The Wild Atlantic Way in Western Ireland is arguably one of the most beautiful spots in the world. But what about the food???
We encountered surprise after surprise on our Western Ireland road trip along the Wild Atlantic Way, a 1,500+ mile stretch on Ireland’s Atlantic coast. During our one-week road trip, we adored visiting sites like the Cliffs of Moher, the Dingle Peninsula, Connemara and the Burren. We got vicarious thrills each time we drove our Auto Europe car down a winding road to a quaint town or better yet to jagged cliffs overlooking yet another scenic view. But it’s the food that we will long remember when we think back on our road trip in Western Ireland.
Yes, we admit it. We loved the food in Western Ireland!
Good Irish food may seem like an oxymoron. To outsiders, Irish food has a reputation of being bland and of a single note, that note being meat and potatoes. In reality, though, Irish food has a long heritage of artisan producers and recipes passed from one generation to the next. And what about that meat? Let’s just say that the healthy, happy sheep and cows roaming on the lush, green hills make some of the best meat in Europe.
- Our Culinary Road Trip through Western Ireland
Our Culinary Road Trip through Western Ireland
Once we decided to tour West Ireland by car, we immediately started to research where we should eat. At first, we didn’t find much information, at least not in one spot. We had a general plan, but it all came together as we spoke to locals. Then, as we peeled the onion that is Western Ireland, we discovered a variety of fine places to eat at every price point. So grab a Guinness and check out the best food spots we discovered during our road trip in Western Ireland.
Restaurants in Western Ireland are the perfect place to kick back after a day of hardcore siteseeing and enjoy a solid meal with some local beer or cider. Although there are many eateries in the area serving the many tourists who arrive in tour buses each day, there are a number of excellent restaurants hiding among the mediocrity. After doing advance research as well as on-the-ground research, we found a few restaurant gems that warrant our enthusiastic recommendations.
Kai Café + Restaurant
At the end of the day, we really just want good food in a comfortable setting. And this is exactly what we got at Kai Café + Restaurant in Galway. Owner David Murphy served us with friendly grace, making sure that we ordered the best dishes created by his co-owner and wife, Chef Jessica Murphy and explaining the locally sourced ingredients throughout the meal. We started our meal auspiciously with two starters – Wild Trout Poke with toasted sesame and watermelon and Connemara Crab with salted cucumber and roe. Often the starters are better than the mains, but this was not the case at Kai. We loved both generously sized main dishes, the Brady’s Strip Steak with young buck butter and roasted garlic and the Hake with wild mushrooms, Indian ratatouille and yogurt. We could have stopped there. In fact, we should have stopped there. But, somehow, we found room to share a dessert.
Tasting Tip: Skip overrated, Michelin starred, Loam and dine twice at Kai Café + Restaurant. We wish somebody had given us this advice, but now we know for our next visit to Galway.
Kai Café + Restaurant is located at 20 Sea Road, Galway, Ireland.
The Hungry Monk
We stopped at The Hungry Monk Café for a light breakfast based on a recommendation from Kai’s David Murphy. We enjoyed the café’s breakfast so much that we returned for a late lunch after our hike in Connemara National Park that very same day. Owners Aisling and John Butler take pride in sourcing the best available local products, and their passion shines straight through to the food from the scones to the creative and tasty salads (see picture above.)
Tasting Tip: Save room for dessert. Chef Aisling Butler did a brief stint at London’s acclaimed Honey + Co., where she learned a thing or two about baking.
The Hungry Monk Café is located at Abbey Street, Cong, County Mayo, Ireland.
Reel Dingle Fish Co.
“Keeping it local. Keeping it reel.”
With a logo like this, it’s no surprise that the local Dingle chippery fries up fresh-from-the-ocean fish like cod, hake, ray, calamari, pollock, plaice, monkfish and haddock. They fry the fish to order in a corn flour batter and serve the crispy fish with freshly fried chips (also known as French Fries). If fish isn’t your thing, Reel Dingle Fish Co. also serves burgers, chicken and sausages with meat from local producers. We didn’t order any burgers, but looking at our neighbor’s burger gave us a major case of FOMO. However, once we tasted the amazing, fresh Hake from the local dock around the corner our regrets disappeared. You may not find better fish and chips anywhere in the British Isles, though it would be fun to try.
Tasting Tip: Don’t be disappointed if your fish of choice is not available. The fish is always fresh from the dock.
Reel Dingle Fish Co. is located at Bridge St, Dingle, County Kerry, Ireland.
The Roadside Tavern
We were hungry and thirsty after a day touring around the Burren. Luckily, we found The Roadside Tavern where we quenched our thirst with locally produced Burren Beer and satisfied our hunger with hearty dishes like lamb stew and fish & chips. Although the pub has a history dating back over 100 years with the same family, the food is modern and celebrates the local food scene. That all being said, the best part of The Roadside Tavern may very well be the nightly entertainment performed by local musicians. In other words, go for the food but stay for the music.
Tasting Tip: If you like smoked salmon, be sure to taste the salmon smoked at the family’s Burren Smokehouse (see below). You can visit the smokehouse in person or order a plate of the local fish with your meal.
The Roadside Tavern is located at Lisdoonvarna, County Clare, Ireland.
Noted distance runner and writer Don Kardong said “Without ice cream, there would be darkness and chaos.” We may not be marathon runners like him, but we completely agree with his sentiment. When it’s done right, ice cream provides a great way to enjoy local flavors made by local artisans with local ingredients. Plus, let’s face it, ice cream is a comfort food that always tastes good. After our week-long road trip, we can safely say that Western Ireland is not a place filled with darkness and chaos. Instead, it’s an ice cream’s lover’s happy place.
Located on a seemingly isolated stretch of the Wild Atlantic Way and on the Burren Food Trail, Linnalla Cafe is serving ice cream that made us think of home. Intentionally or not, owners Brian and Brid Fahy are using the Philadelphia egg-free method to make their refreshing yet creamy ice cream. They are also using fresh milk from the family farm’s 48 cows and local ingredients to achieve maximum flavor. Though the cafe is off the typical tourist track, it’s hard to beat eating ice cream with breathtaking views of the Galway Bay.
Tasting Tip: Order your ice cream in a cone that’s dipped in chocolate and sprinkled with jimmies.
Linnalla Cafe is located in New Quay, The Burren, County Clare, Ireland.
Murphy’s Ice Cream
We kept hearing about Murphy’s Ice Cream when we were researching where to eat in Dublin, but we decided to wait to check out the ice cream shop in Dingle. After all, the original shop is in Dingle, and that’s where they make the ice cream. Kieran and Sean Murphy founded the ice cream shop in 2000, and the folks at Murphy’s still use uber-fresh ingredients like Dingle sea salt and fresh rain water to make the shop’s ice creams and sorbets.
Tasting Tip: Spring for a sundae like the Dreamy Caramel Sundae pictured above. The flavor combination is out of this world.
Murphy’s Ice Cream has six locations including two in Dingle. We ate at the location at Strand Street, Dingle, County Kerry, Ireland.
It’s not always easy to produce cheese in Western Ireland. Unlike other European cheese epicenters, the weather here is often volatile and rainy. This rain presents farming challenges, but it also helps to create wonderfully fresh grass and herbs. Irish cows eat this grass and herbs all day every day, and that’s why Irish cheese is so flavorful and sometimes funky.
Aliwee Cave Farmshop
We ate a lot of cheese during our three weeks on the Emerald Isle, but that didn’t stop us from visiting the Ailwee Cave Farmshop in Ballyvaughn to taste the locally produced Burren Gold Cheese. And why not? For over thirty years, the farmshop has been making their popular cheese with milk from local cows who graze on some of the most delectable grass in the world.
Tasting Tip: Sample the farmshop’s different cheese flavors including Plain, Smoked, Cumin (our favorite), Garlic & Nettle and Piri Piri.
Aliwee Cave Farmshop is located at Ballyvaughan, County Clare, Ireland.
Although Western Ireland has volatile weather, there are worse ways to spend a rainy day than eating, drinking and (in our case) working at the wine bar over the Sheridans Cheesemeongers shop in Galway. We came for a cheese plate, and we ended up buying a bottle of wine and staying for the afternoon. Beer may be the king of beverages in Ireland, but Sheridans has a wide selection of moderately priced wines from Italy, France, Spain and Portugal that pair nicely with their cheeses.
Tasting Tip: Let the capable staff assemble a plate of cheese and/or cured meats. You will surely discover a new favorite or two.
Sheridans Cheesemongers has four locations plus counters. We ate and drank at the wine bar atop the original location at 14 Church Yard St, Galway, Ireland.
Smoked salmon is a luxury item in much of the world. However, in Western Ireland, smoked salmon is an accessible food item enjoyed by the masses. Many tourists buy salmon at supermarkets and grocery stores. However, with a bit of planning, it’s easy and fun to visit smokehouses for the area’s freshest salmon.
The Burren Smokehouse
We visited several smokehouses in Europe this summer, but The Burren Smokehouse will always be our first. This is the place where we learned about the smoking process (both hot and cold) and tasted freshly smoked salmon. Although we weren’t able to see the smoking on a first-hand basis here, we enjoyed the short video shown in the shop.
Tasting Tip: Although the shop sells a wide variety of smoked salmon on a take-away basis, you can also order a plate of it at The Roaadside Tavern (featured above) owned by the same Lisdoonvarna family, the Curtins.
The Burren Smokehouse is located at Kincora Road, Lisdoonvarna, County Clare, Ireland.
We headed straight to Connemara Fisheries after the owners of The Hungry Monk confided that this was their favorite local smokehouse. Within minutes of our arrival at the generic looking building in the back of an office park, owner Thomas Sommerville greeted us and gave us a personal tour of the smokehouse. He showed us the smokers where they cold smoke salmon Ireland and Scotland. The fish is smoked with oak and beech chips for 12 hours at 28 degrees celsius. A multi-generational fishing family, the Sommervilles started the smokehouse over 30 years ago. We were pleasantly shocked when Sommerville gifted us with a huge package of smoked salmon. We’d show you a picture of the salmon, but we took one bite and it suddenly disappeared into our stomachs. Oops!
Tasting Tip: Don’t be sad if you don’t like salmon. Connemara Fisheries also smokes halibut.
Connemara Fisheries is located in Cornamona, County Galway, Ireland.
Since chocolate is one of our two drugs of choice, with coffee being the second, we always seek out locally produced chocolate when we travel. With so many food artisans in the area, we were successful in our quest for chocolate in Western Ireland.
The Doolin Chocolate Shop
Many people visit the quaint town of Doolin to catch a ferry to the Aran Islands. However, we visited Doolin in our quest for local chocolate, and we have no regrets. The Doolin Chocolate shop has a wide selection of goodies like fudge and Wilde Irish chocolate bars. During our visit, we shared a peanut butter milk chocolate fudge slice, a bigger and better version of the eponymous peanut butter cup sold in orange wrappers around the world.
Tasting Tip: Buy an extra chocolate treat to enjoy during or after a hike. There are so many scenic sites to hike along the Wild Atlantic Way, and you’ll be happy to have the energy boost.
The Doolin Chocolate Shop is located at Fisher Street, Doolin, County Clare, Ireland.
Sometimes the best food is the food that you eat at home. Although we didn’t cook in Western Ireland, we were lucky recipients of homemade scones baked by our lovely Ennis Airbnb host Mary.
Mary served the scones in classic style on great grandma china. Of all the great food we ate during our road trip, this scone may have been our absolute favorite, proving that it really is the simple things in life that matter most.
Have we convinced you yet? Either way, watch our video and be inspired to plan your own culinary road trip through Western Ireland.