What to eat in Ireland: the Irish food bucket list

Heading to the Emerald Isle and wondering what to eat in Ireland? Or adding more and more items to your Irish foods list – foods to try, foods to bring back – on your travel planning notebook? Option number two sounds very much like me when I was planning my trip to Ireland! I strongly consider the local cuisine as one of the main attractions of a destination so even for my Ireland trip I did have my own Irish food bucket list. My Irish foods list was full of classics and Ireland delivered just what I was looking for.

What to eat in Ireland: from fish and chips to a hearty red ale stew, here's what I ate during my trip to Ireland, checking items off my Irish food bucket list.
What to eat in Ireland: a foodie guide.

It goes without saying that I very much enjoyed the food in Ireland. So much that I was eager to share this post on my blog as a guide on what to eat in Ireland to truly appreciate the local cuisine as a visitor. We spent one week road tripping the whole island and I had a total ball eating my way around Ireland. Many people immediately think of potatoes when asked to mention one Irish food. Potatoes are indeed a huge staple and a delicious side to many meals, but there’s more to Irish food than just potatoes. Classic Irish cuisine is pretty big on meat, too. Of course, many eateries offer vegetarian alternatives and it is possible to enjoy food in Ireland as a vegetarian. Still, if you want to do a proper exploration of classic Irish cuisine, as a vegetarian you may have to skip a few meals.

What to eat in Ireland beyond potatoes, then? Meat, fish, dairy are the foods that first come to mind thinking of my Ireland road trip. Irish soda bread was a total discovery and I loved it paired with some delicious Irish butter. Drinks are no less famous as the Emerald Isle is a famed producer of some of Europe’s finest beers. Not to mention Irish whiskey, which was actually one of the main reasons we visited Ireland. Our road trip included stops at three world-famous Irish whiskey distilleries, and we treated ourselves to samples at all of them.

Read more: touring Irish whiskey distilleries in Ireland.

What to eat in Ireland

My Irish food bucket list was pretty basic. There’s only a certain amount of meals you can have during the course of a week and I needed to stick to that. Well of course you can always choose to forget it and bring back a few pounds (of your own flesh, I mean) but that was not my intent. Besides, too often restaurant meals are something I’m happy to skip in favour of much cheaper self-made lunches when I travel. I know I miss out, but budget is a key factor when on the road. In Ireland I decided to make an exception and ate out most of the time.

Since I’m a budget eater, I did not include in my itinerary any expensive restaurants. We visited Ireland on the occasion of our 5th anniversary, but the whole trip was a treat and we didn’t need a Michelin starred restaurant to make our Irish holiday more special. What’s great in Ireland is that most pubs serve traditional food and that is where we got most of our eating done. We did have a couple of more refined dining experiences in Northern Ireland when we treated ourselves to afternoon tea and to an à la carte dinner. Otherwise, we mostly ate at gastropubs.

Read more: three meals in Northern Ireland, from breakfast to dinner.

Fish and chips on the West coast

Irish food: an ode to some of the best meals I had in Ireland
Bogman Ale Battered Cod & Chips aka a double fillet of battered cod with side goodies

My Irish food adventure begins in a pub of the beautiful city of Galway. The most famous city on the Atlantic coast, Galway may as well be classified as the most beautiful as it is as pretty as everyone describes it. It was in Galway where we chose to sample one of the most famous delicacies of the British Isles: fish n’ chips! After exploring the colourful downtown we checked into a pub for dinner. We ordered a couple of pints of Guinness beer and the house fish and chips, that came with tartare sauce and minted pea mash.

We barely spent a half day in Galway but the city totally captivated me. Trying to see all of Ireland in one week we were forced to cut some destinations off. One of them were the Aran islands, we just didn’t have the time to get on a ferry and explore those. So we made our stop in Galway pretty quick, with the promise to come back and find enough time to also visit the beautiful Aran. And spend some more time in beautiful Galway. And have some more of that ridiculously good fish and chips!

Where: Busker Brownes gastropub, Galway.

In search of red ale beef stew

Irish food: an ode to some of the best meals I had in Ireland
A wonderful combination of beef and vegetables served with mashed potatoes

With beef accounting for 21% of Ireland’s food and drink export, Ireland is the largest exporter of beef in Europe (source). I often cook Irish beef myself, as it is quite common to find in supermarkets in Sweden. Animal husbandry and beef production in Ireland is serious business, so I was eager to taste some beef while there. Think Ireland and food and drink exports and the other item that might come into your mind is beer. Beef stewed in beer seems quite a logical combination for a signature dish in the Irish culinary tradition.

I had sampled Guinness beef stew in Dublin on my first trip to Ireland many years before and I was eager to have it again. Strangely enough, for a good couple of days in a row I ended up in restaurants that did not have it on their menu. The reason was in the fact that they served the traditional Irish stew, made with lamb and no beer (a specialty that did not make it to my personal Irish food bucket list as I’m not the biggest fan of lamb). Finally, after a few days, I was able to find red ale beef stew at a pub in Tullamore. We went into this pub hungry as wolves right after a tasting class at the Tullamore DEW distillery. Guess what, that night the stew I wanted was offered as special of the day. It felt like a very Irish thing to experience when I say that the proverbial luck of the Irish was bestowed on me!

Where: Tanyard Lane, Tullamore.

Burger and chips, aka more beef and more potatoes please

Irish food: an ode to some of the best meals I had in Ireland
Gourmet and locally sourced. One of the best meals I had in Ireland.

When researching what to eat in Ireland beef will be high on your list. So why not try it in a favourite form of mine: burger! Hamburgers are one of those foods that possess a very wide spectrum ranging from oily patties in unimpressing buns to top-notch gourmet combinations of meat, vegetables and sauces. It’s all in the quality of the ingredients, the proper way of cooking the meat and thoughtful blending of the flavours. In my life I was lucky to have a few memorable burger experiences and one of the best ones was in Ireland. For once we did not eat at a pub, but went for a place that our host recommended.

The Greenroom is a wine bar and café adjacent to Sage restaurant in Midleton. A more informal spinoff to the parent restaurant, it shares the same ethos to source the vast majority of the ingredients from within 12 miles. There I had one of the best burgers of my life, The Midletanna: a 6oz beef patty, Jameson BBQ sauce (of course!), caramelized onions and cheddar, served with a side of potatoes, a dip and a delicious salad. My boyfriend had The Cure, a burger that features among its ingredients Sage’s famous black pudding. He was as impressed with his dish as I was with mine.

Where:  The Greenroom, Midleton.

Irish Coffee, what else?

Irish food: an ode to some of the best meals I had in Ireland
What better place for a coffee with whiskey than the distillery itself?

If you’re a coffee lover Irish coffee should be high on your Irish food bucket list. At the beginning of this post I wrote that Ireland is, among other things, a producer of some fantastic dairy. All through the trip I kept buying gallons of milk and enjoyed all the butter that was served with the bread. Now imagine how wonderful cream tastes in such a big dairy country. Imagine that cream topping a coffee powered up with a splash of Irish whiskey. Can’t get any sweeter. To fulfil my Irish coffee dream I chose the best place where I could have it – a whiskey distillery.

My Irish food bucket list had it as to have Irish coffee at the Jameson distillery. Many will argue that Jameson is the Irish whiskey you want to use in Irish coffee. Unfortunately, since we had booked the last tasting class of the day at the distillery, when we arrived the café had already closed. So if you’re planning on doing the same, don’t make this mistake and check the opening hours of all the facilities within the Jameson Experience visitor centre. Oh well, the Jameson distillery was not the only distillery we visited, so I had a chance to enjoy my Irish coffee the following day at the Tullamore DEW visitor centre. To be honest, I really loved my Irish coffee with Tullamore DEW.

Where: Tullamore DEW visitor centre, Tullamore.

The perfect pint. Nothing more.

Irish food: an ode to some of the best meals I had in Ireland
This one doesn’t need a caption, does it?

Planning your trip you need to consider what to eat in Ireland but also what to drink. Irish beer is glorious and there are so many to choose from. I have a favourite and I feel so unoriginal but Guinness just had to feature in my Irish food bucket list. All through our Irish road trip I had many a chance to appreciate the world-famous stout, Ireland’s most famous brand. I’ve been a huge fan of Guinness ever since I was a teenager and it is a favourite of mine especially to accompany fish dishes. I love its ebony colour, the milky foam that forms on the top and its coffee aftertaste. And I love seeing how it sets in the glass when it’s freshly poured, how the air rises to the top to create the thick foam.

We did not visit the Guinness brewery in Dublin, but it’s certainly something I wish to do next time. Once again, Dublin city would probably deserve a whole week alone and we spent that amount of time across the whole country. I like to say that it’s always good to leave behind a reason to come back. I want to go back to Ireland to have the time to properly explore Galway and the Aran islands. And the Guinness brewery in Dublin. Still, even missing out on one of the coolest experiences you can have in Ireland (everybody that has done the tour of the Guinness brewery says that), we did honour the famous Dublin brew all across the country. Guinness beer is indeed the perfect drink to Irish food.

Where: all over Ireland. Seriously.

Irish Breakfast: starting the day like a local

What to eat in Ireland if not a celebrated classic like Irish breakfast? The breakfast fry is a national institution and of course it could not go amiss on my Irish food bucket list. Since we started our trip in Northern Ireland, in Belfast I treated myself to a nice Ulster Fry. I obviously wanted to also try a nice breakfast fry in Dublin so that’s why I checked into Merchants Arch on the morning of my only day in Dublin. A charming pub located by the famous Ha’penny Bridge, the Merchants Arch has a large selection of tap beer. It was too early for a brew for us to appreciate the bar’s offer, but we went in with a big appetite for a proper fry. A full Irish breakfast features eggs, bacon, sausages, black pudding, white pudding, tomato, mushrooms and beans.

Irish food: an ode to some of the best meals I had in Ireland
Now that’s a lovely collection of taps! Merchants Arch, Dublin.

You know when you are reading a nice post on a food blog and suddenly you meet the words “I didn’t photograph the food this time because I was too eager to eat”. Yeah, I hate that, too. Every time I think: “Hey! That’s jour job! Show us the food!”. Well, eager eaters, humbly let me in to your club. While in Dublin I did the same thing. I was just too eager and as soon as the waitress lay the plate in front of me I dug in like there’s no tomorrow. So yeah, I’ve been guiding you through some wonders of the Irish cuisine, showing you what to eat in Ireland to enjoy a taste of the traditional local food, and I have no pictures of one of the key dishes of the Irish cuisine. Sorry.

Here’s the story. Halfway through the meal, happily munching on a mouthful of sausage and mushrooms, here’s a tiny thought taking shape in my brain. The guilty food blogger thought: I didn’t photograph the food!!! My then boyfriend (now husband) saw the guilt on my face and immediately knew what was going on in my head.

“It’s our last day in Ireland, just enjoy it!”, he said.

He was right. I just enjoyed it. Not that I did not enjoy all the other meals I had. But even food bloggers sometimes just want to dig in. So here’s to all the guilty food bloggers turned eager eaters. I hope you enjoyed my gastronomic tour of Ireland and my Irish food bucket list helped you figure out what to eat in Ireland on your next trip.

 

 

Irish food: an ode to some of the best meals I had in Ireland
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16 Comments

  1. Nikki Chi May 3, 2018 at 19:25

    I loved eating like a local in Ireland! I am vegan, so I didn’t have the exact things on your bucket list… BUT, I did find a “chipper” in Dublin that provided vegan options. It was awesome getting to enjoy the experience of going to a fish ‘n chips shop and getting to eat the food!

    Also… I totally agree, Guinness tastes the BEST in Ireland! Some fellow travelers at our Airbnb got a bunch of free tickets to the Guinness Storehouse and they gave them to us, so we got to go for free on our last day in Dublin. What better way to have a Guinness than right at the source?! 😄

    Reply
    1. Eva May 3, 2018 at 19:53

      I can imagine that being vegan in Ireland could be challenging, although ore and more restaurants and cafés are quickly picking up and offering alternatives.
      Wow so lucky you got tickets to the Guinness Storehouse! Both times I’ve been to Dublin I skipped it because it’s quite pricey and I was always too short on time for wanting to spend hours there. I need to make it a resolution and go back for that purpose. I’ve been putting it off for too long now 😀

      Reply
  2. Michelle May 19, 2018 at 02:01

    Perfect timing! I’m heading to Ireland soon, so thank you for all of the fun recommendations. I can’t wait to sink my teeth into all of the Irish yummies!! 🙂

    Reply
    1. Eva May 19, 2018 at 16:00

      Glad this post turned out useful for some good food inspo!

      Reply
  3. Sarah - Borders & Bucket Lists May 19, 2018 at 04:07

    All of these look so good! I’m going on a food travel blog post spiral right now, and I don’t think I’m going to regret it. So many ideas for my future travels!

    Reply
    1. Eva May 19, 2018 at 16:01

      Exploring foods is one of the best things about visiting new places, to me!

      Reply
  4. Faith Coates May 19, 2018 at 09:39

    Aw you missed tripe and other delicacies…lol…not really but a good pint of Guinness is a truly remarkable thing.

    Reply
    1. Eva May 19, 2018 at 16:02

      I’m not really a tripe person so that would not have made it to my personal bucket list haha

      Reply
  5. ARI May 19, 2018 at 09:48

    This makes me totally nostalgic for all the IRISH FOOD and DRINKS my mom and I shared on our two-week adventure throughout the country. ahhhhhh. IN LOVE with IRELAND and you brought me back!!

    Reply
    1. Eva May 19, 2018 at 16:02

      Aw that’s so sweet! It must have been a great trip with lots of delicious stuff to make it even better!

      Reply
  6. My Travel Tricks May 19, 2018 at 17:25

    This looks amazing and you know what the best thing is? I’m flying to Ireland in 3 weeks! So excited to try some real Guinness and Irish Coffee. They must taste so much better there than everywhere else in the world. Your blog makes me very excited to go! Great tips!

    Reply
    1. Eva May 19, 2018 at 18:07

      This is so awesome to read! Thanks! I’m glad my post is preparing you for your upcoming trip. Enjoy Ireland and all the beauty it offers!!

      Reply
  7. Mireile May 20, 2018 at 07:24

    Awesome post! I have been in scotland and the food was similar, but i didn’t liked black pudding so much. However, i love beef and i didn’t know that Ireland is such a big producer. I absolutely have to go there 😀

    Reply
    1. Eva May 21, 2018 at 11:13

      Yeah, where I live we get Irish beef at the supermarket quite often. I’m sure you’ll love the food in Ireland, and you can always skip the black pudding.

      Reply
  8. John July 31, 2019 at 11:25

    Thanks for the great list, gonna make sure to flow it truly! P.S, Amazing pictures 🙂

    Reply
    1. Eva August 5, 2019 at 11:38

      Thank you John! Enjoy!

      Reply

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