Though chef Cathal Armstrong has lived in the US for more than 20 years, he’s still a Dubliner at heart. His Virginia projects, including Restaurant Eve, Virtue Feed & Grain, and the specialty market Society Fair, all draw inspiration from his Irish roots. Armstrong returns to Dublin at least once a year to visit his family. Here, he reveals where to satisfy cravings for brown bread, local bay prawns and that faithful pint of Guinness.» F&W’s Full Ireland Travel Guide

By Anna Watson Carl
Updated June 15, 2017

In this Article

Cathal Armstrong’s Favorite Dublin Restaurants

Queen of Tarts
Photo courtesy of Queen of Tarts

Best Breakfast: Queen of Tarts

“You have to try an Irish breakfast when you’re in Dublin,” Armstrong says. The robust meal “includes sausage, bacon and eggs as well as baked tomato, beans and toasted brown bread. This place is really casual and has great scones and all manner of tarts made from scratch, like lemon meringue and warm plum. Their Irish breakfast doesn’t come with beans, but it does include a tasty potato-chive cake.”

Go-To Lunch: Doheny & Nesbitt

“This pub has been there for hundreds of years, and they’ve got great food. For lunch, my wife, Meshelle, and I like to have a good potato and leek soup, or vegetable soup, and a toasted ham-and-cheese sandwich.”

Leo Burdock Fish & Chips
Photo courtesy of Leo Burdock

Perfect Fish and Chips: Leo Burdock Fish & Chips

“There’s a place near Christ Church [cathedral] called Burdock’s that’s been open since 1913. There’s always a line out front, there are no seats, and the fish and chips are really excellent. It’s all fried in lard, so it’s hard to go wrong.”

Date Night: L’Ecrivain

“My wife, Meshelle, and I love to go here. The chef, Derry Clarke, was one of the early pioneers of the Irish slow food movement, and the restaurant is elegant and romantic. His food is influenced by French technique, using ingredients that are indigenous to Ireland like salmon, lamb, Galway Bay oysters and Dublin Bay prawns, which are extraordinary.”

High-End: Chapter One

“Chef Ross Lewis is very good. He’s also part of the movement to use local farms and small producers. He makes really delicious food like black sole cooked over charcoal with cauliflower and leeks. His restaurant is in the bottom of the Dublin Writers Museum.”

Traditional Irish Food: Gallagher’s Boxty House

“I would definitely recommend a stroll down Grafton Street—a pedestrian-only street where there are lots of buskers playing music—in the Temple Bar neighborhood. This a traditional Irish restaurant there that serves dishes like shepherd’s pie, corned beef, smoked salmon and boxty—a classic potato pancake.”

Favorite Pub: John Mulligan

“Here, they serve the best pint of Guinness in the world,” says Armstrong. Not only is the beer unpasteurized, the perfect temperature and superfresh because the bar goes through so many kegs, the pub also cleans its taps weekly so each pour is really pure. Though it started as an illegal shebeen (drinking establishment), impressively, Mulligan’s has been legal since 1782, and was frequented by great Irish writers including James Joyce.

Night Out with Friends: Le Bon Crubeen

“This restaurant serves really good rustic Irish cuisine, like beer-battered haddock and chips. There’s a really fun pub attached to it and it’s a great place to take a group. Crubeen in Irish refers to ‘a little bite,’ kind of like a snack.”

Ice Cream by the Waterfront: Teddy’s

“Just south of Dublin, there’s a great ice cream spot out on the water called Teddy’s. You can grab your ice cream and go walk down on the pier at Dun Laoghaire and see all the boats and watch the ferry come in from England,” says Armstrong. The must-order: a “99” cone of soft-serve vanilla ice cream with Cadbury flake chocolate.

Authentic Bakery: Peggy’s Home Bakery

“In the nearby village of Sandycove, there’s a tiny little bakery run by a husband and wife, William and Geraldine Flynn. Their bread is phenomenal—William makes traditional brown bread, batch loaves and Vienna rolls. His doughnuts with berry jam are also really good. I actually sent our baker from Society Fair out there to work with him for a week to learn how to make Irish breads.” 33 Glasthule Rd. Sandycove; (01) 280-2571

Cathal Armstrong’s Dublin Travel Tips

Merrion Hotel
Photo courtesy of The Merrion

Where to Stay: Merrion Hotel

“This is one of the best hotels I’ve stayed in anywhere,” says Armstrong. The design is meant to reflect an 18th century townhouse with plush beds, Irish fabrics, antiques and marble bathrooms. “It’s two doors down from the birthplace of the Duke of Wellington, and there’s an excellent restaurant in the hotel called Patrick Guilbaud; it’s the only two-Michelin-star restaurant in Ireland,” he says.

Go-To Gourmet Shop: Fallon & Byrne

There’s a great selection of Irish products at this international food shop including fantastic local bacons and terrines, smoked salmon and farmer cheese as well as sweets like whiskey marmalade and oatcakes. Armstrong also likes the upstairs restaurant for lunch, with offerings such as an impressive seafood platter and black pudding with bacon. “When we were developing Society Fair we went to the shop for inspiration, as well as to another high-end grocery store called Donnybrook Fair,” he says.

Cooking Tools and Books: Kitchen Complements

“They sell everything from the top-end copper pots to basic stuff, as well as all kinds of food books. It’s a big shop with a broad range of cooking equipment.”

Must-Visit: National Museum of Ireland

“There are many great museums in Dublin, but this one is definitely not to be missed. They have tools and daggers and shields and stuff from 5,000 to 6,000 years ago. To have a chance to see artifacts from the Stone Age and the Iron Age is really a stand-out experience.”

Outdoor Break: Phoenix Park

On the north side of the city, this area is one of the largest walled city parks in Europe. “It has the Dublin Zoo, a monument to the Battle of Waterloo, and lots of open spaces to walk or sit. The US ambassador’s house is there, as well as the Irish president’s house—it’s well-worth taking a stroll through there.”