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Salad at The Hungry Monk in Western Ireland

Culinary Road Trip through Western Ireland

In Europe, Ireland, Videos by Daryl & Mindi Hirsch6 Comments

The Wild Atlantic Way in Western Ireland is arguably one of the most beautiful spots in the world. But what about the food???

Culinary Road Trip through Western Ireland

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.

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But it’s the Irish food that we will long remember when we think back on our road trip in Western Ireland.

Cheese Plate at Sheridans Cheesemongers in Galway Ireland

This cheese plate at Sheridans Cheesemongers showcases some of the great cheeses produced in Ireland. The wine, however, is from Alsace.

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.

 Brady's Strip Steak at Kai Restaurant in Galway Ireland

This Brady’s Strip Steak with Young Buck Butter and Roast Garlic at Kai Restaurant + Café in Galway is a big, honking piece of deliciousness.

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.

Grab a Guinness and check out the best food spots we discovered during our road trip in Western Ireland.

Bartender in Lisdoonvarna Ireland

This bartender in Lisdoonvarna stood ready to serve us a fine Irish ale. Who were we to say no?

Restaurants

Restaurants in Western Ireland are the perfect place to kick back after a day of hardcore sightseeing 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

Dining Room at Kai Cafe in Galway Ireland

The dining room at Kai Cafe + Restaurant is rustic and airy, creating an ideal setting for the restaurant’s creative, fresh food.

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.

Trish McCambridge's Strawberry + Mess in Galway Ireland

This dessert is called Trish McCambridge’s Strawberry + Mess. We may not be the world’s biggest fans of edible flowers, but we admit that they make this tasty dessert look extra pretty.

Pro 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

Goat Cheese Salad at the Hungry Monk Cafe in Galway Ireland

This goat cheese salad at the Hungry Monk Cafe includes a melange of fresh ingredients plucked from the rich culinary region.

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.)

Pro 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.

Reel Dingle Fish in Western Ireland

Lines queue up at Reel Dingle Fish for freshly prepared fish and chips.

“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.

Pro 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

Fish and Chips at The Roadside Tavern in Western Ireland

Have you ever seen a more elegant plate of Fish and Chips? At The Roadside Tavern, the popular dish includes fresh cod fried in Burren Beer batter, hand-carved chips, mushy peas and homemade tartar sauce.

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.

Pro 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 at the tavern.

The Roadside Tavern is located at Lisdoonvarna, County Clare, Ireland.

Ice Cream

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.

Café Linnalla

Linnalla Cafe in Western Ireland

We drove an hour out of our way for cones at Linnalla Cafe. As our reward, owner Brid Fahy served us ice cream made fresh on the family’s farm.

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.

Pro 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

Dreamy Creamy Caramel Sundae at Murphy's Ice Cream in Western Ireland

The small Dreamy Creamy Caramel Sundae packs quite a punch. It’s jam-packed with Honeycomb Caramel Ice Cream, Blissful Butterscotch, Butterscotch Cream & Butterscotch Sauce.

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 rainwater to make the shop’s ice creams and sorbets.

Pro 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.

Cheese

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

Ailwee Cave Farmshop on the Burren Food Trail in Western Ireland

Cheese samples abound at the Ailwee Cave Farmshop on the Burren Food Trail.

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.

Pro Tip: Sample the farm shop’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.

Sheridans Cheesemongers

Gerry Flynn at Sheridans Cheesemongers in Western Ireland

Gerry Flynn served us a fine selection of Irish cheeses at Sheridans Cheesemongers. Our wine, however, hailed from Alsace.

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 Cheesemongersshop 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.

Pro 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 in various stores. We ate and drank at the wine bar atop the original location at 14 Church Yard St, Galway, Ireland.

Smoked Salmon

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 the European grocery stores that are all over Ireland. However, with a bit of planning, it’s easy and fun to visit smokehouses for the area’s freshest salmon.

The Burren Smokehouse

Smoked Salmon at The Burren Smokehouse in Western Ireland

Shopkeeper Ann Marie Meaney proudly holds a smoked salmon at 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.

Pro Tip:  Although the shop sells a wide variety of smoked salmon on a takeaway basis, you can also order a plate of it at The Roadside Tavern (featured above) owned by the same Lisdoonvarna family, the Curtins.

The Burren Smokehouse is located at Kincora Road, Lisdoonvarna, County Clare, Ireland.

Connemara Fisheries

Thomas Sommerville at Connemara Fisheries in Western Ireland

Owner Thomas Sommerville (pictured on the right) gave us a personal tour of the family-owned smokehouse.

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 from Ireland and Scotland 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!

Pro 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.

Chocolate

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

The Doolin Chocolate Chop in Western Ireland

We couldn’t resist the chocolate selection at The Doolin Chocolate Chop.

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.

Pro 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 – you’ll be happy for the energy boost.

The Doolin Chocolate Shop is located at Fisher Street, Doolin, County Clare, Ireland.

Homemade Food

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.

Homemade Scone in Western Ireland

This homemade scone is an example of the great food to be found in Western Ireland.

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.

Western Ireland Road Trip Video

Have we convinced you to rent a car and tour Western Ireland yet? Either way, watch our video and be inspired to plan your own culinary road trip.


Hungry for more? Check out our food guides for Dublin and Belfast.


Research Hotels

Unless you choose to stay at an Airbnb apartment, click here to research rates for hotels along the Wild Atlantic Way.

Book a Tour

Click here to find an awesome Western Ireland tour or try one of these tours:

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We thank Auto Europe for their assistance with our road trip in Western Ireland. Click here to research the best Auto Europe rates for your Ireland road trip. As for us, we’re already thinking about our next European road trip. Maybe we’ll plan a romantic UK road trip. What do you think?

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Wondering what to eat during your Ireland road trip? Check out 11 great food spots on the Wild Atlantic Way. It takes a lot of energy to tour stunning sites like the Cliffs of Moher, the Dingle Peninsula, Connemara and the Burren. You might as well eat great food while you're there!

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Comments

  1. Holy shit! That steak!! OMG it is so freaking beautiful! All of these pictures are amazing. You guys are living the dream. Glad to be along for the ride. And the scone.

  2. I’ll admit, I thought it was all meat and potatoes too. But they really do have some amazing food! I’d really like to try more of their cheeses. And the chocolate! 😉

  3. WOW! I never would have thought you could find such beautiful food in Western Ireland. As usual, you’re photography is amazing… and now I want ice cream. I’m going to gain weight following you guys 😉

  4. Outstanding guide to eating in Western Ireland! I would have never known it’s a place to find such incredible ice cream. Everything you chronicled looks and sounds fantastic. Your pictures are amazing, as usual. The one from The Ailwee Cave Farmshop is especially spectacular!

  5. “Keeping it local. Keeping it reel.” Love it. We are looking fwd to our trip to Ireland. Some great hints, and some we will be visiting. Great video. Thanks guys.

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