Besides the scenery, history, and its hospitality to tourists, Ireland is known for high quality food. I was not surprised to find a diversity of eating establishments in the larger cities of Cork, Galway, and Dublin. Everything from McDonalds to Thai to swanky English restaurants abound. What did surprise me was the lack of options in the smaller towns. One Sunday, for example, I had hoped to procure a picnic lunch for my tour of Scattery Island but was unable to find an open café. In fact, not much of anything opens on Sundays in the more rural areas. The only pub in Kilrush offered breakfast meat with eggs when I would have happily settled for porridge. A premade deli salad from a nearby grocery store had to do, but that was one of only two disappointments in 11 days of culinary delights.
My first full day in Ireland almost ended with nothing to eat, since the majority of the restaurants in New Ross were closed by late afternoon. Thankfully, The Captain’s Table managed to rustle me up one last bowl of vegetable soup and a couple of slices of dark brown bread. Mmm! I enjoyed hot tea and homemade raspberry cheesecake at a corner table overlooking the Dunbrody Famine Ship until my waitress asked me to leave. She had to unlock the front door to let me out. It was barely six o’clock!
On day 2 I tried my luck at a pub. In the cramped parking lot of The Strand Tavern in Duncannon, I met with a trio visiting from England. Once they found out that I was traveling alone, the man, his wife, and their friend insisted that I join them inside for dinner. The three did their best to convince me to order a Guinness, but instead I chose a flight of local IPA’s (the first beer I’d had in almost four years). I was not disappointed. The Strand’s fish tacos were delicious! One of the perks of living on an island – you can bet that the seafood is always fresh.
Day 3 found me at The Old Thatch Pub & Restaurant in Killeagh, County Cork. I had my one and only Guinness over a lunch of carrot soup, a lamb sandwich, and homestyle chips. After that, it was ginger beer and Jameson for me. Following my historic tour of Kinsale, I stopped in at the Lemon Leaf Café where I enjoyed a late breakfast of oatmeal with fruit and hot tea.
Foley’s Guesthouse & Gastropub served up an enormous and unforgettable pot of mussels – straight from Kenmare bay – in a superb white wine sauce.
My second night in Kenmare, I opted for an Irish favorite, potato and leek soup. The Wander Inn was crowded, but somehow I managed to meet four people from the U.S. Two of them were from Philly, visiting Ireland on their honeymoon. The other pair had just finished a two or three week hike along the west coast and were enjoying a final night of live music over drinks.
In Oranmore I had my first seafood chowder before splurging on a dessert of homemade pie and ice cream. I enjoyed a take-out meal of shepherd’s pie and muffins from a little café called Food for Thought in Galway the next day. The spot is well-known for its coffee, and the food was great too.
Malachy Quinn treated me to my only steak dinner in Ireland. He had come up to Trim to trade rental cars. We spent the evening talking about how our diverse spiritual paths had somehow led us both to appreciate the work of Anthony De Mello. Life really can be strange at times.
Somewhere between County Meath and Dublin, I enjoyed a breakfast of sauteed greens, tomatoes, and feta cheese, while watching Hurricane Ali blow away my plans for the day.
Later on after my tour of the Teeling Whiskey Distillery, I took the only open seat inside The Hairy Lemon – at the bar – and ordered a bowl of Irish Lamb stew. I spent the rest of the evening talking with a brand copyright lawyer on holiday from San Francisco.
I was sadly disappointed by the food my last night in Ireland. Arthur’s chowder tasted old, and even the brown bread was stale! 😦 Not the best way to end my journey. Surprisingly, breakfast in the Dublin airport was phenomenal, right down to the specialty coffee, so I certainly did not leave Ireland with a bad taste in my mouth!
No two pubs in Ireland are alike, except that the food is almost always handcrafted (read: scrumptious) and accompanied by live music and a friendly atmosphere. I fear I may miss the pubs of Ireland nearly as much as the breathtaking scenery and painted sheep.