Ali Dunworth has the scoop on the best Dublin lunch spots you've never heard of
There’s more to Dublin lunch options than the obvious grab and go salad bars and sandwiches but when the hunger hits it often comes with the inevitable mind blank of where to go. Fear not, there’s a wealth of hidden gems scattered down laneways and behind shop fronts serving brilliant lunches just out of sight, so here’s our handy guide to the best places you may not know existed...
Luncheonette, NCAD, Thomas Street, Dublin 8
‘An art project in a canteen in an art college’ is how Luncheonette describes itself and if you don’t find this alone intriguing, then the exciting ingredients and the ever changing menu should get you; lamb, espresso and treacle flatbreads, homemade probiotic sodas, dillisk soda bread, Woodcock smokery fish, farmhouse cheese and ham cooked in Marion’s Haylage. Head here for quality ingredients, served thoughtfully, canteen style by a talented kitchen. The sublime cakes and treats are also worth a detour as is the pure enjoyment of eating your lunch in the cool brick walled cellar, surrounded by all the creativity that comes with the buzz of an art college. It’s no wonder they are always busy.
Brothers Dosirak, Super Asia Foods, 27 Capel Street, Dublin 1
Behind the busy shelves and freezers of Super Asia Foods on Capel St you’ll find this bolt hole serving earthy, tasty Korean food. Score a spot on the bench seats looking in on the kitchen and order from an unbelievably great value menu. The speciality is Dosirak, a Korean ‘packed’ meal, served in a long compartmentalised dish. It includes a soup to start (serve yourself) and then rice, banchan (Korean sides) and choose from BBQ beef, pork or salmon teriyaki. And there’s always a little dessert. There’s plenty of other Korean delights to try to like bibimbap, Korean stew and some specials. A hidden gem with plenty of Seoul.
Trundle a little way off busy Capel Street towards Smithfield fruit and vegetable market and you’ll come across Oxmantown, a small, smart cafe serving some of the best made-to-order sandwiches in the city. The menu, handwritten on the white subway tiles, name checks great Irish producers like sourdough from Arun Bakery and pastrami from Jack McCarthy’s. Refined New York-style creations include a marvellous, melting grilled cheese made up of mature cheddar, Gruyere, Parmesan and bechamel and The Ruby, their divine take on a classic reuben featuring zingy homemade sauerkraut. There is always a salad box on offer too for bread-light days and a dainty selection of cakes and tarts to choose from.
Blink and you’ll miss this tiny Mexican street food spot tucked into the bustling walkway of Merchant's Arch. There are only a handful of stools so it’s definitely more of a grab and go option, but if you can get a seat take it and taste all you can. A must-try is the infamous Tacos Al Pastor - pork is slow cooked with guajillo chilli and pineapple, shawarma style and then shaved onto Blanco Niño tortillas (Authentic corn tortillas made in Tipperary) served with fried white onions, homemade guacamole, red onion and coriander. It’s a fresh, satisfying, morish bite you'll want to taco 'bout.
Silk Road Cafe, Chester Beatty Library, Dublin Castle, Dublin 2
Escape from the busy city centre streets to this serene cafe based in the atrium of the enchanting Chester Beatty Library on the grounds of Dublin Castle. The menu carries the flavours of the Middle Eastern and Mediterranean library collection to the food with plenty of spice, heat and aromatics. Bright, fresh salads are piled high in bowls with a focus on Lebanese, North African and Turkish dishes. Think plenty of hummus, falafel, moussaka and lamb. Don’t miss the irresistible sweets like Persian 'love cake' and baklava the perfect partner to a pot of mint tea.
Climb the stairs to the first floor of Brian S. Nolan’s beautiful interiors store housed in magnificent heritage building, to find the bright, welcoming White Tea Cafe. The daily lunch menu is scribbled on two black boards and the place is always buzzing with locals in the know and lucky curtain shoppers who decided to sit and have a bite. A clever kitchen serves up open seafood sandwiches, colourful salads, wholesome vegetable soups and a brilliant, roast meats sandwich menu. The last time I had roast duck with smoked Gubbeen with a pot of tea made all the better by the wonderful, friendly service.
Despite being tucked away down a Camden Street laneway, The Fat Fox are certainly not a hidden gem online - their upbeat, hilarious Instagram account has amassed almost 15k followers, not bad for a Monday to Friday day time takeaway spot. Luckily the food offering lives up to the online hype. Hot and cold sandwiches, homemade sausage rolls, hot pots, daily salads all have depth of flavour, colour and texture that makes it a worthy stop off. They take their coffee seriously with thoughtfully selected beans from Baobab, faultless latte art and shelves packed with coffee paraphernalia to take home. Then there’s the treats that despite wearing the ‘healthy’ label very much manage to still be treats. As clever as a...