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BlogGlobal cuisineOur top picks: The best food, drinks, and restaurants in Ireland
Global cuisine

Our top picks: The best food, drinks, and restaurants in Ireland

Feb 06, 2024 by The Go Ahead Tours Team

Traditional Irish food centers around potatoes, meat, and dairy—but thanks to its history and location, Ireland also offers a wealth of flavorful food fusions from all over the world. Much like a classic Dublin coddle dish, food in Ireland today is a well-balanced blend of local ingredients and traditions with a sprinkle of outside cultural influences, and a whole lot of that one-of-a-kind Irish hospitality. Check out our list of the best food in Ireland, the most delectable drinks, and where you can enjoy them on our Ireland tours.

Best traditional Irish food

Ireland has a fertile landscape and lots of yearly rain, resulting in farmland that yields plenty of root vegetables and wheat. The lush land is also perfect for farms that support livestock, making dairy and meat two of the main foods in Ireland. Here are some staples that you can enjoy when you’re on a tour of Ireland.

Dublin coddle

This comforting, traditional Irish food is a stew often made without a recipe, as its original purpose was to utilize leftovers and extra ingredients. (Think of ingredients like potatoes, pork sausage, bacon—called “rashers”—and onions.) The meat is boiled to create a stock that’s used to braise the vegetables. The result is a hearty meal made from any food that may have otherwise been wasted.

Scones

Pronounced “scons” locally, Irish scones are a world away from those typically available in North America. One big reason is the butter, which is of higher quality and lower quantity in Irish recipes, making the country’s scones plain and simple—and ripe for tasty condiments. Have yours at teatime with homemade jam and clotted cream, a thick dairy product that resembles something between whipped cream and butter. This combination is undoubtedly one of the best things to eat in Ireland.

Pro tip: Looking for the best restaurant in Dublin that serves tea? Check out Pink. “If you want to go for an afternoon tea and feel like a Barbie, go here,” said staffer Meaghan. “It’s an adorable restaurant where everything is pink and there’s lots of flowers and photo spots. Even the food and drinks are pink.”

A 99 ice cream

This traditional dessert is a simple vanilla soft serve with a Flake chocolate bar stuck in the top. There are a few theories about where the name originated, including: the address of a popular ice cream shop, the former price of a cone (£99), the approximate measurement of the Flake (99mm), or the final wave of Italian conscripts in World War 1 (the Boys of 99). No matter where the name came from, this sweet treat shouldn’t be missed, especially in the summer. “It’s an iconic treat for any warm day,” said staffer Hattie. “I had one at Killarney National Park while walking through the gardens and it was amazing.”

Pro tip: Ask for your 99 with “monkey blood” if you want a drizzle of berry syrup on top.

Fish and chips

England may be the most famous place to try fish and chips, but this classic fried dish is also one of the best things to eat in Ireland. When you’re on our Ireland tours, head to a chipper (fish and chips shop) and order a “one and one.’’ That’s short for “one of this, one of that,” you’ll receive an order of fried fish with a side of fries. “I had the privilege of going on Go Ahead’s first departure of A Week In Ireland: Dublin, Cork, & Galway after Ireland’s borders reopened in 2021,” said staffer Andy. “I ate at the Brazen Head in Dublin, an 11th-century pub that’s really close to the River Liffey. I had fish and chips with a Guinness. It was a classic Irish lunch right before I flew home. I’d highly recommend it!”

Brown bread

This very traditional Irish food is a type of soda bread made with whole wheat rather than white flour, giving it its signature brown color. It’s truly a can’t-miss Irish snack—and is often served as a hearty carb alongside a main meal. If you’re on our A Week in Ireland: Dublin to Belfast tour, you’ll get to explore a working farm where brown bread is made before enjoying a bread tasting.

Pro tip: Try your brown bread with authentic Irish butter or local jam.

Enjoy it all on an Ireland tour

Best restaurants in Ireland

Now that you know which foods the Emerald Isle does best, check out the restaurants in Ireland that make classic staples and new fusions.

Pop into MJ O’Neill’s Bar for a traditional Irish pub experience in Dublin

“I always have to stop in MJ O’Neill’s Bar when I’m in Dublin,” said staffer Meaghan. “It’s a really authentic-feeling Irish pub so it’s a great place to stop for a pint. It’s also right across the street from the Molly Malone statue so you can hit up a landmark while you’re at it!” This is one of the best restaurants in Dublin and it has traditional Irish food on its menu (think: shepherd’s pie, fish and chips, and pints of creamy Guinness.) Visit MJ O’Neill’s during your free time on any of our Dublin tours.

Head to Luigi Malones for a classic Italian dinner in Dublin

Italian food in Ireland? You read that right—Luigi Malones blends the rich decadence of Irish dairy and produce with the savory traditions of Italian cuisine. After dining at this hidden gem, staffer Shannon said, “It was one of the best Italian meals I have ever eaten—even better than some places in Italy!”

Tuck into The Snug for a comfy evening out in Skerries

“You can catch a train to Skerries [outside Dublin] which is a gorgeous little seaside town,” said staffer Meaghan. “The Snug is off the touristy path and more of a local spot. As the name suggests, it’s a cozy place and the owner is really into music so the whole place is decorated with signed vinyls and music memorabilia. It’s fun to look around and see what you can spot.”

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Stop off at The Black Pig for seasonal tapas in Kinsale

Kinsale, just outside of Cork, is making a name for itself as a foodie hotspot and the place to go to try the best food in Ireland. Amongst all the quality eateries, it’s hard to choose one over the other. If you want to taste a few things in one sitting though, we suggest The Black Pig. “My favorite was going to The Black Pig and having a bunch of shared plates that change all the time depending on what they have that’s fresh,” said staffer Jacob. Visit Kinsale and discover the many restaurants on our Ireland: A Feast of Culinary Flavors & Local Traditions tour.

Grab Chinese takeaway from Xi’an Street Food in Galway

“Eating Chinese street food in Galway is Irish culture,” staffer Lindsey said. She recommends Xi’an Street Food’s signature Xi’an Famous Biang Biang Noodles—which is one large, flavorful noodle. Everything they make is hand-rolled in-house using 400-year-old Chinese methods. “I was hesitant to try Asian food in Ireland,” Lindsey said. “This was my first trip out of the country, and I was more naïve. I wanted to be immersed in Irish culture, so eating Chinese street food didn’t line up with my fantasy. But the restaurant was so well-reviewed that I tried it anyway. To this day, it’s some of the best Chinese food I’ve had outside of Asia. Plus, this place wasn’t void of Irish culture—I still got to see the nuanced differences in how Irish people order food, where they eat, how they share meals, how they tell stories over dinner, and how friendly they are when serving you.” Visit the city and grab yourself some Chinese takeaway—one of the best things to eat in Ireland—on any of our Galway tours.

Treat yourself to a well-crafted Irish drink at the Vintage Cocktail Club in Dublin

This speakeasy-inspired bar is a chic nod to the Roaring Twenties in America. The extensive menu focuses on classic cocktails with modern-day riffs, and even introduces each menu item with a tidbit of the recipe’s history and style. “What I love about this place is the education of which cocktails were popular and when,” said staffer Lieta. “I went for the Milk Punch 1680 and it was dreamy, creamy, and delicious!” Enjoy a cocktail (or two) at the Vintage Cocktail Club during your free time on any of our Dublin tours.

Looking to taste more cocktails while traveling? Here’s a list of classic cocktails from around the globe and where to sip them from the source

Indulge in the best that Ireland has to offer

Best Irish drinks

Ireland’s fertile farmlands produce plenty of wheat, barley, apples, and more—making Irish drinks as diverse as the food. Irish whiskey is distilled from the local barley and Irish apples are used to make the nation’s favorite cider. Here are just a few of the best things to drink in Ireland.

Have a Guinness because—well, you’re in Ireland

Brewed in Dublin, Guinness is one of the most recognizable beers on the planet thanks to its signature cascading pour, created by utilizing nitrogen versus carbon dioxide. “Of course, having a pint of Guinness is required in Ireland,” said staffer Haylie. “But if you don’t care for stouts, you can order a black and black, which is Guinness with a shot of blackcurrant cordial to sweeten it.”

Pro tip: On our Ireland: A Feast of Culinary Flavors & Local Traditions tour, you can add the Guinness Experience and Irish Pub Dinner excursion to visit the iconic brewery and enjoy a 360-degree view of Dublin before heading to a pub for traditional Irish food (and more Guinness, if you’d like).

Are you an international beer lover? Check out more iconic beers from around the world.

Order a Magners to drink like a local

Magners is the most popular cider—and one of the most popular Irish drinks—in the country. This semi-sweet, dry, apple-forward cider is bubbly and crushable. All 17 apples that go into distilling Magners come from an orchard in Clonmel, County Tipperary. Many locals like to drink it with ice and despite the boom of various ciders in the U.S., Magners maintains its hold on the market in Ireland. An Irish local told staffer Thea, “To the Irish, there’s really only one cider: Magners.”

Pro tip: If Guinness is too filling for you and Magners is too sweet, order a snakebite. It’s half cider and half Guinness. (Good craic!)

Sip a hot toddy for the warm comfort

The history of the hot toddy varies depending on who you ask, but many consider this warm whiskey tipple an Irish drink. Something we can all agree on? There aren’t many better places to enjoy a toddy than Ireland. The recipes vary, but the base will most commonly be Irish whiskey, accompanied by warm spices like cloves, cinnamon, and anise, sweetened with honey, and topped with water and a hint of lemon.

Pro tip: Since there’s no uniform recipe for a hot toddy, enjoying the house toddy at multiple pubs will be an adventure for you and your palate.

Enjoy an Irish coffee for the buzz

We mean caffeine buzz. In its original form, an Irish coffee is made with Irish whiskey and black coffee. Today, it is often made with both whiskey and Irish cream liqueur, with a dollop of whipped cream on top. However you choose to enjoy this Irish drink, the hot coffee and smooth notes of a classic Irish whiskey will warm you from the inside out on a chilly evening on the Emerald Isle.

Feeling hungry for a tour of the Emerald Isle? Start planning a future tour of Ireland.


Dining tips
About the author | The Go Ahead Tours Team
We’re a team of passionate travel experts, dedicated to helping people explore the world. From inspiring stories to tips for an amazing trip, the topics we cover are all about getting you out there and making discoveries.

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