It wasn’t long ago when eating in a café typically meant a stale, soggy croissant and, if you were lucky, a pale, under toasted (processed) ham and (orange) cheese panini.
Today, in a country that now boasts a thriving coffee culture, it’s likely you’ll be eating avocado toast, often prepared by an attractive Australian, while drinking a flat white.
Okay, let’s get real, many coffee shops are still reheating frozen muffins, but a slew of independent operations are now offering delicious food alongside an outstanding coffee service, becoming veritable food destinations in their own right, and all at a great price.
Read on for 12 of our favourite food-forward cafés across Ireland, great coffee guaranteed.
So popular has Meet Me in the Morning become as a food destination that the Dublin café has opened a stand alone coffee shop next door, Reference Coffee, to separate the stream of visitors based on their needs; caffeine only (and possibly a cheeky homemade doughnut) or food.
The vegetable-forward plates they offer are brimming with colour, creativity and the produce of McNally Family Farm and other Irish producers.
Not afraid to get their own hands dirty, the MMIM crew are known to spend days foraging, sharing the seasonal spoils on the menu. They’ve hosted a number of evening supperclubs too, a feature we hope to see more of soon.
50 Pleasants Street, Potobello, Dublin 8
Founded in Easkey in 2015 by Dervla James, of Dublin’s much-loved Pepper Pot Café, Pudding Row boasts a lot more than views out over the Atlantic Ocean.
The perfect stop-off point for those exploring the Wild Atlantic Way, you can perk up with killer coffee and fuel up with freshly baked goods, salads and delicious lunches.
Their all-day breakfast includes the likes of Cannellini Beans on Toast with a fried egg, along with some Pepper Pot favourites like Creamy Scrambled Eggs with Organic Burren Smoked Salmon.
Main Street, Easkey, Co. Sligo
In 2017 3FE’s Colin Harmon conspired with manager Adam Sheridan and executive head chef Hilary O’Hagan-Brennan to bring something new to Harolds Cross.
Five Points Coffee was born and with it a food menu as fresh and striking as its bold blue and white colour scheme.
Along with cracking coffee, the drinks menu boasts homemade soda and fermented kefir – the health credentials of the latter will surely offset the chocolate chip pancakes served with mint whipped cream cheese and an optional side of bacon that you won’t be able to resist.
288a Harold’s Cross Road, Dublin 6
With two locations across the city, General Merchants has evolved into much more than a coffee forward, day-time eatery. On the brunch menu there are creative twists on morning staples like eggs Benedict with Haggis, poached eggs, brioche, spinach and whisky hollandaise and vegan Bircher made with agave nectar chai.
For lunch you can’t look past their signature The Little Ox Salad – adding grilled haloumi is optional but highly recommended.
In the evening forgo the coffee for wine, and sample keep an eye out for specials like Slow braised ox tail pithivier, beef dripping confit carrots and baby Madeira onions or an authentic twist of the Neapolitan dish Cacio e Pepe made with a courgette carbonara.
481 Upper Newtownards Road, Belfast / 361 Ormeau Road, Belfast
Informed by Melbourne’s notorious coffee scene, where owners Kevin Roche and Taurean Coughlan once lived, Two Boys Brew is by far the chicest cafe North of the Liffey, but this is far from a cookie cutter cafe.
TBB has developed its own unique style with a considered food menu at its core. Dishes take inspiration from Australian brunch culture but incorporate local ingredients.
Menu stalwarts include Ricotta Hotcakes, with all the toppings, Mushroom Ragu Toast and charred Corn Bread (house-made, of course) and Eggs, served with pan-fried greens and spicy jalapeno jam. No flight to Melbourne necessary.
375 North Circular Road, Phisboro, Dublin 7
Sourcing ingredients from the nearby English Market, Joe + Bros serves up a hearty weekday menu of daily changing salads and stacked sandwiches made and at the weekend a brunch menu that boasts more adventurous dishes like confit duck leg served with fried duck egg, pancakes and syrup.
The café has recently taken the same winning principles, local ingredients and great service, and extended opening hours into the evening. This is an industrial space serving comfort food that will make you feel right at home.
22 Gilabbey street, Cork City
Richard Gleeson opened Dooks Fine Foods in his home town of Fethard, Co Tipperary in late 2016 and the small town’s culinary status has since soared.
A Dublin Cookery School tutor, Richard brought to his new venture a wealth of experience, some of which was garnered working with the revered Yotam Ottolenghi and Skye Gyngell at Petersham Nurseries in London.
The daytime-only operation quickly responded to demand and extended the operation into the evening serving the same style of fresh, contemporary Irish food made using seasonal Irish produce. They host cookery demonstrations and bread baking after hours too, wine and supper included.
Kerry Street, Fethard, Co. Tipperary
A haven for coffee lovers, Established Coffee in Belfast is the perfect place to set your laptop up for the day, or plan a low-key meeting. They’ll fuel your stay with much more than caffeine, however.
The considered menu changes almost daily, but you can keep an eye social media for their ‘Savoury’ and ‘Sweet’ weekend brunch specials.
The dedication to food is also evident via their ‘Food Projects’, a series of events based on ideas that inform the menu in the cafe, such as an interactive fermenting and pickling workshop and a 5-Course Tasting Brunch using local seasonal produce.
54 Hill Street, Belfast
One of the most recognisable Irish chefs and champion of Irish food, JP McMahon opened the doors of his latest Galway eatery, Tartare last year, adding to a family of restaurants including Michelin starred Aniar and Cava Bodega.
Proving to be just as popular as its predecessors, the café and wine bar offers a more casual feel but has the same ethos of utilising the finest Irish local ingredients and, as you’d expect, there’s plenty of JP’s flair for exciting flavour combinations evident on the menu.
Cafe staples like such as cheese scones are elevated with fermented butter and, of course, the evening menu offers their signature dish, Beef Tartare.
56 Lower Dominick Street, Galway
“All sorrows are less with bread,” the Miguel de Cervantes quote scrawled on the large chalkboard facing you as you enter The Fumbally Cafe declares, giving an insight into how even the most humble ingredient is revered here.
Even the simplest of dishes, say eggs on toast, are elevated with the results of their fermentation experimentation (hello facto fermented hot sauce) and spiked with bold flavours. This is good, honest food made with local ingredients and homemade elements, that tells a story.
Mainly a day-time eatery, open Tuesday to Saturday, they’re open for dinner on Wednesdays too offering a weekly changing, internationally inspired set menu.
Fumbally Lane, Dublin 8
Take your average avocado toast, drizzle it with crunchy garlic peanut butter, sprinkle green chilli and coriander on top, then add on a portion of house made kimchi and you have an idea of how they do things at Two Pups.
Since opening in 2016, the Francis Street gem has developed from a tiny coffee bar within a vintage clothing store, to a stand alone café that has expanded into the neighbouring building.
The food offering has expanded simultaneously. Along with elevated brunch staples there’re pimped up toasties and flatbread plus a ‘Daily Dahl’, bolstering the growing foodie of Dublin 8 along the way.
74 Francis Street, Dublin 8
Alchemy Coffee and Books does a lot more than it’s moniker suggests. Tucked away on Barrack Street (a budding foodie hub in the city, think Bao Bai and Miyazaki), this humble space delivers an unexpectedly exotic, cheap and cheerful menu.
Think Turkish pides with lamb, yoghurt, and pomegranate molasses, spanakopita rolls, and colourful curries for just €5.
To devour with your coffee there are, among others, house made lemon and mascarpone doughnuts, cacao and honeycomb brittle buns, and triple chocolate eclairs – oh and cruffins. See you in Cork.
Alchemy Coffee & Books, 123 Barrack St, Cork City
Erica grew up with a baker and confectioner for a father and a mother with an instinct and love for good food. It is little wonder then that, after completing a law degree, she went on to do a Masters in Food Business at UCC. With a consuming passion for all things food, nutrition and wellness, working with TheTaste is a perfect fit for Erica; allowing her to learn and experience every aspect of the food world meeting its characters and influencers along the way.