Monday 24 October 2016

So what are the best casual dining spots in Dublin

Mismatched crockery and kitchen roll are ruling the capital’s food scene

Super Miss Sue restaurant, Drury Street, Dublin
Super Miss Sue restaurant, Drury Street, Dublin
Paolo was impressed by the customer service at Whitefriar Grill

A cursory glance around the Dublin dining scene in 2015 reveals one thing: casual is back in style when it comes to eating out.

Post-recession, the capital has seen a rake of new restaurants open with one thing in common, and that’s a low-key and laid-back vibe. Jeans and trainers are the uniform whether it’s lunch or dinner, and you’re more likely to order ribs or street food than oysters or steak.

The hottest time of the day to eat has also changed. It used to take weeks to get an evening reservation at a popular dining spot, but now, there’s a waiting list for brunch.

The breakfast-lunch hybrid has simple rules: an abundance of egg dishes, alcohol available, massive portions and a chilled atmosphere.

Ideal for hungover heads or those who didn’t bother going out the night before but still want to feel like they did something fun with their weekend, brunch is taking over weekend dining.

So much so that it’s replacing traditional carveries and roasts, which you’ll only really find these days in the city centre in gastro pubs like The Exchequer and FXB’s.

Temple Garner runs two restaurants in town, San Lorenzo’s (modern Italian, New York style) on George’s Street, and new pop-up Taco Taco (street food in a cool restaurant) on Dame Court. In the past, he worked as chef in The Mermaid Cafe and Town Bar & Grill, more upmarket establishments.

However, now he’s ensconced in the casual-dining scene, with San Lorenzo’s well-known for its #brunchofchampions every weekend.

“I think the upswing in casual dining is because we’ve clearly left the worst of the recession behind and people have a little more in their pockets to spend on entertainment, which essentially what going to restaurants is all about,” Temple explains.

“From an operator perspective, brunch is not that profitable and really more about being able to deliver a great food offer and restaurant experience at fantastic value to an audience that wants to enjoy it.”

Whatever Temple and business partner Anthony Remedy are doing certainly works, with queues outside the restaurants most weekends. Punters come for the massive, Instagram-worthy portions and relaxed vibe.

Remedy knows what his punters want, and how to give it to them. “For my parents’ age-group, eating out was a real occasion. Now, people eat out a lot and want great food, but not the fussiness that goes with fine dining.”

As a promoter, he’s used social media in a big way to entice customers in to the restaurants. “For Taco Taco, it’s been purely Twitter. For brunch at San Lorenzo’s, it’s been a lot of things — Twitter, Facebook, fabulous reviews on blogs, Yelp, Trip Advisor and print media and concierges.

What’s most important is people telling their friends, whether it’s online or in work the next day. As fantastic as the mains in the restaurants are for Instagram, we would be closed pretty fast if they didn’t live up to the hype or taste great!”

Leo Molloy of Mexican-style restaurant 777 and seafood wonderland Super Miss Sue agrees that casual dining has taken off because “it allows us to still go out and entertain ourselves on a regular basis without the high price tag. It’s medium spend at high frequency”.

For him, it’s about taking influences from abroad and giving them an Irish twist.

“All of us, including chefs and restaurateurs, who have travelled a bit or lived away during the recession became familiar with cities like New York, London and Sydney, and got a taste for all things international. This has definitely influenced what’s being put on plates in Dublin now.”

So now we know what’s hot, but where’s best to get it? Because, like in any city, it’s easy to walk in to somewhere popular and leave feeling underwhelmed.

Having eaten in pretty much every restaurant in the city, here are the top casual dining spots in the nation’s capital.


Super Miss Sue

(Dublin 2)

Best for: Dinner


You could go for the cafe menu, which is definitely on the sophisticated side of casual. Or you could pop in to the chipper next door for a bag of the most delicious chips (Cervi fries, to give them their proper title) and a fish-finger sandwich. This is no local chipper — it may be deep-fried but it's fine food.


Whitefriar Grill (Dublin 2)


Best for: Brunch

This south-side institution is regularly voted best brunch in the city. The menu is vast, from meatball sandwiches to gambas benedict, and the prosecco is free-flowing.

They also have a bourbon cocktail for hair of the dog, and an ‘Anti Fear Potion’ juice to ease the most savage hangover. And for anyone with a sweet tooth, try the delicious  chocolate fondue.





(Dublin 2)

Best for: Dinner

This started out as a Temple Bar pop-up mid-recession, but is now a Dame Street legend. Joe Macken, the man behind delicious Jo’Burger (Rathmines, Smithfield, Castlemarket) brings us fried chicken in every form, with divine dips and inventive sides (no chips here). The menu is American-inspired with global influences, and the restaurant’s name comes from its addictive properties...



My Meat Wagon

(Dublin 7)

Best for: Lunch

This Smithfield hotspot used to only open in the evening, but now it’s an all-day affair, and thank the barbecue gods. Not really one for veggies, this is a meat lover’s paradise. Considering the decor is mainly reconstituted wooden pallets, it’s certainly casual but definitely delicious thanks to its Texan smoker out the back.

Order a box to eat in or take out, and enjoy!



Taco Taco (Dublin 2)

Best for: Brunch

Dinner is great, but their weekend morning and afternoon fare is to die for. The eponymous tacos (right) are present in both chicken and fish form, but it doesn’t end there. You can get steak and eggs, avocado on toast, a full-Irish and even an absurdly delicious dish named Homer’s Fries (Simpson, not the Greek) — chips covered in cheese and black pepper sauces, bacon and two fried eggs.



Bagot’s Hutton

(Dublin 2)

Best for: Date night

Want to go for a bite and a drink but not eat yourself silly? This place is the perfect date venue — dimly lit and intimate (it even has its own cave), a great wine menu, and lots of nibbles to choose from, be it antipasti, a cheeseboard or even a pizza to share. A South William Street gem, once you’ve been once, you will go again.



Fish Shop

(Dublin 7)

Best for: Dinner

Formerly a pop-up street-food van in the Blackrock market, the Fish Shop put roots down near the quays a few months back. It’s a simple menu: fish and chips, mussels and a beautiful fishy burger with daily specials, this place has no frills and nothing to hide behind. It’s all about the fresh fish and seafood.



Bunsen (Dublin 2)

Best for: Dinner

Now at two locations in Temple Bar and Camden Street, this is another place that doesn’t mess around.

The menu fits on a business card, so choose whether you want your burger, above, with cheese or not, how many patties, and whether you want sweet-potato fries or regular. The sauces and toppings make this mouthwatering, so indulge.



147 Deli

(Dublin 1)

Best for: Lunch

This Parnell Street institution is known for it’s New York-style deli sambos, from its famous take on the Reuben to pulled pork and daily specials that have even included rabbit. Good coffee and delicious donuts complete the package.

It’s the kind of place you stuff your face and leave, but that’s what the people come for.


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