In this series, our Lonely Planet locals share the restaurant and bar recommendations they tell friends coming to town about. This week, Sasha Brady, a Dublin-based editor who’s always looking for the best new places to eat, shares the five places she encourages anyone visiting Dublin to try.
Dublin punches well above its weight when it comes to its thriving food and drink scene. The city is home to so many great places to eat that whittling this list down to just five spots almost seems cruel. You’d need at least a few weeks (and a generous budget - this city is expensive) to really get a feel for the dynamic culinary scene here, but in the meantime, if you're here for a short time and a good time, don't leave Dublin without visiting some of these five spots.
Note, south city center
Why should I go: Follow the rave reviews to Note, and you’ll see why critics have been singing the praises of this stylish wine bar and bistro.
What’s the vibe? Perfectly polished Scandinavian minimalism from the decor to the clientele (everyone here dresses like an architect). It's an excellent spot to bookmark if you’re traveling solo; there are seats at the bar where it’s easy to strike up a conversation with someone over a glass of wine and nibbles.
What should I order? Some of the most creative cooking in Dublin is happening at Note, and whether you show up for lunch, dinner, or just a plate of cured sardines and a glass of wine, it will always feel like a treat here. Each dish coming out of head chef Essa Fakhry’s kitchen is brimming with flavor and color, with everything from the harissa-marinated quail with burnt orange and aioli to the butter-soft côte de boeuf, all beautifully presented without faff. Choose a few dishes to share, along with a great bottle of wine.
What about drinks? There’s no shortage of exciting natural wines to drink so long as your budget allows it - there are only three bottles priced below €40. But if you don’t want to commit to a bottle, sommelier Kate Seward will find you something interesting to have by the glass with her carefully curated options that change daily. There are also beers and non-alcoholic drinks, and cocktails, like the Cherry Cherry, that are as stylish as they are strong.
Where should I go after? The lounge-style atmosphere of Note is made for lingering, but if you want to keep the drinks flowing after closing time, head to The Ginger Man pub, which is usually buzzing seven nights a week.
Variety Jones, The Liberties
Why should I go? To experience Michelin-stared food made with local ingredients cooked over an open fire in one of Dublin’s loveliest neighborhoods. This is where I send people in the mood for something special.
What’s the vibe? This cozy hideaway space has no sign above the door; you’d probably walk if it weren’t for the warm glow of the restaurant’s soft lights inviting you to take a second look. Despite the Michelin star and the unanimous critical praise, there is nothing stuffy about Variety Jones. It’s warm, relaxed, and sophisticated without even a hint of snobbishness.
What should I order? Before we even think about food, I must warn you that to secure a spot, you must be well prepared. Bookings open two months in advance (December’s bookings open on October 15 at midday GMT) and usually sell out within a few feverish hours. It’s worth giving them a follow on Instagram for alerts on last-minute openings through cancelations. If you do get in the door - phew! - you’ll be treated to a small and seasonal chef’s choice sharing menu that’s all smoke and char and delicious. The menu is divided into snacks, cold, warm, pasta, family-style, and after (dessert), and there are generally one or two options under each heading. It can be tweaked to suit pescatarian diets but not complete vegetarian or vegan requirements.
What about drinks? An organic wine list that’s robust enough to complement the dialed-up flavors of the dishes coming from the kitchen.
Where should I go after? You’re in the distillery heart of Dublin, so you can easily pay a visit to the Jameson, Teeling, or Roe & Coe whiskey distilleries. The Guinness Storehouse is about a 15-minute walk away. If you want a late-night drink: Lucky’s, Dudley’s, and the LGBTQ-centric All My Friends are always good options.
Why should I go? To enjoy a lovely day trip to the seaside village of Howth and eat in a restaurant that’s consistently voted one of the best places to eat in Ireland. Ingredients are sourced nearby, with much of the seafood coming straight off the boats in Howth Harbour.
What’s the vibe? Great food and great views aren’t supposed to mix (one usually takes precedence over the other), but Mamó, with its light-drenched views of Howth Harbor and inventive contemporary Irish cooking, is an exception to the rule.
What should I order? Like all of the restaurants on this list, the menu is seasonal, but if you happen to stop by when the bluefin tuna tartlet or Lough Neagh smoked eel are on the menu, order them - there’s something incredibly special in eating fresh-off-the-boat fish just meters from the sea. But it’s not only seafood that’s turned out well here: it’s a stronger person than me who can resist Mamó’s crispy rosemary and garlic potatoes or chargrilled broccoli and spiced almonds with yogurt for dipping. And you can’t come to Dublin without trying Irish lamb. Mamó’s Moroccan take on Irish lamb - belly, shoulder, and rump with couscous, pistachio, and chantennay carrots from McNally’s Farm - is a must-try.
Where should I go after? A walk along Howth Pier, a hike through the cliffs, a visit to the weekend market, or enjoy a pint of Guinness in The Harbour Bar.
Why should I go? If you’re looking for knockout food with budget-friendly prices, this Siuchan-focused Chinese restaurant in Stoneybatter is it. Suppliers are local and named (meats come from Dublin institution FX Buckley and organic veg is sourced from the greengrocer next door), and every dish is priced under €16, which is almost unheard of in Dublin, especially for cooking of this quality.
What’s the vibe? This neighborhood favorite is a small, casual, and blush-pink space that’s perpetually busy. Service is quick, efficient, and incredibly warm.
What should I order? Order something from each section of the menu, especially if there’s more than one of you. I recommend getting at least one portion of dumplings (each portion has four servings - except the spicy kimchi dumplings, which come with six - so they’re made for sharing) and the pillow-soft Chinese scallion bread. Add some small chow dishes like the perfectly seasoned pork yuk sun or mouth-numbing spicy cucumber salad for a zingy burst of freshness. Highlights from the main dishes include the basil Silverhill duck and the crisp-edged, stir-fried aubergines.
What about drinks? A carefully considered wine menu with choices like Spanish Albariño and German Pinot Noir. Prices start at €23 for a bottle, €13 for a carafe, and €6 for a glass. There are also cocktails, craft beers, and non-alcoholic options.
Where should I go after? One of Dublin’s coziest cinemas, the Lighthouse, is about a five-minute walk away. If you’re looking for a drink, you’re spoiled for choice in Stoneybatter with wine bars like A Fianco and Joli and pubs such as Walsh’s, the Belfry, and the Glimmerman.
Mr. Fox, north city center
Why should I go? It’s the sort of restaurant you wish you had in your neighborhood, where you can skip the decision-making and enjoy reliably delicious dishes from the seasonal tasting menu brimming with excellent Irish ingredients.
What’s the vibe? Despite its location in the basement of a historic Georgian townhouse, there’s no pretentiousness at Mr. Fox: just excellent Irish cooking in a warm and cozy setting that almost feels like your much grander home from home.
What should I order? Dinner is a €70 set tasting menu that changes monthly. Most dishes on the menu are a combination of veg, seafood, and meat; depending on what’s in season, you might be treated to trout dressed with cucumber and caviar; a St Tola, walnut praline, and beetroot tart topped with blackcurrant; or a classic that’s done consistently well here: beef with Pommes dauphine. The set menu can be tweaked for specific dietary requirements.
What about drinks? There’s an extensive drinks list that leans heavily on Spanish, Italian, and French wines; by-the-glass options are always selected to suit the seasonality of ingredients on the dinner menu.
Where should I go after? There are some great cultural attractions nearby, including 14 Henrietta Street, Hugh Lane, and the Gate Theatre. For dancing and drinks, try The Big Romance.