When traveling in Europe, I think half the thrill is experiencing good food and good drink with good friends. Over the years, I’ve developed this uncanny knack for searching out and finding cool little places to eat and drink. My rule is always go for the local stuff. To do that, you’ve often got to get out of your comfort zone, venture sometimes into the unknown, and even be willing to accept embarrassment or ridicule… but the pay-off is most always worth the effort.
Eating in Ireland is a lot different than it used to be. We’ve all heard stories about the Irish living on nothing but potatoes, stew, whiskey, and Guinness, but all that has changed in the last 15 years or so. Now-a-days you can have a traditional “pub grub” experience or a gourmet meal all within 100 meters. Ireland has the fastest growing economy in all the European Union and consequently, many fine restaurants have opened their doors on this formerly poor island in the north Atlantic.
Tonight I’ll confine my comments to traditional pub food. Later, I’ll address the diverse multicultural dining choices that rival anywhere I’ve ever traveled.
Earlier in a previous blog entered, I discussed how to get a drink at a pub. Before the pub served only drinks, now it serves food. Traditionally, food is served in a pub from noon to 8:30 or 9:00 p.m. Before and after that, only drinks are sold… HA, go figure. So, you might wonder what is there to eat at a pub in Ireland? I’ll give a rather broad answer based on my extensive pub dining experiences.
There are two types of pubs: those for the locals, and those for the tourists. Sometimes if you are lucky you’ll happen to fall on a mix of the two, but then you’ve got to be very careful not to offend the drunken local patrons (usually men and women in their 60’s). Just keep your cool and take it all in.
Here is a typical pub menu:
Fish and Chips – fried fresh cod and french fries
Irish Stew – lamb and potatoes in a rich broth
Beef and Guinness Pie – chunks of beef, mushrooms, carrots and onions in a rich Guinness and thyme sauce.
Bangers and Mash – pork sausages served with mash potato and onion gravy.
Boiled Bacon and Cabbage – enough said.
Seafood Chowder – usually in a white sauce
Joint of the Day – a roasted delight of beef or pork served with veggies. Although it sounds yucky, it really is tender and tasty. Each pub has its specialty and there is certainly more to every menu, but I think this covers the basic “pub grub” server up in Irish pubs. These meals normally cost no more than 10-12 euro per plate.
Ordering food is different than ordering a drink. Simply walk into the pub (during eating hours), grab a seat and someone will come and take your food order. Often you’ll have to place your drink order at the bar, but even that is changing with the “new” Ireland. Once your order arrives, often from the basement kitchen below, dig in and enjoy.
Here’s a hint… don’t eat too much if you plan to stay for the “trad session” (traditional music) later because then you’ll want to have a pint in your hand and a spring in your step. Too much stew can spoil the experience!! Trust me, I speak from experience.
Many pubs are getting mighty “uppity” in modern-day Ireland. Take the Brazen Head in Dublin for example. This is the oldest pub in Ireland, according to the promotional material. Yet it is loaded with tourists and its dining menu is is filled with so many “gourmet” choices I have a hard time deciding if I’m in a pub or a fine restaurant. Add in the semi-traditional music and you’ve got a tourist trap nightmare.
In my next entry I’ll recommend some of my favorite pubs around Ireland.
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