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Western Ireland... foodie destination?

taking my husband to ireland for his 40th at the end of aug/bgn of sep. we are flying into shannon. no plans yet as to where to stay. im worried because we are really food lovers and have relished vacations and food experiences in crete, istanbul, umbria, etc. i am excited about oysters, brown bread, salmon, beer, cheese. but, is western ireland really a chowhounds foodie destination? where should i go, what to stay away from? i loathe touristy spots, as im sure you do, too ;)

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  1. Take the ferry over to Inis Mor (aran islands). A tad touristy during the day, but at night it's just you and the locals. Lots of heavy cold weather food and fresh fish. Galway is a university town. Great pedestrian area in city center with lots of dining choices. Dingle peninsula has great views, lots of pubs with local color. Have a great time.

    2 Replies
    1. re: chrisinroch

      can you stay overnight on the aran islands? are there any small towns that are off the beaten track nearby galway? is glin castle way too over the top?

      1. re: snturkish

        Yes, you can stay overnight on Inis Mor at a B&B. Very simple accomodations. Ask the locals for restaurant recs. Not sure about villages near Galway.

    2. contact www.ireland.ie they will sort you out,,have a great time.
      p.s make sure you go to 'cong' it's in mayo,it's where the quiet man was made..

      1. It all depends on how much you are willing to pay but the overall answer is i hope you enjoy breakfast. I have seen numerous shows on the Food network and other channels about Ireland's improving cuisine. I go once a year and I have learned to love and crave the traditional Irish breakfast. The Irish don't really do lunch. The best shot for lunch is yes, your friend McDonalds or find a bowl of soup somewhere. I spend most of my time in Southwest Ireland and if you are willing to shell out the large bucks you will get some good chow. But the real magic of Ireland is the place itself and, well, its cows.

        I think Ireland has the best milk i have ever tasted. it is kind of like drinking half and half that doesn't taste like half and half. I am not talking about going down and milking a cow. Take a walk to Tesco and buy a litre of milk. You will be amazed. The butter is incredible and with brown bread is like magic. the rustic nutty charm of brown bread with silky smooth ultra creamy butter is making me salivate as i write this.

        Irish beef is delicious. Statement in fact, of course you better give them a temperature or overcooked is the norm. THey love to put the peppercorn sauce on any steak and i must say i like it.

        Bottom line, Irish cows eat grass ergo make great milk and great steaks. Oh and you will appreciate McDonalds if there for an extended stay. McDonalds does use Irish beef in Ireland.

        18 Replies
        1. re: SeanT

          Brown bread and butter is my sustenance when in Galway. It's simply delicious and the quality of the butter is amazing. Any breakfast spot you visit will have the classic bangers and they are delicious as well. I try not to eat them b/c i can't stop at 2 links. They have a sweetness to them that makes me want to eat and eat!

          Lunch and dinner have never wowed me (unless tipsy.) If you like deep fried stuff, you're all set. Esp late at night when the chippers are hopping. But you'll have more non-fried options in Galway City.

          I've had one of the best pasta dishes of my life in Dublin (a spinach basil pesto tortellini dish.) I didn't care for spinach pasta or basil pesto before that trip, but after 2 weeks of sausage and bread, it was the best thing i ever tasted!

          1. re: SeanT

            Sean...you deserve a ban for recommeding going to Ireland and lunching on mcdonalds. ;)

            1. re: chrisinroch

              And since Irish grass-fed beef is so good, why wouldn't you order a medium-rare burger in an Irish local as opposed to The Golden Arches? Obtw, all those people I'm elbow to elbow with at lunchtime, whether it be in The North or Eire, must be my fellow Boston or N.Y. Irish-Ams practicing their "lilts" :-))

              1. re: Harp00n

                Not so easy to find lunch chow in the Southwest.

                1. re: SeanT

                  Well that's curious, since I've never run into that problem in either Cork or Kerry.
                  Btw, Bud & Stella both sell oceans of McBeer in Ireland, as well. So what does that mean? :-))

                  1. re: Harp00n

                    I did not open the McD's i just ate there. If you don't like it don't go. If you don't like Bud or Stella then don't drink them. I happen to think both of those beers have their moments as does Guinness. Hell the irish drink as much Carlsberg as they do anything other than Guinness. Why don't you bash that too.

                    Hey you want me to say that Ireland is a great place for foodies? Well i can't because it is not. It is a great country and one i spend time in every year. I t is the land of my family. But a great food country it is not. You can wax on about your great pub food but you're just telling a tall tale. The irish may be many things but foodies they are not, yet.

                    Sure you can find some good or great restaurants in Dublin or a few choice others but show me a city in the world where if you are willing to pay you can't find great food.

                    Bitch and moan and condescend all you want but the facts are that the everyday chow in Ireland is pretty mediocre.

                    Like I said originally. The best dairy in the world. Irish beef is really good.

                  2. re: SeanT

                    Oh, I don't know, I am from the south coast in Ireland and there's wonderful food on offer, especially in places like West Cork. I live in London so I do have something to compare it too :-)

                    There's superb restaurants on offer in Ireland now. The last time I was home (Dungarvan, Co Waterford) I travelled around the south for a week and had many wonderful meals and lunches incl a superb meal in The Tannery http://www.tannery.ie/.

                    The Bridgestone Guide is a good place to start, it's fairly reliable. http://www.bestofbridgestone.com/book...

                    Unfortunately I am more familiar with Cork, Waterford & Dublin than the West so couldn't make a specific recommendation but am very confident you'll find something worthwhile.

                    Try some Irish cheeses while you're there. It's something we're quite good at :-)

                2. re: chrisinroch

                  I call them as i see them. I try not to get to the golden arches very often. However, try finding late night chow in Killarney. You can't. No offense intended but Mc Ds is doing a bang up business in Ireland, and i don't think it's the tourists that are paying the bills.

                  Also, as i stated earlier, it is irish beef at Mc Ds.

                  1. re: SeanT

                    It was funny that at the pub one night on Inis Mor, it was all locals and 75% budweiser oilcans being drunk. BTW, I was just busting your chops with the McDonalds comment. Damn a sausage egg and cheese Mcgriddle sandwich sounds good right now.

                    1. re: chrisinroch

                      I noticed lots of young locals drinking Bud last time I was in Galway. I asked around about it and i heard that a) Bud is "imported" there so it appears upscale and that b) it has a higher alcohol content than the US version.

                      I just thought it was hilarious to see Bud in a traditional irish pubs. But then a lot of the gals were drinking vodka/red bull so maybe tradition is dead.

                      1. re: stolenchange

                        Strangely enough Guinness has a fairly low alcohol content, only about 4%. BUd on the other hand has a 5% alcohol content.

                        Go figure.

                        1. re: SeanT

                          Strange, how so? Murphy's & Guinness both weigh-in at 4.0 while Beamish is even slightly less at 3.8. They've been at that low level for quite awhile now. Regards Bud being "imported", hardly. Diageo nee Guinness has been brewing Bud in Kilkenny since 1986. Bud has the highest sales volume of of any lager in Ireland. It's also the fourth largest market for AB outside of North American.

                          It's stablemate in Kilkenny, Smithwick's, is Ireland's most popular ale. Guinness still has the largest percentage of sales, by volume, but sales are declining in both Ireland and the U.K. Conversely, sales are rising everywhere else it's sold. Obviously, a big slug of that is in North America. Obtw, I've been visiting Ireland every year for more years, I'd venture to guess, than you are old and carry a dual-citizenship. So let's not play how Irish are you.

                          1. re: Harp00n

                            Wow you are a mean spirited old cuss. You want to arm wrestle? I'm sure you are more irish than me as I have one Grandmother from Spain that throws off my 100% irish heritage. THe spanish makes for a good afternoon rest and better food and drink. But i'll leave the dairy to the irish.

                            THe bud Kilkenny info is interesting.

                            1. re: SeanT

                              Your welcome on the Bud info but I wouldn't want to take advantage of you arm wrestling. You should've picked something involving aerobics. The Spanish can't make a beer worth a flying %&^* but I love their food & red wines. They do tend to fall down, however, on the smoked salmon compared to the Irish. I guess maybe that can count for something else the Irish do well?

                              Harp00n / Gene

                        2. re: stolenchange

                          This has been going on in the UK for years. I was in Dublin ten years ago, and the local kids were all ordering Bud (brewed under contract at the Guinness brewery, along with Carlsberg) and smoking Marlboros. A few were drinking Miller High Life for some reason.

                          The oddest thing I saw in Galway was in a seafood restaurant, that advertised "Maryland Fried Chicken." Now, I was raised in Maryland and I always thought it was just regular fried chicken but with a bit of Old Bay added to the batter. The Galway version was served with pineapple(?!). Never did figure that one out. Years later, I picked up an English recipe book and there it was: Maryland Fried Chicken served with pineapple. It's like serving Manhattan Clam Chowder with poi and a side of fried Spam. Bewildering. But I guess whatever sells.


                  2. re: SeanT

                    Irish lamb is the best! And if the salmon are running, you can dine very well, indeed.

                    1. re: pikawicca

                      I totally agree on adding lamb to the list and originally thought of it. But didn't want to appear to be piling-on, so to speak. :-))

                    2. re: SeanT

                      There is great lunch food to be had in pubs throughout Ireland -- we just got back today, and never even considered fast food. For lunch, we ate fairly light -- grilled sandwiches, soups, salads ( the best with smoked fish), one splurge of fried (very fresh) fish. I don't know where you're eating, Sean, but you need to get out more!

                    3. There are some good basic restaurants in the Killarney area - and a bit more upscale at the Muckross Park Hotel. Galway is a lively town, as mentioned - unfortunately my great find there closed up a few years ago but I'm sure there are lots of other restaurants that have sprung up plus the pubs and Irish music are good in Galway City. If you drive around the Ring of Kerry (or through it which is even more fun) - and you should - a lunch at the Avoca Weavers spot at Mull's Gap is very nice (and scenic) plus their shop is terrific and worthy of its reputation.

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: zuriga1

                        Packie's in Kenmare is great for dinner or for lunch in Kenmare, try The Purple Heather. Gabys in Killarney has a good reputation for seafood. For a special place to stay and dine, Carrig House on Caragh Lake, just off the Ring of Kerry road is wonderful. Gorgeous lake views, nice rooms, and excellent food. None of these places are cheap, but are at least worth the money. I was pleasantly surprised at the quality of the pub lunches I sampled on a recent visit. Fresh salmon on good brown bread with nicely dressed salad greens at some place near the pier in Dingle--definitely improving!

                      2. I was in Dingle, Kenmare and Kinsale in May. Particularly loved Out of the Blue in Dingle; colorful little place serving only fish and seafood. Everything I tried there was prepared in fresh, innovative ways, and each entree arrives surrounded by little tidbits of about a dozen side dishes. We stayed at Heatons guest house and started the day with their porridge served with Drambui, a little cream, and sugar so dark it looks like crystallized molasses. OhmyGod good. Great music scene, as well, in Dingle.

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: emarymoo

                          Yes, Kenmare is touted as a gourmet paradise. Fantastic fish in Out of the blue in Dingle.

                        2. Some on the recs on this OP:
                          I'm sure overlap, but it's still a good point of reference. Please give us a report upon you return.

                          All the best,

                          Btw, Cong in Mayo is a beautiful place indeed. But just so you know, it doesn't get any more McIrish than The Quiet Man, " White-o-Mornin' " thatched cottage, Museum. Many Irish-Am's. myself included, love the movie and Maureen O'Hara. Where as many in Eire think it's right down there with "Darby O'Gill & The Little People".

                          1. I couldnt remember where we stayed and ate, so I looked online to jog my memory. I think we stayed at the seaside B&B and I'm almost positive that we ate at the Aran Fisherman. Again, I remember the food being good, but heavy....cream of potato soup, salmon, that kind of thing. Great setting.
                            Again I would strongly recommend overnighting on Inis Mor (inishmore). If you loath touristy, then you will appreciate how the local color comes to light after the dayboaters head back with bags of the famous sweaters.

                            1. Moran's Oyster Cottage, in Kilcolgan, 15 miles south of Galway, has been a foodie destination for several decades. I have not been there since 1994, so I have no idea how good it now is. It is located in a very nice spot, overlooking a small river.


                              1. Any country beyond your own is a true foodie destination! There are great finds to be had most places with the right mind set. If you choose the right foods in Ireland it will be great. Stick with the local specialties, and for the most part avoid the trendy places. We had great meals in the small, local pubs etc,after asking locals where most folks liked to gather. Excellent mussels, salmon, and lamb on the west coast.
                                One of the best meals we have had ever, was at Ballymaloe Farm, just outside of Cork. Make reservations asap, as they tend to be booked far in advance. Everything prepared is grown on the farm or very near by.
                                The local cheeses in Ireland are worth the trip alone!

                                1. I wholeheartedly endorse Moran's Oyster Cottage. To me, it was the quintessential Irish dining experience. I went last fall and I loved it. Not touristy, it was moslty filled with local families who seemed to know each other. It is a thatched roof cottage overlooking a river, and the interior was heated by a peat fire.
                                  While the oysters were good, they weren't the highlight for me (perhaps because I make annual journeys to Appalachicola and New Orleans to gorge on oysters).
                                  At Moran's I had the best smoked salmon of my entire life. I still think about it quite often, and I'm afraid I just can't eat smoked salmon anywhere else. Ah well, I'll just have to pay a return visit. Enjoy.

                                  1. Just back from a weekend ballyvaughan in co. clare. Its a very small village in the burren - I am a galway native myself and didnt find it TOO touristy. Foodwise, I would definitely recommend Lenanes which is a couple of kms outside the village. It is a pub which does really tasty seafood and overlooks the sea. We also ate in Monks which is a pub in the village itself - not bad but not amazing. My husband thought the Guinness in both places was good - so if you are going to try the black stuff you could do worse than here. Dont think that Co. Clare is the foodie-est destination ever - but the burren landscape is stunning. If you do go here the Ailwee caves are heavily promoted - I would pass on them- you probably have seen much more spectacular caves in other parts of the world.

                                    Galway City is a good place to visit and i think the Clarinbridge Oyster festival is on at the start of September? I would definitely second Morans!!

                                    Dont know how much time you have and how far you're travelling but the Dingle Peninsula is stunning and Out of the Blue is a great place to eat. Would also recommend The Good Things Cafe in Durrus, near Bantry in West Cork. Its a bit out of the way but the food is absolutely great. Carmel also does cookery courses which take place in the restaurant kitchen - they are very hands on and very informative and enjoyable. Kinsale in Co. Cork is full of great places to eat.

                                    I think that Bud is declining is popularity at the moment (as is Guinness). The drink of the moment is Bulmers Cider - not to my taste - but something I dont think you get in the States (at least not the alcoholic variety)? anyway I will post more as I think of them.

                                    2 Replies
                                    1. re: jendolan

                                      Hello jendolan,
                                      Bulmers is indeed sold in The States. In Boston it's most often found in Irish Pubs sometimes along with Strongbow. You will find it, occasionally, in others bars as well.


                                      1. re: jendolan

                                        Bulmers is indeed available in the states but is sold under the name Magnars.

                                      2. Just returned from Galway. (Still have jet lag.) The first night we went to McDonagh's for fish and chips, and I'm regretting not going back. It's around the corner from The Jury's Inn in Galway City, just at the start of the pedestrian street. Looks like a hole in the wall, but is crowded and wonderful. Everyone said the cod was the best, but you can choose from a number of types of fish. We ate on a picnic table just outside. See this link for a review. http://www.virtualtourist.com/travel/...
                                        We had an excellent meal at McSwiggans.Nice restaurant. Not inexpensive, but not outrageous either. Recommended by a woman I stopped on the street.
                                        Since her advice was good, she also recommended Lemongrass. It's a Thai restaurant also near Jury's Inn "with lovely chicken dishes and lovely service." We didn't get there though. She said lots of food for a reasonable price. Since it's so expensive over there, you might appreciate a few of these less expensive recommendations.
                                        If you go to Clifden (Connemara), an inexpensive sandwich shop recommended by Fodor's is Two Dog Cafe. Everything was wonderful.
                                        Eat lots of brown bread. Best brand I found in the grocery stores was at Dunnes, made by Bakers of Athenry. Next to that, McCambridge Whole Wheat bread.
                                        Excellent crackers are Fox's Wholemeal Cracker's. Scrumptious with Irish white cheddar. Also, try Irish Dairies probiotic yogurt. Their strawberry is the most incredible I've ever had. And go to the pubs at night for Irish music. And talk to the wonderful, warm, people.
                                        As for places to stay, I can recommend that you stay at least a night in a Bed & Breakfast. We had a lovely 1 night stay at Oranhill Lodge, in Oranmore. Around the corner from Galway. Comfortable, clean, cheerful and sunny, wonderful food, gracious and very friendly hosts. See tripadvisor.com for reviews of it. Couple in their 40's. We stayed in a condo the rest of the time - Donegan Court. Was secure and lovely, walking distance to the City. We booked it through Ireland West website.
                                        Have a wonderful time! We did.

                                        1. Afterthought - Donegan Court wouldn't be available Aug/Sept. It will be student housing then.

                                          1. Out of the Blue in Dingle is a must...one of the best restaurants I've ever eaten at anywhere in the world.

                                            Also, near Adare ("the prettiest town in Ireland') is the Mustard Seed at Echo Lodge in Ballingary. The restaurant is excellent, and the inn is a true country house experience. Maybe a 40 minute drive from Shannon and a good place to spend your first jet-lagged night.

                                            Don't forget Phil's in Castlegregory - across the street from the Spar market - perfect for lunch and breakfast - the menu changes daily. I now understand brown bread.

                                            1. MY husband and I were in the western part of Ireland for part of our honeymoon. Surprisingly, we found the best chinese food restaurant in dingle, some of the best we have ever had (and that's pretty big because we live In L.A. = lots of great chinese food :) ) I looked everywhere for the name of the restaruant, but we couldn't find it. the town is pretty small, so I'm sure if you asked around you would find it. it was a "locals" place, lots of families and a break from pubbish food.

                                              we also stayed at Glin Castle and had dinner there. very gourmet, delish :)

                                              can't remember where else we ate. oh Dingle Benners' Hotel had a lovely breakfast :)

                                              1. I forgot to mention, that one of our favorite meals was getting some picnic supplies ( a thermos of soup or stew wouldnt hurt cuz it can get blanking cold) and climbing up on a bluff overlooking dingle bay.

                                                1. I've had wonderful food in Ireland but we've traveled in the South West (bantry, schull, goleen, kinsale etc.) The oysters everywhere were just amazing as were scallops with the roe on, all the fresh fish, creamy butter, eggs and brownbread. The ingredients were so fresh and delicious that we really preferred simpler dishes like grilled fish with no special sauces.

                                                  After seeing all the adorable sheep roaming we couldn't order any lamb!

                                                  1 Reply
                                                  1. I'm not seeing anything here about Limerick. Is this just a chow black hole?

                                                    1 Reply
                                                    1. Just commenting on these "Bud" remarks - isn't it brewed in Kilkenny in the same brewery as Smithwick's?