Irish food scene unexpected, offers diverse options

DUBLIN –– Narrow streets are lined with traditional Irish pubs, each with Guinness on tap and fish ‘n’ chips in the fryer. With St. Patrick’s Day just days away, shamrock-clad tourists spill out of classic spots like the famous Temple Bar and O’Donoghue’s Pub.

It’s a stereotypical portrait of Dublin, and in many ways it’s not far off. But scratch the surface of traditional Irish fare and there is a diverse and sprawling food scene across Ireland, one that often takes the cues from classic Irish staples.

In Stephen’s Green neighborhood of Dublin, Cornucopia is nestled quietly on a street lined with busy bars and shops. Stepping inside the midsize restaurant is reminiscent of a grandmother’s kitchen, decorated with floral wallpaper and little wooden tables. But Cornucopia is best known for their entirely vegetarian menu that also features a generous amount of gluten-free and vegan options.

Their vegan shepherd’s pie was a cozy and guilt-free update on a classic Irish meal. In many ways Cornucopia is emblematic of Ireland’s food scene, which takes traditional Irish food –– potatoes, cheeses and bread –– and reimagines them.

The Big Blue Bus, an open-air beer garden, sells pizza out of a converted double-decker bus. The space feels utilitarian, pragmatic and, well, cool. Hipsters lounge in the garden, drinking local craft beers and smoking cigarettes. If you want to get a spot on the top of the bus, book it in advance.

In the downtown Temple Bar district, The Porterhouse, which calls itself Ireland’s first brewpub, offers a variety of stouts, ales and lagers. The brewery opened in 1996 when Guinness, whose massive facility sits right across the river, dominated the Irish Stout market. One of their beers, the Oyster Stout, is brewed with fresh oysters –– not immediately discernible but gives a Guinness-esque beer a smoother, sweeter finish.

But no number of hip and trendy places could stop us from indulging in more than a few orders of fish ‘n’ chips.