Words: Emily Mullen
I’ve moved to Dublin 8 in the middle of a level five pandemic. Naturally, there is nothing else for me to do but go for walks, and eat and drink shit within my area. Join me as I exhaust the place one latte, takeaway beer, slice of pizza at a time.
Reviewing chips is something I do quite regularly, mainly whispering to myself or any unfortunate person within earshot. “Look at that crispy bit,” I say while holding up an unidentified fried husk or “the salt and vinegar really gathers” while gesturing at a pool of sog. But actually reviewing them in a semi-formalised setting is something I haven’t done before. It’s something that I would hazard a guess and say that not many people have done either, bar 2015’s YouTube king The Chicken Connoisseur the Pengest Munch kid. Unlike my review of Dublin 8 coffees, I would say I’m pretty well qualified for the role of reviewing chips, my primary qualification being that I eat a lot of them.
What I wasn’t prepared for was picking the chippers to review in Dublin 8, this is down to a trifecta of problems I’ve outlined below:
1. No one reviews chippers
2. Chippers don’t care for the internet, their Facebook pages have been left unmanned since Christmas 2017 and their websites have become fossilised
3. Everyone has a different “favourite chipper” in Dublin 8
With all this in mind, I began a pilgrimage to try as many chippers as possible in Dublin 8, mainly because I couldn’t narrow the list down. So began, endless journeys to the fish and chip establishments of Dublin 8, pulling umpteen swinging doors, awkwardly swapping feet while breathing in starch-laden air and then finally diving my hands into countless brown bags with steaming interiors.
This was all being done in good faith, and with a high level of reverence for the chips. Because chipper chips are extremely important to us as a nation, brief conversations I’ve had with people about chipper chips during the course of the review have shown me that. The silence that falls after someone assures you for the fifth time that Macari’s is the best chipper, really is quite something. You are forced to sit in silence and think on Macari’s chips for as long as necessary until you truly seem to understand the enormity of Macari’s chips, saving that you hear about Macari’s again.
This seriousness might be explained by the collective psyche that chipper chips somehow taps into all of us. Happy and poignant memories are tied to the humble bag of chips, a whiff of one might remind you of the time your grandparents brought you to Skerries and a dog robbed your batter sausage or a drive past a chipper might swirl up an image of that glint in your Mam’s eye when she said, “will we see if the chipper is still open?” after a long drive. It’s a pull too, a craving that slaps us over the head especially when we are away.
No matter where we are in the world, the thought of chipper chips pulls at us, nudging us to think of home, it’s the same part of us that craves Brennan’s yellow pan or Tayto cheese and onion. I have tried to fix myself to the one line of thought, that swirls around the notion of nostalgia. What bag of chips would I be thinking of if, I was far, far away from Ireland, unable to waddle down the road and order a large bag for myself. What does Ireland do to chopped pieces of potato, that nowhere else in the world is capable of doing and where in Dublin 8, gets as close as possible to that?
Trying a large number of chippers in a short period of time is never advisable, but it did put me in a discernible frame of mind, I became brutal with my criticisms and fairly obsessive over the chips, as the rubbish bag bulged with brown paper, my lips overly moisturised with grease and my stomach cried out for something other than starch. Read about the best chippers in Dublin 8 below:
Some could call the Amber Grill a Dublin 8 chipper with stabilisers on and they would probably be right. Mainly because it’s a very accessible chipper, it even looks accessible, the exterior has old-style looking lamps lighting up an artistic swirly sign that reads Amber Grill, in the same hand that would bear the name of a French bistro or a darkly lit wine bar. Set in Rialto village, like the rest of the place it’s caught in a strange half-gentrification phase, sort of leaning in but not fully there.
The chipper itself is immaculately clean, even complete with decoration, that I have never seen before in a chipper (bar post-it signs for handymen and roofers) there’s a collection of mirrors in the shape of funnels, a portion of a red Vespa suspended from the ceiling, there are inspirational quotes fixed to signs, there’s even stack of books on the counter. It’s also surprisingly laid out, with two equal areas set against the door, with ample room to do the chipper lean (the action that is only reserved for the greasy smelling surroundings of a chipper), it’s also pleasantly warm since the kitchen is within touching distance.
The chips themselves are served in the usual brown paper, with a strip of old gimmicky newspaper layering one side. There’s a healthy portion of chips, the chips aren’t cut too thick and there is a lovely distribution of crispy bits throughout (not just down the bottom thrown in to keep us sweet). There is a solid distribution of salt and vinegar, it does dissipate near the end, but unless a chipper is in the habit of salt and vinegering halfway through packing the chips (which is rare) this is unavoidable. They did let themselves down in terms of the overall crisp factor, which definitely could have been improved upon (but I was there on a busy Friday night so the crisp factor is bound to be compromised at that time of ordering). Crispiness aside, the chips were a nice comforting level of moist, the chip size was excellent and the surroundings were much appreciated. Large chips will set you back €3.40.
You can look out over Emmet road from Toni’s Papamio (the same people that bring you Toni’s Papamio in Saint James’ a couple of kilometres away), but why would you want to look out the window when you can watch daytime tv on the telly beside the whirling milkshake machines. There are plastic sheets everywhere, so numerous you have to tap your bank card through the plastic to get at the bank machine. There’s a slight smokiness in the air from the wood-burning oven in the back, their pizzas and homemade slaw are pretty legendary. The menus are pretty hard to read, set on screens that are kind of warped due to all the plastic sheeting. There’s an atmosphere to the place even during the middle of the day, people dropping in to collect their orders, even people sticking their heads in to say hello to the man I’m guessing is called Toni. The chips themselves come in a pretty iconic bag that reads “Did you know… A portion of freshly cut chipper chips provide vitamins, iron, zinc and calcium”, which is news to me. Tastes of vitamins, iron, zinc or calcium, are not coming through but I am tasting a good distribution of salt and vinegar throughout the bag. The chips are extremely fresh and have that lovely fluffy quality in the middle of them. The only criticism would be the crispiness factor could have been worked on. A very large bag of chips will cost you €3.20.
Truly a hallmark of Ireland has to be the saturation of chippers with the same name within close proximately of one another run by different parts of the same family, only a country like Ireland could support two chippers (frequently the exact same) on the same road. There’s two Macari’s on Tyrconnell Road, one near the Tesco and the other down the road beside Scoops newsagents. I had it on great authority (Google Reviews) that Franco’s Macari the Bluebell end of Inchicore was the one to try, it also has the name “The Original Macari Take-Away” to it and it’s rare to see it without a hefty amount of people queuing outside.
The inside is a stereotypical chipper, the diamond mirror design built into the counter, the faded menu that still lists “cadet”, there are at least three signs warning customers not to bring their dogs into the takeaway for “hygiene reasons” which bodes well. The chips are cooked fresh and are windscreen condensation hot. The average chip size would be on the chunkier end of things, but there are a decent mix of crispy, thinner and tall crisps. There’s a decent amount of salt, and the most amount of vinegar that can legally be applied to a chip, if you sniffed the bag long enough the vinegar vapours might just enter your brain. The vinegar is pretty solidly distributed throughout the bag, at the end of the bag it forms puddles of vinegar acid dissolving the remaining chips before your eyes. That’s the price you need to pay for taste though. The one area of improvement would be the crispiness of the chips because there was a touch of stodginess to the chunkier chips. €3 will get you the most amount of chips that has ever fitted into a bag.
Set in the middle of Thomas street, down from the big Lidl, is Vincenzo’s. Chippers by design, transition very well into takeaways, but Vincenzo’s is a pro at this since they used to move from part-cafe to excessively late-night chip seller (we are talking 5am closing) on the weekends.
They have a plastic door that can block off the entry into the sitting bit at the left, keeping the raucous customers contained to a small area. This plastic has been extended (in a fluid manner) to cover the counter of the chipper. Vincenzo’s has all the signature design of a chipper, the laminate wood floors, the Formica sides, and the faded signs behind the plastic coating.
The chips look like quintessential chipper chips and taste like them too. They are a nice size, small-to-medium with some large ones thrown in, they are also chopped in a nice angled manner which assists in the crispiness levels. They have a soft fluffy centre and have a solid level of salt and vinegar on top. There is an excellent level of grease to these chips, which permeates without overpowering the chips. The bag was very self-sufficient and did not require any additional condiments. While there were a couple of crispy bits at the end of the back, my only criticism would be a couple more crispy bits wouldn’t go amiss. €2.80 will get you a large bag of chips.
Set in the beating heart of the Liberties is Fusco’s, which many people (myself included) choose to chuck an “r” into the name and rename Frusco’s for some reason. It’s hard to how this would happen, especially since Fusco’s have a massive big flag above the shop bearing their name, which you could nearly see from either end of Meath Street.
It’s a truly unique chipper, one of the city’s OGs that started in 1963, that has held out so long from updating its interior that it’s now back in. Wowburger would love to emulate the bright red seats and shelves of Cadet. It definitely feels like a hub for the Fusco family, while I’m there a group behind the counter are discussing false teeth and taking it in turns to update the group on whether they’ve gotten them or not (later there was some waxing lyrical about the merits of Fixodent plus “much easier to get off than poligrip”).
The old practice of allowing customers to decorate their chips with as much salt and vinegar as they want has been couched due to Covid, replaced with a better system of letting the professionals do it. Which makes for a perfectly distributed dusting of salt and a whiff of vinegar on each chip, the kicker is in the bottom-dwelling chips which retain the vinegar and form miniature flavour bombs. The chips are perfect, they hold an excellent structure, the outside is perfectly crispy while the inside has fused to form a kind of potato puree, which is smooth and creamy inside.
There is an excellent variety of chip shapes, from the top-tier crispy bits, the midlevel after thought half chips (here the skinny long ones are also grouped), and the standard long girthy ones. These chips are perfection, if I ever get to leave Ireland long enough to miss the gastronomy, it will be Fusco’s chips that I think on. €3.20 will get you a large bag of chips.
Fresh to the locale so please go easy on me, but if you have any chipper recommendations for me to try, shoot me an email to firstname.lastname@example.org