Visiting a pub in Dublin is a classic must-do, though we can't say it's really worth dining in one. Great pub food can be had, but visitors should take advantage of the many restaurants in town offering fine dining, terrific wine lists, and locally-sourced ingredients from sprawling farmlands instead.
The food culture in Ireland is as important as a cold Guinness, reflected by several regions that host annual food festivals celebrating local, artisanal flavors and ingredients. In fact, Dublin's ever-popular Taste of Dublin will take place this June with Jamie Olivier headlining the event. The festival will showcase recently opened favorites like the Green Hen and 777, as well as Michelin-starred favorites like Bon Appetit Restaurant & Brasserie. But you don't have to wait until June to sample the city's top plates. Try one of these buzz-worthy restos anytime—at least while they're still hot.
The Cellar Restaurant at Merrion Hotel
Throw all your impressions of a typical cellar out the window. This wonderful, lower-level restaurant at the five-star, historic Merrion Hotel flaunts vaulted ceilings and elegant furnishings within an intimate, classic setting. Accolades include 'Best Hotel Restaurant in Dublin' by Food & Wine magazine, thanks to highly touted executive chef Ed Cooney who uses fresh, Irish ingredients for contemporary Irish cuisine (expect an upgraded take on traditional fish n' chips—with minted mushy peas to boot). The restaurant continues this year with its partnership with The Gloss (The Irish Times supplement) on popular six course/wines-themed dinners.
Don't Miss: The pan-roasted monkfish with lemon couscous and baby squid, Merrion chorizo, and Sun-dried tomato vinaigrette.
The Cellar Restaurant at Merrion Hotel, Upper Merrion Street, Dublin. Tel: 353 1 603 0600
Sure enough, you'll take a flight of winding stairs to enter this local haunt that's been serving up contemporary Irish fare since it was transformed from a popular bookshop and cafe six years ago. It's hard not to like the restaurant's understated, simple character with a chalkboard menu, corner bookcases, and downtown atmosphere. The cramped eatery looks over the Ha-penny Bridge (try to book one of the few tables by one of the windows) and is as buzzing as its trend-setting diners. Expect organic veggies, a variety of meats, extensive wine list, and charming wait-staff.
Don't Miss: Nicholson's hand-smoked haddock, poached in milk with onions and white Cheddar mash.
The Winding Stair 40, Ormond Quay, Dublin 1. Tel: 353 1 8727320
Don't pay mind to the unimaginative storefront and hokey green-bulb wall lights: The Farm's strong suit is obviously in the kitchen. As you would imagine with a name like the Farm, the family-owned restaurant uses locally sourced ingredients from certified Irish producers and organic and/or free range as much as possible. They work welcomed culinary magic on traditional Irish bites—from beef stew to soda bread. While the menu is meat heavy, plenty inventive vegetarian options are offered, like the wild mushroom and organic St. Tola goat cheese risotto and Sweet potato, butternut squash and spinach curry.
Don't Miss: The farm burger—organic 8 oz. beef burger with O' Neill's dry cured smoked bacon, mature smoked Gubeen cheese, sliced cornichons, and home-made relish.
The Farm, 3 Dawson Street, City Centre South, Dublin. Tel: 353 1 6718654
This scene-y French bistro on popular Trinity Street has been racking up accolades (and a cult following) since it opened two years ago. Chef Nick Munier (a regular on Hell's Kitchen) and co-owner Stephen Gibson teamed up to create a boutique menu with creative dishes that give a nod to modern French cuisine. Reservations for both lunch and dinner are recommended in this not-stuffy addition to the lively Trinity Street that's fast becoming a staple on the food scene.
Don't Miss: Start your meal with a signature glass of passion fruit Prosecco, then dive into the suckling pig belly, pithivier, roast root vegetables and whole grain mustard.
Pichet Restaurant, 14/15 Trinity Street, Dublin 2. Tel: 353 1 6771060
And then there's Chapter One, inarguably one of Dublin's most recognized institutions that is booked for special occasions and by foodies who like their fare to come with a Michelin star. One of the most awarded restaurants in Dublin, Chapter One sits in the Dublin Writers Museum (hence the play on name) and offers a chef's table (launched in 2009 with a massive renovation) and private dining in brightly lit, contemporary interiors. Thank Chef Ross Lewis for inventiveness and exciting dishes like ravioli with 36-month parmesan. The chef's love of art inspired Project Art last fall, promoting works of local artists in the restaurant.
Don't Miss: Stuffed loin of rabbit wrapped in pancetta with broad beans a la francaise, dauphine potatoes, and rabbit liver parfait. Opt for the four-course dinner menu at $86.
Chapter One, 18-19 Parnell Sq., Northside, Dublin. Tel: 353 1 8732266
Thinking of a trip to Dublin?
For up-to-the-minute hotel and restaurant recommendations, as well as the best planning advice, check out our Dublin Travel Guide.
Jimmy Im is a freelance travel writer based in NYC. He's appeared as a travel expert on shows on the Travel Channel and LOGO and teaches travel writing courses.