19 great Irish coffee shops ... where the food’s not bad either

From Dublin to Dingle, from Belfast to Cork ... here's our selection of the country's best cafes

 

Nowhere gets on this list of Ireland’s best cafes – part of our 100 best restaurants, cafes and places to eat in Ireland 2018 – through anything other than a commitment to great food. These are the places we have loved, that made us swoon, grin, relax, and feel hopeful, awed and, above all else, happy.

We’ve marked this year’s newcomers and used a to flag every place that serves a main course for less than €15.

Storyboard € NEW
It takes a dogged attitude to deliciousness to do what chef Laura Caulwell does. On a Saturday morning someone collects the vegetables from the McNally Family Farm stall at Temple Bar Food Market and brings them through the busy cafe into the kitchen. They do this because McNally vegetables are spectacularly good. They’re the foundation stone for this brilliant place, along with produce from others who go the extra mile. Storyboard is the place you go to remind yourself how food should taste. Catherine Cleary
Storyboard, Camden Block, Clancy Quay, Islandbridge, Dublin 8, storyboardcoffee.com

Hatch & Sons €
A seven-day-a-week operation is where food ambition goes stale, right? Well, yes, but, as with all rules of thumb, there are exceptions. The beef and Guinness stew is on the menu here every day, and vouchers for it should be handed out at arrivals gates on dire days in Dublin. “Yes, the weather is awful,” the voucher will read, “so go eat this.” CC
Hatch & Sons Irish Kitchen, Little Museum of Dublin, 15 St Stephen’s Green, Dublin 2, 01-6610075, hatchandsons.co

The Fumbally
If Luca D’Alfonso and Aisling Rogerson were serious about money they’d have franchised out the Fumbally, battered junk-shop furniture and all, and be running it remotely from a warmer island somewhere. Luckily, they’re serious about food. Born in the downturn, with falafel and Gubbeen cheesy eggs, the Fumbally became the blueprint for how a new generation of cafes should feel. CC
The Fumbally, 8 Fumbally Lane, Dublin 8, 01-5298732, thefumbally.ie

The Pepper Pot
Sometimes it’s all about the bagels, such as when you get a freshly baked one early in the morning and people-watch from this cafe in the country’s most beautiful shopping mall. Then you go back and it’s all about the scones, big falling-over wedges of freshly baked dough with juicy sultanas, cream, jam and butter. Afternoon tea can keep its fancy-pants sandwiches: a Pepper Pot scone and a cuppa is therapy on granny delph. CC
The Pepper Pot, Powerscourt Centre, 60 South William Street, Dublin 2, 01-7071610, thepepperpot.ie

Two Pups €
Francis Street has needed a linchpin like Two Pups for a long time. It’s a neighbourhood favourite that helped create a different feeling on a stretch where a weird mix of posh antique places and down-at-heel dereliction was threatening to take hold. The coffee shop is part of a collective, and the food philosophy is all about wholesome tasty cooking with great ingredients at cafe prices. CC
Two Pups Coffee, 74 Francis Street, Dublin 8, facebook.com/twopupscoffee

Meet Me in the Morning €
With luck, by the time you’re reading this we’ll be settling into the rhythm of a long, hot summer. That’s when the seats on the footpath in front of this small cafe will be one of the best lunch-in-the-sun spots in Dublin. South-facing and sheltered, this cafe will make you glad to be alive and eating some of the most creative cafe cooking in the city. CC
Meet Me in the Morning, 50 Pleasants Street, Dublin 8, facebook.com/meetmeinthemorningcafe

Strandfield Cafe € NEW
Unless you know it’s there you might not trundle down the avenue to see if it’s worth a visit – but if you do you’ve found a gem. Strandfield House sits sternly looking out over lovely countryside, but in its farmyard a shed has grown into a beautiful cafe and bakery. The cake is worth a detour in itself. Pizzas come out of the belly of a huge wood-fired oven. It reminds me of the cafe in a greenhouse Marc Michel used to have on his organic farm in Kilpedder, Co Wicklow, that special feeling of eating food in a place from where food comes. CC
Strandfield House, Ballymascanlon, Co Louth, 042-9371856, strandfield.com

Pudding Row €
I get tingles when I look through Dervla James’s pictures from her eerie in Easkey with all that westerly Sligo light slanting in from the Atlantic. Pudding Row houses memories of very happy times and of all the big weather on that cloud-blown edge of the world. It’s no easy task to keep a seasonal food business ticking over in the winter. They do it with, among other things, a bread-making course, which sounds life-changingly positive if the comments are anything to go by. CC Pudding Row, Main Street, Easkey, Co Sligo, 096-49794, puddingrow.ie

Bang Bang € NEW
A magic byproduct of people marching to the bang of their own drum is authenticity. Cookie-cutter cafes pop up countrywide, but Bang Bang is refreshingly self-determining in style. It is owned and run by the brother-and-sister team of Grace and Daniel Lambert, whose ethos is independence and a thriving community, which is reflected in the produce stocked in their pantry store and the vintage clothes hung on their rails. They’re a beating heart of a neighbourhood tucked away on a red-terraced street. Don’t leave without trying the Brunch Burger. Aoife McElwain
Bang Bang, 59a North Leinster Street, Phibsborough, Dublin 7, 086-8576054, bangbang.ie

Five Points Coffee €
Five Points Coffee is an offspring of Colin Harmon’s 3FE family: Five Points’s manager, Adam Sheridan, cut his teeth at 3FE’s Grand Canal Street cafe. It was here he met executive head chef Hilary O’Hagan-Brennan. Along with Harmon, the pair launched Five Points last year – and, boy, have they settled well into the neighbourhood. Yes, the coffee is great. Hell yes, the food is good. Top it off with a beautiful royal-blue colour theme and oodles of natural light and you’ve got yourself a damn near perfect brunch spot. AMcE
Five Points Coffee, 288a Harold’s Cross Road, Dublin 6, instagram.com/fivepointshx

Camerino
It’s not just the award-winning raspberry-cheesecake brownies that make Caryna Camerino’s bakery special. It’s the love that goes into her triple-tiered cakes; into the cranberry-and-white-chocolate cookies; into the home-baked challah bread and home-baked focaccia that serve as vessels for daily sambos. Grab one of the window seats and watch the world go by through the lens of a sweet-smelling bakery. AMcE
Camerino, 158 Capel Street, Dublin 1, 01-5377755, camerino.ie

Cafe Rua €
Aran and Colleen McMahon continue to make their mother, Ann, proud by blazing a trail of delicious deli food in their cafe, deli and shop in Castlebar. For breakfast try the Cafe Rua Fry, featuring Kelly’s black and white pudding and Andarl Farm bacon. Stay local with Achill Island smoked salmon for lunch, and finish with something sweet from the daily selection of freshly baked goodies. AMcE
Cafe Rua, New Antrim Street and Spencer Street, Castlebar, Co Mayo, 094-9023376 (New Antrim Street), 094-9286072 (Spencer Street), caferua.com

Established Coffee €
Established Coffee serves some of the best speciality brews in Ireland, north or south, and its owners, Bridgeen Barbour and Mark Ashbridge, delight with their food menu, too. Come for one of their coveted sweet or savoury waffles, stay for the chocolate ganache with pistachio crumb. AMcE
Established Coffee, 54 Hill Street, Belfast, 048-90319416; established.coffee

Two Boys Brew €
Kevin Roche and Taurean Coughlan took what they loved from the Melbourne coffee scene and made it their own in their Phibsborough cafe. These boys serve brunch and lunch realness to match exceedingly excellent coffee and truly scrumptious cakes. AmcE
Two Boys Brew, 375 North Circular Road, Dublin 7, twoboysbrew.ie

My Boy Blue € NEW
Stephen Brennan, a Dubliner, packed in his job in finance to pursue a love of coffee. His partner, Amy, is from Dingle, so the pair moved back to her Co Kerry hometown and opened the doors of My Boy Blue in June 2017. Word soon spread beyond the Kingdom of its delicious fish tacos, heavenly grilled-cheese sambos made with Bácús Bakery sourdough, and cups of 3FE coffee. Brunch favourites include harissa eggs and buttermilk pancakes. AMcE
My Boy Blue, Holyground, Dingle, Co Kerry, facebook.com/myboybluedingle

Rocketman HQ €
Whether it’s the falafels at East, in Cork’s Winthrop Arcade, or the healthy fast food of the Rocketman, Jack Crotty always has something delicious up his sleeve. Find him this summer at Body&Soul festival’s Food on Board area, where food-waste and packaging awareness is top of the menu. AmcE
Rocketman HQ, 38 Princes Street, Cork, 021-4278550, therocketman.ie

Ali’s Kitchen € NEW
Ali Honour is a chef and baker originally from Oxfordshire. Her grandfather reared award-winning beef and had his own butchery and pub in Oxford, so she learned from an early age the importance of respecting local ingredients. Having relocated to Cork, she makes the best of the English Market and highlights ingredients such as Tom Durcan’s ham and Fingal Ferguson’s Gubbeen chorizo on her cafe menu. It’s her doughnuts that got her noticed, though. The enriched dough is proved for 20 hours before being hand-rolled by Honour and her team of bakers. They make them in small batches to ensure peak freshness, and all the fillings and toppings are made in house, from the velvety custards to the honeycomb and brandy-snap toppings. AmcE
Ali’s Kitchen, Rory Gallagher Place, Cork, 021-2390680, aliskitchencork.com

Farmgate Cafe €
On a recent visit to the Farmgate Cafe, in the English Market in Cork, the pastry lid of a home-made apple pie was so evocatively golden that a gasp of delight passed my lips. And, boy, did that apple pie live up to first impressions. Farmgate is a family affair: Kay Harte opened in the cafe in 1994, following in the footsteps of her sister Maróg O’Brien, proprietor of the restaurant and country store in Midleton, also known as Farmgate, since 1984. Today Kay’s daughter Rebecca manages the city-centre cafe and continues to shine a spotlight on ingredients sourced from the renowned market downstairs. Farmgate Cafe is living proof that Irish food is something to be truly proud of. CC
Farmgate Cafe, English Market, Princes Street, Cork, 021-4278134, farmgatecork.ie

Shells Cafe and Little Shop
Myles and Jane Lamberth are in the business of making people happy through food. An outpost of deliciousness and creativity on the west coast, it warms the cockles of my heart to step into their world. Great coffee and comfort food served within a stone’s throw of the sea. AMcE
Shells Cafe and Little Shop, Strandhill, Co Sligo, 071-9122938, shellscafe.com

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