The Foodie’s Guide to Irish Cuisine
All the Best Food I Ate in Ireland
I anticipated that Irish food would involve lots of stew and lots of Guinness. Since I visited Ireland in October, when the weather was quite fall-esque, the change to heartier, comforting meals was really nice and homey. But, I also discovered that modern Irish cuisine is so much more!
Since we spent such a long time in Ireland, I have a pretty full list of Irish bars, restaurants, artisanal companies and food tours that I liked, so I’m organizing this post into sections. Just read whatever you’re most interested in!
Quickly jump to:
- The Best Irish Bars
- Ireland’s Craft Breweries
- Irish Cooking Schools & Food Tours
- The Best Restaurants in Ireland
The Best Irish Pubs
You find pubs in every Irish town, no matter how small. It’s more than just a bar for the Irish, and more of a social gathering space. I was surprised to see lots of families at first but Irish pubs are known for more than just great beer – they usually have live music playing and serve great food so it makes sense. You can always rely on pubs to serve the Irish classics, ahem beef and Guinness stew.
There was live music playing more than 50% of the time and I loved hearing traditional Irish music. It really makes for such a nice vibe. We’d often have dinner in our hotel, as we were exhausted each day from sightseeing (and as I discovered, hotel restaurants serve incredible food) and then pop over to the pub, which would be within or attached to the hotel.
From the outside, Irish pubs are also really colorful and quaint! We drove through so many cheery towns where every building was painted a different shade and in Galway, I loved the toucan Guinness posters.
In terms of music, I thought pubs which advertised traditional Irish music might be doing so for tourists, but it’s not really so. Yes, you’ll find lots of tourists there drawn to the music, but local Irish too. The music is great! Funny enough, we heard lots of country music. Irish people have a well deserved reputation as storytellers.
Below is a photo of the most famous Irish bar, Temple Bar in Dublin. I have more recommendations for you though, keep reading!
These are Irish pubs we enjoyed, all across Ireland:
1. J M Reidy’s (Killarney)
This bar is amazing. During the day they sell sweets and excellent coffee and operate a bit like a cafe. At night, they open up the backrooms and while the front two rooms look like a traditional pub, keep exploring and you’ll find a cocktail room which makes the most amazing drinks and even an outdoor courtyard… with another bar! It was a trip wandering through Reidy’s!
2. The Reg (Waterford)
I was thinking back to all the desserts we had throughout Ireland (we didn’t skip a single night because man, who knew the Irish could whip up some great dessert?!) and I think The Reg tops the list.
Now you wouldn’t think to visit an Irish pub for the dessert, and trust us, The Reg pours a great Guinness, but it’s also quite a great place for lunch or dinner. Because the food is excellent, I wrote a whole post about it, which you can read here.
3. The Blind Piper (Caherdaniel)
This colorful pub in Caherdaniel, County Kerry, is an adorable place to stop along the Ring of Kerry. It serves incredible food, from hearty seafood chowder to risotto to burgers with ballybunion relish, and of course great beers. We were lucky to have lunch when local Irish musicians played some traditional Irish music!
Ireland’s Craft Beers
The craft beer movement is alive and kicking in Ireland as well, and we had the chance to tour both the Killarney Brewing Company in Killarney and the Dungarven Brewing Company in Dungarven. I freely admit I know nothing about beer, but the beer lovers in our group seemed very impressed by both.
- Killarney’s brewery tour is perhaps a little more polished and slick, as they have a restaurant on site for tastings. Don’t skip the food – they wood fire pizzas fresh out back which are amazing. Try the goat cheese and also the spicy meat pizzas.
- Meanwhile the Dungarven company is a home run business and was one of the first to experiment with craft beer in Ireland, long before anyone in Ireland had an interest. I really liked how they experimented with seasonal varieties and a label for seaweed beer caught my eye!
Cooking Schools in Ireland
If you like taking cooking classes while traveling, Ireland has some excellent cookery schools where you can learn traditional Irish recipes and try your hand at them! Most of these are set on farms and country estates, which is a unique setting to cook in!
Irish Food Trails
Ireland has a growing food scene dedicated to promoting local artisan products and family run businesses. From vibrant farmers’ markets in tiny towns to fine dining options, there are lots of opportunities to have a gastronomic holiday in Ireland.
If you love delving into the story and people behind food, you have to explore the Irish food trail! These are available in Dublin, County Kerry and County Cork so wherever you’re traveling to in Ireland you can sample some great artisanal Irish products.
Try these Food & Wine Tours in Ireland
- Guinness Experience: Skip the line and visit Ireland’s #1 attraction: the Guinness factory! Learn more here.
- Dublin Traditional Irish Music Pub Crawl: Explore Dublin’s traditional drink & Irish music scene on a pub crawl through Temple Bar district. Learn more here.
- Jameson Distillery Tour: Explore Dublin’s iconic whisky distillery, the secrets behind the complex whisky making process and of course, taste some! Learn more here.
- Galway Food Walking Tour: Galway is one of Ireland’s gourmet jewels. Take a 2 hour guided culinary tour to meet artisan producers and sample local favorites! Learn more here.
Here are some additional local Irish artisanal products and family run companies we tried:
- Dingle Gin produces exceptionally smooth gin and vodka. You can take a tour of the distillery on the outskirts of Dingle, in the southwest Gaeltacht region of Ireland.
- Murphy’s Ice Cream makes all their own ice cream by hand, the old fashioned way, without artificial dyes or flavorings, using all locally sourced materials. Try their fun flavors like caramel honeycomb, caramelised brown bread and dingle gin.
- The Atlantic Irish Seaweed company offers seaweed walks along the beach, informative talks about the benefits of seaweed and gourmet tastings. It’s so worth learning about seaweed and you’d be amazed at how seaweed can be turned into food. Ice cream anyone?
From seaweed piles on Derrynane Beach…
…to ice cream!
There’s no seaweed taste, these are fruit + yogurt and chocolate pops. Carrageenan is a binding agent extracted from red seaweed.
Modern Irish Food
Irish food is having a moment. Focused on fresh ingredients from both the land and sea, with dishes like Comeragh lamb, fresh oysters and brown butter bread pudding, I was quite blown away by modern Irish cuisine.
The Best Restaurants in Ireland
I’ve listed some of the best restaurants we ate at in Ireland below! Everything below was very, very tasty. As I mentioned, many times we ate at our hotel restaurant and opted for the 3 course menu where the food was incredible. I don’t typically eat at hotels but as I’m sure you’ll find on your Ireland vacation, Irish hotels are quite unique! Below are a selection of the best restaurants we ate at in Ireland.
There are of course so many more good restaurants in Ireland, so feel free to use the list below as just a starting point!
The Cliff House Hotel & House Restaurant
If you want to try fine dining, you’ll love The Cliff House! All ingredients are locally sourced and the dining room has great views over the bay. We didn’t stay here but I would have loved too. We asked to take a tour of the property and it would probably be my top choice for hotels in Waterford if I were to visit again.
County Waterford (Michelin Starred)
Read my post about our lunch here.
Check room rates and availability at the hotel here.
The Strand Inn
You won’t find fresher seafood anywhere else. Stop in to the Strand Inn for classics with a twist, like mussels in black bean & ginger sauce. Attached to the restaurant is a family run bed & breakfast, with really cute rooms.
Read my post about our experience here.
Check room rates & availability at the hotel here.
We stayed here and loved the manor house, it’s incredibly well decorated and dinner here was a treat! Gregans Castle is very well known for their Irish hospitality and fine dining – they’ve won countless food & wine awards. Don’t miss this one.
Read my post about our experience here.
Killarney Royal Hotel
Brandon House Hotel
We stayed here overnight but what was really memorable was the dinner. Everything on the menu was great and we each tried a different dessert – everything was so good no one wanted to share! Get the pavlova and cheesecake.
Read my complete experience here.
Check room rates & availability here.
Quinlan’s Seafood | County Kerry – A family run seafood restaurant that’s always packed. Make sure to get the crab claws and fish & chips! We came twice but I was too hungry to take great photos, so you’ll just have to trust me on this one :)
One last note, Ireland is very gluten free friendly. I noticed that many places had menus clearly marking gluten free or allergen ingredients (and not just the expensive restaurants). It’s a shame to miss out on Irish brown bread but if you’re allergic to gluten or have other dietary restrictions, you’ll be pleased to find many substitute options!
You Might Also Enjoy:
Ireland Vacation Planning Articles
Itinerary, Tips & Advice for How to Plan the Perfect Ireland Vacation
For Foodies: All the Best Food We Ate in Ireland
How to Master Driving in Ireland (as a tourist!)
Packing Checklist: What to Wear in Ireland
Irish Sights, Activities & Tours We Especially Enjoyed:
Restaurant & Hotel Reviews:
County Clare: Gregans Castle Hotel
County Wexford: The Strand Inn
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