24 casual Irish restaurants to savour

From The Irish Times’s 2018 guide to the 100 best foodie destinations across Ireland

Nowhere gets on this list of Ireland's best casual restaurants – 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.

Hugo's NEW
It's worth giving yourself a bit more time before a show if you're actually going to the theatre after Hugo's pretheatre menu. It puts Irish ingredients, especially cheese and yogurt, centre stage. Service and decor are old school, and dinner arrives at a smart lick without making you feel as if the place is turning tables with an eye to the arrival of some deeper-pocketed eaters. Hugo's decor feels old, but the food approach feels very nicely new. CC
Hugo's, 6 Merrion Row, Dublin 2, 01-6765955, hugos.ie

The Legal Eagle € NEW
A menu for all seasons and all budgets is what the restaurateur Elaine Murphy has put together in this revamped old pub beside the Four Courts. You can put together a crisp sandwich with house-made crisps, sourdough and "too much butter" for €5, nibble on the ice-cream-coloured pickled eggs or go full frontal with a kilo of steak for €75. As with all her other proudly northside restaurants, Murphy has made the Legal Eagle a showcase for some of the best food on the island. CC
The Legal Eagle, 1-2 Chancery Place, Inns Quay, Dublin 1, 01-5552971, thelegaleagle.ie


L Mulligan Grocer NEW
You have to take your hat off to anyone who offers a plate of perfectly cooked Irish asparagus with Béarnaise sauce at a beautiful old Irish pub. The owners of this city bar broke new ground when they turned it into a place to eat and drink. The Scotch eggs, both meat and veggie versions, served with the pub's own "Mulligaloe" relish, are the stuff of legend. The upstairs flat is a hit with Airbnb-ers who find that sleeping above a pub is one of the most authentic ways to experience Dublin. CC
L Mulligan Grocer, 18 Stoneybatter, Dublin 7, 01-6709889, lmulligangrocer1.weebly.com

Old Street NEW
The owners of Old Street have done a beautiful job reinventing two old town houses as a great new restaurant. The cooking teams Spanish, Italian and French ideas with Scandi minimalism, using largely Irish ingredients. As befits a place by the beach, the seafood is a proper treat, and the building makes you feel as if this is the best combination of casual dining in a special setting. CC
Old Street Restaurant, Old Street, Malahide, Co Dublin, 01-8455614, oldstreet.ie

Gaillot et Gray €
We trekked through a blizzard during the big snow to this bakery and pizzeria, when Gaillot et Gray put the neighbour into neighbourhood restaurant. The wood-fired oven kept burning and the always-long bread queue became epic as they kept the lights on in the middle of a citywide shutdown and a national bread panic. They make one of Dublin's best pizzas here, although you won't persuade my kids of that. They believe Emmental has no place on a pizza. CC
Gaillot et Gray, 59 Lower Clanbrassil Street, Dublin 8, 01-4547781, facebook.com/GaillotGrayP

Barry Fitzgerald has kept up the stellar food in his small neighbourhood restaurant. He was rewarded with a Bib Gourmand the week he opened a sister restaurant, Clanbrassil House. Deliciousness is at the heart of Bastible, and as prices elsewhere leapfrog in the postboom reboot, they've stayed keen here, making the food some of the best value in the city. CC
Bastible, 111 South Circular Road, Dublin 8, 01-4737409, bastible.com

Bresson NEW
Being cartoonishly French used to be the thing in restaurants out to capture posh cash. You were nobody if you didn't have an à la something on the menu. Temple Garner has put the best of French food back on the menu in this reinvention of the old Seapoint restaurant. Bouillabaisse and tarte Tatin are here, not reinvented, deconstructed or otherwise tweaked. But just themselves, excellently executed in a smart French restaurant in Monkstown-sur-Mer. CC
Bresson, 4a the Crescent, Monkstown, Co Dublin, 01-2844286, bresson.ie

Las Tapas de Lola €
One of my favourite restaurants to bring friends to, not just because of the food but also for the welcome. It's all the best tapas bars you've ever visited under one roof and a footpath awning. Top of my favourites are the puntillitas, or deep-fried baby-squid tentacles; the Galician octopus, with its smoky dusting of paprika and waxy potato slices; the carrillada de cerdo, or marinated pig cheek, also with a side of charred Pádron peppers. CC
Las Tapas de Lola, 12 Wexford Street, Dublin 2, 01-4244100, lastapasdelola.com

Who'da thunk the old Gigs Place would be proud owner of a Bib Gourmand? In what is probably Dublin's most radical reinvention, Russell Wilde and chef David O'Byrne polished a greasy spoon into a little gem a couple of years back, and Richmond quickly became a badly kept secret. Bistro staples, only much better done than in most bistros, form the bulk of the menu; on Tuesdays they let fly with a €36 tasting menu. CC
Richmond, 43 Richmond Street South, Dublin 8, 01-4788783, richmondrestaurant.ie

Eastern Seaboard
Your 10th year in business is not the one when you expect to tip things on their head, but that's what happened to Jeni Glasgow and Reuven Diaz as they tried to take their restaurant in a more creative direction and opened their door to dogs. The ship has been steadied, they told the Irish Times food writer Marie-Claire Digby recently. And this bar and grill continues to be a terrific place to enjoy ingredients for which you'd pay a lot more at some other restaurants. CC
Eastern Seaboard, Bryanstown Cross Route, Bryanstown, Drogheda, Co Louth, 041-9802570, glasgow-diaz.com

Forest & Marcy
The food has to be as good as Ciaran Sweeney's cooking to tempt diners on to a bar stool in a tiny joint like this for dinner. But you'll be glad you hauled yourself up on to it. Ingredients reflect the weather and the season outside, apart from one evergreen dish: the fermented potato bread with bacon and cabbage. This has earned its perennial spot on the menu by being spoon-lickingly delicious. CC Forest & Marcy, 126 Upper Leeson Street, Dublin 4, 01-6602480, forestandmarcy.ie

Feast NEW
They still don't do lunch, but they've stretched things out to a pretheatre menu that is available generously late on weekday nights. Feast is a cosy neighbourhood restaurant in a stretch of street where all the trade seems to die in the evening. The cooking is heartfelt and inventive. It would be difficult to eat this well for these prices at most restaurants. If an accountant were running the place it would be a sandwich bar, but thankfully it's not. CC
Feast, 1a Lower George's Street, Dún Laoghaire, Co Dublin, 01-4446546, thefeast.ie

Tartare Cafe + Wine Bar € NEW
Small plates work best when they bring big flavours, and that's the approach here. Squeamish about the idea of eating raw beef? The dish for which the place is named could convert you. You could also try a first oyster here, sweetened with sea lettuce to soften its briny wallop and served in a smart place with an interesting selection of wine. CC
Tartare Cafe + Wine Bar, 56 Lower Dominick Street, Galway, 091-567803, facebook.com/tartaregalway

Assassination Custard € NEW
When Ken Doherty bought ray cheeks on Meath Street he was told he was their youngest ever customer. It's those old Dublin favourites, as well as newly invented ones, that make the menu in this tiny, quirky place such fun. It's as much an exercise in meeting people as it is an introduction to inventive cooking. Gwen McGrath and her husband take what's best from around them and turn them into a daily feast. CC
Assassination Custard, 19a Lower Kevin Street, Dublin 8, facebook.com/assassinationcustard

Terra Madre Cafe € NEW
"How could you?" a friend texted when I brought the spotlight of a glowing review down on his favourite basement place, tucked away on Bachelors Walk in Dublin. Terra Madre feels like your own very corner of an Italian kitchen. This is the best of hearty country cooking with humble ingredients, where time and skill turns them into something very special. CC
Terra Madre Cafe, 13a Bachelors Walk, Dublin 1, 01-8735300, terramadre.ie

Da Mimmo €
A move out of the mom-and-pop pizza-and-pasta shop into a bigger premises a few doors along North Strand didn't wreck the much-loved vibe Da Mimmo brought to north inner-city Dublin. The spaghetti with clams and pistachio nuts is typical of the crowd-pleasers they do here. The takeaway trade is the money-spinner. It helps keep prices low for the more rustic country-restaurant-style cooking being done in seasonal risottos and sit-in dinners. CC
Da Mimmo, 148 North Strand Road, Dublin 3, 01-8561714, damimmo.ie

The Wild Honey Inn
This lovely old inn on the outskirts of Lisdoonvarna appeared on the map for a new group of diners when it became the first Irish pub to win a Michelin star. The accolade hasn't changed Aidan McGrath's food, which is grounded in the beauty of the Burren and the amazing larder of seafood, meat and fruit and vegetables on his doorstep. CC
The Wild Honey Inn, Kincora Road, Lisdoonvarna, Co Clare, 065-7074300, wildhoneyinn.com

Dooks Fine Foods € (lunch) NEW
Tourism bosses would do well to visit this restaurant to see how great food can put the heart back into an out-of-the-way place. Dooks is a hard-working breakfast, lunch and coffee place during the week, but on Saturday nights its chef-owner, Richard Gleeson, cooks a tasting menu that puts Fethard squarely on the list of destinations to put on your food map of Ireland. CC
Dooks Fine Foods, Kerry Street, Fethard, Co Tipperary, 052-6130828, facebook.com/dooksfinefoods

Ard Bia at Nimmos
Aoibheann McNamara and her right-hand woman, Amelia Colleran, run a tight ship of food-loving loveens on the banks of the Corrib. Visit them for their vegan Wellington, west Cork baby monkfish with sorrel yogurt, or Gubbeen-chorizo-and-sweet-potato hash served with excellent coffee and your choice of fine wines and craft beers. Pick up a Tweed Project scarf or a jar of Katie Sanderson's peanut rayu from the shop while you're there. AMcE
Ard Bia at Nimmos, Spanish Arch, Long Walk, Galway, 091-561114, ardbia.com

Kasbah Wine Bar @ Tigh Neachtain
Head chef Sarah Croffey and her sous chef, Claire Conway, continue a tradition of great food at Galway's iconic Tigh Neachtain pub, with tapas-style small plates served in the upstairs wine bar, Kasbah, and not-your-average pub lunch served downstairs. Try the vegan board with cashew cheese and queso, or half a dozen Flaggy Shore oysters, or the cauliflower steak with pink peppercorns, lovage and oat cream. Finish with skillet cookie and unicorn tears ice cream. That's right, unicorn tears. AMcE
Kasbah Wine Bar @ Tigh Neachtain, 17 Cross Street, Galway, 091-568820, kasbahwinebar.ie

Mikey Ryan's Bar & Kitchen NEW
Mikey Ryan's is a beautifully dark pub. Follow the signs for the restaurant and you'll soon find yourself in the light-filled diningroom to its rear. This pub has been in Cashel for more than a century, but a recent refurbishment has dusted it off, painted it blue and given its menu an overhaul. It's an exercise in elegant simplicity. A clue to its pedigree is in the logo, a stallion in mid-gallop, etched on the crockery and peppered throughout the dining room. The owner, the business magnate John Magnier, is also developing a sister property, the Cashel Palace Hotel, next door. Try the Crozier Blue and mushrooms on toast in the restaurant, or the DIY chip butty in the bar. AMcE
Mikey Ryan's Bar & Kitchen, 26 Main Street, Cashel, Co Tipperary, 062-62007, mikeyryans.ie

America Village Apothecary Tasting Room NEW
Claire Davey is a modern-day apothecary who creates syrups, tinctures and bitters using locally foraged ingredients. She opened her Tasting Rooms this spring to introduce her concoctions to visitors. Sit in and taste a Gather Forth, a cocktail of white port, house tonic, lemon zest and rosemary, or sip on a delicately booze-free wild-rose Martini. The food is limited to tasting plates and sharing platters, but we're not talking a few slivers of good local cheese and a couple of crackers. Davey's plant-based tasting platter features dehydrated apples topped with quince jelly, paired with shards of seeded crackers and piles of beetroot crisps. There are almond feta cubes flavoured with sumac and cumin, and soft almond cheese with turmeric and chilli. Even the gold-plated cutlery is beautiful. AMcE
America Village Apothecary Tasting Room, 31 Lower Dominick Street, Galway, 085-2249304, americavillage.com

Dela NEW
Margaret and Joe Bohan are the husband-and-wife team behind Dela. On the surface it's an unassuming brunch, lunch and dinner spot, a real favourite with Galwegians. What makes it especially special is that the food relies on their family farm, in Moycullen, and their hope is to become increasingly self-sufficient and sustainable. At the bottom of their menus you can see what they're currently harvesting from the farm and bringing to your fork. AMcE
Dela, 51 Lower Dominick Street, Galway, 091-449252, dela.ie

Clanbrassil House and Coffee Shop NEW
Barry Fitzgerald and Claire-Marie Thomas have been quietly building something of a culinary empire on Leonard's Corner in Dublin. After the success of their restaurant Bastible they opened Clanbrassil House last year to bring a slice of small-plate heaven and grill-cooking magic to their hood. A recent meal included a divine monkfish tail cooked in miso and served with a rich butter-bean stew cooked by head chef Grainne O'Keefe. Earlier this year the family added Clanbrassil Coffee Shop, right next door to Clanbrassil House, to their clan, with pastry chef Zia Burke at the helm. Their bacon sarnie, made with Le Levain bread, comes complete with tangy home-made brown sauce, and their kimchi-and-blue-cheese toastie is a zinger. Get a Paris-Brest pastry and a 3FE coffee made by barista Dave Fox. AMcE
Clanbrassil House and Coffee Shop, 6 Upper Clanbrassil Street, Dublin 6, 01-4539786, clanbrassilhouse.com