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CHAR’s Ultimate Food Guide: Off The Beaten Track

Images: Hen’s Teeth & Michaels by George Voronov,
El Grito by Mauricio Alejandro Estrada via Food and Wine
Words: Shamim de Brún

There are certain restaurants that seemingly everyone visits. Sometimes that’s because they’re brilliant, but other times, it’s just because they’ve got a highly Instagrammable flower wall. Nevertheless, we go back to them repeatedly because they can be phenomenal and because it’s comforting to go somewhere you’ve already been. Somewhere you know, makes this specific dish you covet and have evangelised to all your mates.

Going further off-road requires stepping into the unknown in some way. It’s a more arduous journey. Not only are you physically going further afield, crossing county council lines and getting two forms of public transport, but you’re also taking a risk with the food. Good food is worth a journey, but the bar is higher when you’ve had to work for it. So it needs to be worth going out of your way for.

So with that in mind, we pulled the top spots our experts would divert from their daily life to make a beeline for. We have unfolded the old-school maps, taken the coordinates, and taken detours into account. We’ve loaded up a series of places in Dublin that are worth an adventure to get there, now turn left at the crossroads, then right and let us show you The Ultimate Food Guide to Dublin’s best Off the Beaten Track (OTBT) Spots :

10 Roe & Co Distillery

The Gem of James’ Street

Roe & Co have established themselves as keen local food enthusiasts with their pop-ups with some of our favourite culinary innovators. From John Relihan to Nial Sabongi and Big Fan, something is constantly popping up in their aesthetic local.

On top of that, though, it’s always a place to get an excellent cocktail on a Friday or Saturday night if you always want a seat and to be able to hear yourself talk. It’s Gillian’s top OTBT place after Hen’s Teeth, so you know the cocktails are high-end. They also do an excellent pint of Guinness. The Gastro Gays told us that despite it being a whiskey bar, they were feeling in the Guinness mood, and a pitch-perfect Guinness landed in front of them in no time.

As OTBT goes, it’s not actually that far away. Just passed NCAD, opposite Guinness; it lives at the heart of the Golden Triangle in Dublin 8. So if you live on the Red Line Luas or the 145 bus route and are sleeping on this spot, then wake up to it. Their PowerBar is atmospheric, warm and staffed by truly passionate people. I’ve been a few times this year and never had a bad drink.

Location: 92 James St, The Liberties, Dublin 8, D08 YYW9
Opening Times:
Open from 12:00 Thursday to Sunday. Check out their website for more information.

09 Michaels

The Bucket List Local

One of Tara Deery’s top picks was Michaels. She said, “it has to be Michaels”. Michaels is so entwined and enmeshed in the Dublin food scene that we forget that, for many, Mount Merrion is actually pretty tricky to get to. That is the sign of a next-level OTBT place. It’s a local success and a must-eat-here for every tom dick and foodie in the bizz.

The relationship between Michael’s and its customers is pretty special. You can tell how much they enjoy each other’s company when you step in the door. Head Chef, serial restauranteur and author Gaz told us once that customers have even dropped in Jägermeister and a packet of Paracetamol for the team after staff parties.

As a destination, you really have to see it to believe the hype. It’s a passionate, light touch and colourful spot that’s full of buttery goodness. What can’t you say about it? The food is baller, the wine is killer, and the craic is mighty. Literally, everything you want in an OTBT place. Grab that sweet booking and hop the 46a, and you won’t regret it. If they’re booked out, you can check out Big Mikes in Blackrock too. Same genius team, much bigger space.

Location: 57 Deerpark Rd, Mount Merrion, Dublin, A94 F761
Opening Times:
Open from 16:00 on Wednesday and open from 12:00 Thursday to Sunday. Head to their website for more information, including deets on Little Mikes and Big Mikes.

08 – Hen’s Teeth

A Rare Gem

There are people like me who forget that Hen’s Teeth is OTBT because we go so frequently. The place always has something happening, be it a gig, a launch soirée, or a pop-up. This has been a banner year for Hens, with them graduating from hipster darling to mainstay on the culinary scene. They were reviewed in the Irish Times, hosted the Unofficial Simpsons Cookbook Launch, and so much more. However, they will forever be an OTBT spot because they are tucked away in an obscure corner of Blackpitts.

Hens is a “Wow-how-is-this-even-here” type of place to most and a ray of light in these dark times. I have lost count of the number of people I’ve seen lost for words after tagging along to some event or other with me. Hens were name-checked by Richie, Holly and Gillian as one of the most interesting and relevant OTBT spots in the city.

Location: Blackpitts, Merchant’s Quay, Dublin 8, D08 A9FD
Opening Times:
From 12:00 Friday to Sunday, but inclined towards many forms of events. Head to their website for up-to-date information.

07 Potager

The Sea Sider

We can forget that Skerries is in Dublin, the absolute outskirts, sure, but in the county limits nonetheless. It’s genuinely only a train away, albeit one you have to plan for. But this restaurant makes the trip out one you should be excited to make because Potager is one for the books.

Gastro Gays said it brought them such true joy they had to put it top of their list. It’s easy to see why with a banging tasting menu and an excellent reputation for wine pairings, it is already Michelin Recognised. It serves local restaurant charm with Haut cuisine ingenuity and is the perfect way to cap off a day trip to Skerries.

Location: 7 Church Street, Skerries, Co. Dublin, K34 V585
Opening Times:
Thursday-Saturday: 18:00 – 21:30 and Sunday: 12:30-15.30.

06 Mae

The D4 Charmer

Alex and Richie from Bahay both separately named Mae as one of their favourite spots to sneak off to. There was some debate in the office as to whether Mae counted as OTBT because it’s pretty integral to Ballsbridge, but it landed on this list because for many, Ballsbridge is only known for the RDS. But at Mae, it is so much more. While the space is small, the food is cutting edge foolproof, and crucially reliable. With Irish Times food writer and chef Grainne O’Keeffe at the helm, you know you are bound to get something with a French influence that is intensely Irish.

It is hard to get a reservation here. People compete for a handful of seats whenever the booking calendar is opened like it was Wimbledon. That alone would be enough for many to make a date for it, but if you need more words of affirmation, then look to the experts. Tara Gartlan said not only is the food spectacular, but “The wine is also phenomenal and the glassware! You also get to pick your own steak knife, which is quite fun. It’s a little bit different”.

The pomp and circumstance undoubtedly add to the whimsy of the place, but it’s the food that will keep you hopping on the bus out to them time and again.

Location: 53 Shelbourne Rd, Ballsbridge, Dublin, D04 XC66
Opening Times:
From 18:00 Tuesday to Sunday

05 Woodruff

The Wonderful

If it was easier to get here, everyone would be talking about Woodruff all the time. Epic wine list, innovative food, and bang for your buck, it’s got it all. Hotly tipped by many to be en route to gaining a Michelin star, this is a D18 spot to get out to asap. Gastro Gays and Rob, the genius who brought Big Fan to you, both endorse this place. It’s always full of Wow-I-Must-Try-It wide-eyed pleasure seekers.

Gastro Gays couldn’t rate it higher; they said, “honestly, think it completely stands out in that area of town really really consists in cooking a great atmosphere, a really interesting wine list that I think definitely punches above its weight and just great quality food.”

Rob said he took his mam there and that he thought the food was next level.

Stepaside is a suburb in the foothills of the Dublin mountains that most people breeze through on the way to Enniskerry, but the 44 bus stops outside, and it is just off the M50, so you’ve no excuses not to high tail it southward.

Location: The Village, Unit 7, Enniskerry Rd, Dublin 18, D18 N26H
Opening times:
Wednesday 17.00-21.00, Thursday 12.30-21.00, Friday – Saturday 12.30-21.30, Sunday 12.30-16.00. For more information, visit the website.

04 Baan Thai

The Authentic Haven

 A great, local restaurant is like a cultural fondue pot, it brings warmth to the world it feeds. “Baan Thai” means “Thai Home”. It was Ireland’s 1st Thai-owned restaurant. The team behind this restaurant which has premises in Leopardstown and Ballsbridge has over 21 years of experience. They genuinely dedicate themselves to preserving the authentic flavours of Thailand and bringing them to us, the Irish people.

This was the top pick of Richie from Bahay, who recounted eating here with his parents as a youngster. Fresh authenticity is fundamentally important to its appeal. . If it wasn’t for such a passionate team, it’s unlikely we’d have as vibrant a culinary scene as we do now. they forced their own way and inspired many to do likewise, Richie included.

But aside from what it did for Ireland, it also has amazing food. Alex, Richie’s partner, was wide-eyed, telling us about the veggie options she’s been fortunate enough to gorge on when she visited. She couldn’t wax lyrical enough. Both the Ballsbridge and Leopardstown venues are worth making a trip to if you’re in any way inclined towards authentic, tasty Thai food.

Location: Ballsbridge and Leopardstown
Opening Times:
Sunday – Thursday: 17:30– 22.30 · Friday – Saturday: 17:30 – 23:00 

03 El Grito

The Basement Taqueria

The place has been on the lips of every influencer in the business for a while now, so while we would have once called it a “hidden gem”, it’s too well known to be considered hidden by any stretch of the most active imaginations. It is, however, a gem of a spot. With tacos from only two quid, it’s also relatively steel.

Located in Mountjoy Square, it’s central enough to walk to from O’Connell street, but you’re not just going to happen across it unless you get lost looking for Croker on a wet day. Tomasz Oleksy, with his wife Lucy, launched El Grito in 2015 in Temple Bar. They’ve been in this spot since 2019.

Kevin from Nomo Ramen was a buzz about it, and Big Fan’s OG Rob said it was the taqueria in the city to beat.

Location: 20 Mountjoy Square E, Mountjoy, Dublin 1, D01 K3T1
Opening Times:
Every day from 12:00 to 22:00 or 23:00 on Friday and Saturday nights

02 La Cocina Cuevas

Worth Taking the M1 For

If El Grito tastes like Mexico, Cochina tastes like California. Every dish is prepared using recipes handed down through generations set against a picturesque farm in the Naul. You couldn’t make this up. People wouldn’t believe you if you wrote it. They also make hearty chicken bowls for furry friends. A trip out here is the perfect weekend activity if you are a taco hunter. They also go on the run around Ireland for festival season and even won.

Alex and Holly Dalton name-check them with noticeable taco lust in their eyes. Alex said she was lucky enough to chow down on Cocina Cuevas recently, and it was one of her favourite meals. This is high praise when you consider the calibre of food that woman gets to eat daily.

Holly said, “Cocina Cueyas is number one. It is what everyone says it is. Brilliant. It’s the definition” of OTBT. She’s not wrong. Apart from our number one, Cocina was the most namedropped spot. It is, by and large, the best place to get Tamales in the county.

Location: The Naul, Rath Great, Co. Dublin, K32 K797
Opening Times:
Thursday, 17:00 20:00 Friday, 16:00 to 20:00; Saturday – 13:00 – 16:00; reopen 17:00 to 20:00. Sunday, 11:00 to 15:00/Sellout. Can pre-order on 0838994472 two hours prior to when we open or just rock up to the trailer to order.

01 Mamo

The Stalwart

Many consider Mamo to be an essential food pilgrimage. It has replaced fish and chips as the one thing you must do if you go to Howth. Considered by many to be the pinnacle of seaside dining in Howth, including The Gastro Gays, Holly Dalton, Mick O’Connell MW, Rob, Tara Deery and Tara Gartlan. It must tick all the boxes if food critics, masters of wine, restauranteurs, and chefs are all singing their praises.

They knock out incredible, luxurious food simply done with an incredible wine list that passes the smell test with winos Mick O’Connell and Tara Deery; two of the most relevant names in Irish wine at the moment.

The every quotable, Holly said, “it always feels special because you have to kind of plan it. Mamo makes you feel like you’re a Lonely Planet guide or something… It makes you feel cool.” Which is the essence of an OTBT spot.

To anyone who has been there, it is with the trip. Even if you’re coming all the way from the opposite side of Dublin bay around to Ireland’s eye. Dart, foot, bike or boat, by any means necessary, make you’re way to Mamo. Don’t forget to make a booking though because they be busy.

Location: Harbour House, Harbour Rd, Howth, Dublin, D13 E9H9
Opening Times: 12:30 – 15:00 and 18:30 to 21:15 every Wednesday to Saturday. Sunday is a straight run from 13:00 to 19:00

Elsewhere on CHAR: Dublin’s Ultimate Burger

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