Flipside, Sligo: Remember my Five Guys nightmare? This one’s a dream

A burger joint hits the fast-food sweet spot. Plus Stoked, Strandhill: A bonus dinner of lovingly made small plates

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Address: Embankment, Rockwood Parade, Sligo
Telephone: 071-9326928
Cuisine: Fusion
Website: flipside.ie
Cost: €€

There are salty towels in the boot, and the car smells of wetsuits and damp dog. We are reluctantly leaving the ocean and heading home to the big smoke and the small sea. Let's linger for lunch. Sweet Beat is my favourite pit stop in Sligo town. But I have another option today. It came like a silver lining in the thunderous cloud that followed my attempt to eat a veggie burger at Five Guys ages ago. A reader called Paula emailed about Flipside. It's a burger joint in Sligo, she said, better than Bunsen. And they do a mean veggie option.

Let’s hope she’s right, because I have two hungry children in tow, one confirmed carnivore, the other a non-meat eater. They’re instantly taken with the place, not least because the mural of Attila the Hun baring his teeth for a burger bears a resemblance to the child whose mood can best be described as Attila the Hungry.

Flipside is in a large modern corner building on Rockwood Parade. There’s a heavy glass-and-steel door with a sign encouraging us to push hard. Some customers must have gone away thinking the place closed.

Everything about the decor screams urban anywhere, all glass, steel and dark-wood tables. Their tag line is “Serious Burgers”, and it has the slick finish of an embryonic franchise. These are the typical precursors to a mediocre meal. But not here.

The food is in that sweet spot where fast food is made with thought and excellent ingredients. So the slice of beef tomato in their classic burger (we order ours veggie with the black-bean-and-chickpea patty) is a juicy, gorgeous slab of tomato, not a watery afterthought in there for show. The veggie version of the burger is everything that was promised, firm and tasty, crisp on the outside like meat and lightly spiced to keep it interesting.

I get the Dictator – named, presumably, for Kim rather than any of the other hideous options. It’s two slabs of buttermilk-fried chicken breast in a crisp salt-and-chilli batter, with Korean gochujang mayonnaise as orange as a glass of Fanta. It’s gorgeous, just as good as the Korean chicken burger they’re queuing for in Dublin right now.

There’s a juicy kid’s burger between the good brioche bun, and a side of mac’n’cheese that’s fine but so volcanically hot I suspect a microwave was used somewhere along the way.

The dish of the lunch is the €5 bowl of halloumi poppers. “That’s amazing,” the pescatarian pronounces. “It tastes like chewier scampi.” The squeaky cheese has been coated in panko and fried until it’s soft, then topped with black and white sesame seeds, slices of mild green chilli and shards of pickled red onion. It’s one of the best fast-food dishes I’ve eaten and hands down the best veggie offering in a burger joint anywhere.

Thanks, Paula. Flipside is a real find.

Stoked in Strandhill

The Sligo food scene is thriving, with Dearvla James's delightful Pudding Row, in Easkey, now open seven days a week. She recommended Stoked in Strandhill when we called in for lunch, so earlier in the Sligo stay we headed over to the surfer-culture capital for dinner.

The restaurant, which is above the busy Strand pub, was opened last year by the Sligo chefs Shane Meehan and Shane Hamilton. There’s a Mayo match on, so the place is packed, with a sign beside the fireplace warning punters not to hog the fire.

Upstairs on the outside deck at Stoked, boards and wetsuits have been racked to dry as if the kitchen crew just came in off the waves to start their shift. The decor is cheesier than a Sheridans warehouse, spray-painted orange and blue like a trippy sunset, with one wall of pretend beach huts. The front room is more serene, with blues, ropes and anchors aplenty.

It is small plates here, everyone getting a taste in the generous relaxed way that sets the tone for holiday food. But these are cheffier than the norm for an over-the-pub venue. There’s Ward’s crab, dressed lightly and topping tasty slices of red pepper, with a smooth avocado on top. There are dots of lemon emulsion and sourdough toasts to load it all up.

Two Strandhill oysters (one meaty, one titchy) are fresher than a pier jump. Scallops are seared and served on tiny disks of pork terrine with an apple gel. Mexican beef-cheek chilaquiles are breaded, thready, meaty croquettes.

The only one we don’t love the bones of is a plate of flash-fried squid with a slightly-too-sour burnt-lemon mayo.

We repair to the street for a cone after enjoying these lovingly made dishes. Stoked to be in Sligo again. It gets better every time.

Lunch for three at Flipside cost €41.85. Dinner for two at Stoked (above the Strand Bar, Strandhill, Co Sligo, 071-9122734, stokedstrandhill.ie) cost 78.50

  • Verdict Two superb additions to Sligo's up-and-coming food scene
  • Facilities Good in Flipside. Pub loos in Stoked
  • Food provenance Excellent. Flipside burgers are Angus grass-fed beef from the Sligo butcher William Clarke. Stoked have lots of local producers on their menu
  • Wheelchair access Yes in Flipside. No in Stoked
  • Vegetarian options Very good in both
  • Music Nice in both
Catherine Cleary

Catherine Cleary

Catherine Cleary, a contributor to The Irish Times, is a founder of Pocket Forests