8 hidden-gem lunch spots perfect for catch-ups

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, writes Ali Dunworth.


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

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‘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 & treacle wrapped in 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 & 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.

Tokyo Kitchen, 42 Bow St, Smithfield, Dublin 7

Good sushi needs spankingly fresh fish, and Tokyo Kitchen couldn’t be better located, setting up shop with seafood specialists and suppliers Kish Fish just off Smithfield Square.

The compact takeaway restaurant is only open 11am - 4pm, Tuesday to Sunday but they are doing a roaring trade doling out superb sushi and hot wok dishes. Choose from classic nigri and maki with tuna, salmon and rotating specials using ray, monkfish, sea bass and whatever takes their fancy from the shop.

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King prawn tempura and soft shell crab rolls are a must try with perfect, soft sushi rice.

Oxmantown, 16 Mary's Abbey, North City, Dublin 7

Trundle a little off busy Capel Street towards Smithfield fruit & 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 ingredients 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.

Silk Road Cafe, Chester Beatty Library, Dublin Castle, Dublin 2

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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.

El Grito, 20 Mountjoy Square East, Dublin 1

You may have stumbled upon this fantastic Mexican street food spot in its former Temple Bar home of Merchants Arch, but earlier in the year they moved to a new spot on Mountjoy Square.

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There’s more room to sit and enjoy their offering but it’s still tucked away and a joy when you find it. 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.

Shouk, 40 Drumcondra Rd Lower, Dublin 9

Tucked away in Drumcondra, Shouk is a homely, bright restaurant with boxes piled high with colourful vegetables, serving what they describe as a Mediterranean menu.

The pita bar, with prices from €6, offers fresh, stuffed pita breads with plenty of falafel, hummus and roast vegetables. There are specials and of course, the modern meze favourite; roast cauliflower served with tahini, scallions and pomegranate seeds. A great option for dinner also and it’s BYOB.

White Tea Cafe, 102 George's Street Upper, Dún Laoghaire, Co. Dublin

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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.

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 thoughtful 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.

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 bolthole serving earthy, tasty Korean food. Score a spot on the bench seats looking in on the kitchn 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.

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There’s plenty of other Koren delights to try to like bibimbap, Korean stew and some specials. A hidden gem with plenty of Seoul.

Image via Unsplash.com 

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