic spot, full of charm and solid cooking.

The team behind Fia do some lovely brunch dishes and a recent visit to Craft shows how good neighbourhood restaurants are getting in the suburbs. Etto is a little bit fancier for dinner and is another favourite, but they do a mean lunch.

Kimchi Hophouse is another winner. Kyong and her team always make great recommendations. The food is always tasty and comforting and again, all ages can usually find something they like to eat on their menu. A Sunday night favourite.

Bastible’s Sunday lunch is legendary. And the burgers in The Butcher Grill are superb.

Paul Williams

Paul Williams is the owner of Canteen, a café in Limerick.

Since moving and opening our bigger space, I haven’t really left Limerick that much in the last few months, so there are lots of new places I have yet to try. When eating out, I love owner-run places that have personality, which you can feel in the design and taste in the food.

I eat in La Cucina in Castletroy, Co. Limerick at least once a week. Simple and delicious. In Cork, I like Rocket Man for great salads and coffee. I also love Miyazaki and can’t wait for his new venture to open. I love Pudding Row in Easky, Co Sligo. You really get a sense of Dervla in the food and café.

Holly Dalton

Holly Dalton is the head chef at 3fe.

The first place that springs to mind when it comes to cheap eats is this Chinese deli in the back of Temple Express Newsagents on Westmoreland Street. There’s a sign outside that reads ‘Chinese burger, chef highly recommend’. That drew me in because a badly translated sign normally means good food.

It’s a small menu consisting of Chinese omelettes wrapped around sausage, noodles and, of course, the Chinese burger, which is a grilled steam bun filled with slow cooked pork, chillis, coriander and some kind of delightfully sticky sauce. It’s €3.50 and it’ll change your life for the better.

El Grito is caught between the arch of Temple Bar and a Cornish pasty stand. Dublin is overburdened with burrito shops but El Grito stands on its own. There’s about three seats – I sat on a bin the last time I was there – and it’s always rammed. The entire menu is incredible and there’s even a little Mexican grocery behind the counter. The entire experience is a welcome change from the standard burrito set up we’ve all come to know.

Peanut Butter Cheesecake Doughnuts on today

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If it’s something sweet I’m after it has to be Meet Me in the Morning on Pleasant St. Their doughnuts are the best in Dublin for many reasons. The chefs aren’t afraid to mix it up with flavours but there’s pretty much always a vanilla custard on the menu to keep everyone happy.

They can’t be compared to any of the ridiculous amount of doughnut chains that now line the streets of Dublin. Getting a coffee and a doughnut in there is the best foundation for a day off. Shout out to Dom, who is the friendliest cafe manager in Dublin.

Enda McEvoy

Enda McEvoy is the Michelin star winning head chef and owner of Loam in Galway.

Urban Grind is a really good friendly neighborhood cafe with well made coffee sourced from small roasteries. Good sandwiches, too. Coffeewerk + Press is a very peaceful place to enjoy coffee while watching Quay Street go by. Great coffee and it stocks prints and crafts curated by the owner Daniel. Always interesting stuff in here.

Then there’s Kai Restaurant. Fantastic food, fantastic atmosphere, always consistent. Interesting food and always tasty brunch lunch and dinner.

Galway Market on a Saturday and Sunday has great stalls selling street food by small independent operators. Family favorites are Wa Cafe’s sushi stall. They also have a fantastic cafe down by the docks. The bánh mì shop run by John McInnes does great Vietnamese sandwiches. Tasty as.

Jack Crotty

Jack Crotty is the founder and owner of The Rocket Man Food Co., which runs a salad and juice bar in Cork.

Deasys of Ring is one my old favourite spots, particularly of a Sunday afternoon. Perched beside a fishing pier in Ring, chef Caitlyn Ruth serves up comforting food that still excites. I love to walk the headland and call in for a pint of Murphy’s and whatever’s been caught that day.

The Good Day Deli is a very welcome new addition to Cork. Set in the beautiful gardens of the newly opened Nano Nagle Place, the GDD is a South Pacific-Irish inspired lunch destination. I underline destination here as it’s a bit of a walk compared with anywhere else in Cork City but once there you see it really doesn’t compare to anything else.

Pilgrim’s in Rosscarbery is probably my favourite place in the country. It’s elegant but informal. The menu is alive and never in all my times did I feel as though it was cut up and repeated from weeks previous. Chef Mark Jennings builds complex flavours and turns simple sounding dishes into not so simple flavours. Sadie, front of house, creates an atmosphere that is so comfortable you feel as though you are eating in your own kitchen – in a good way.

The Fish Wife in Cork City. Fish and chips, never bad. That’s basically it. I would argue The Fish Wife at both locations just can’t get it wrong. The busy hatches prove I’m not alone in thinking that.

Most people rave about Miyazaki’s takeaway because it’s bloody fantastic. Most high-end, high-priced restaurants don’t put half the effort into each place as he puts into his plastic bowls. I’ve had the pleasure of knowing Takashi for some time now both personally and professionally. He’s a true gentleman and you can taste it when you eat there. Get the mushroom tempura with dipping sauce.

Killian Crowley

Killian Crowley is chef de partie at Aniar in Galway. Last November, he was named San Pellegrino Young Chef of the Year for UK & Ireland.

I don’t eat out much but when I do, I like to go for breakfast in Ard Bia in Galway. The building is stunning and the staff are great. For lunch I like to go to Kappa-ya. I normally order the chicken teriyaki-don with a bowl of dashi.

#ireland #galway #sushi #japaneseretreat

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Kappa-Ya, Galway

My Saturday mornings you will usually see me checking out the street food on the Galway Market. It’s the oldest farmer’s market in Ireland. Perfect browse for a brisk sunny Saturday morning walk. A hot dog or empanadillas are a must.

Hilary O’Hagan-Brennan

Hilary O’Hagan-Brennan is executive chef at 3fe and Five Points. She is also the owner of Blas Catering.

The Fumbally for tasty food that is always a little different. They have so many chefs working you’re guaranteed some interesting specials all the time. Bibi’s is a firm favourite for brunch on my days off. Tiny and bustling on weekends. Maisha Lenehan who owns it is a seriously talented cook. They do some cool pop-ups too.

Kai do incredible brunch on a Sunday. I’ll always go there if I’m in Galway. Expect a queue out the door, though. Sweet Beat in Sligo is lovely. It’s all vegetarian/vegan/raw buzz but it doesn’t compromise on flavour or texture.

Iyer’s in Cork is great for Indian food. It’s tiny, though, so you need to book. Wa Cafe in Galway for great Japanese ramen and sushi.

I traveled a lot over the years so I’m huge fan of Indian/Asian food. It’s always very affordable and casual in my experience and packs a punch on flavour.

Pickle is my favourite Indian restaurant in Dublin, serving Indian street food with a bit of panache. Sunil is an extremely talented chef. Rasam in Glasthule is my local Indian so I guess I’m pretty spoiled there. It’s always a go to when we don’t fancy trekking into town.

#bibimbap #sunday

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Pho Viet is great for Vietnamese food. Really affordable and tasty. Sometimes I get these outrageous cravings for bibimbap, a Korean rice dish. The best one I’ve had yet is in Arisu on Capel Street. Ramen Bar is great. Really affordable and fast service. I believe they make their own noodles too, so you know they care.

Hang Dai – get the Peking duck. Happy days and great tunes. M&L does amazing dumplings and spicy green beans. Make sure you order the real deal Chinese food, though. None of that Westernised nonsense. Finally, there’s a great hidden gem in the back of Super Asia Foods on Capel Street called Brothers Dosirak.

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Amy O'Connor

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