Sometimes it takes a foreigner to capture the truth about a nation:
Ireland … isn’t exactly the sexiest country in the world … constant gray skies, cool temperatures and an obsession with one of nature’s homeliest vegetables….Clare, from An American in Ireland
Ouch. Harsh but true.
By tradition, we, like our food, are more hearty and plain than delicate and fancy. We are bacon and cabbage and boiled potatoes. We are soda bread, apple tart and the ubiquitous cup of tea. We are the food that you go to your Mammy’s house for. But when we eat out, we generally look to foreign cuisines for something a little outside of our Irish selves.
Perhaps, to my shame, that’s the reason why, in all my years of living in Dublin, I had managed, until now, to avoid darkening the door of Gallagher’s Boxty House. With its traditional Irish menu and diddly-eye music, it sat firmly in my “just for tourists” category.
Yet a restaurant, of whatever type, that has been around for 22 years, has to be doing something right. And as for Pádraic Óg Gallagher, owner and originator of Gallagher’s Boxty House, I can but admire a man who builds an entire menu around boxty, Ireland’s own particular contribution to the pantheon of potato pancakes. The popularity of Gallagher’s boxty is borne out by the restaurant’s one-tonne-a-week potato habit.
Whilst most of the boxty served up is in the form of thick, substantial pancakes, you can also sample boiled boxty, which is dense but lovely in a stodgy way, and the lighter textured baked boxty loaf. The boxty pancakes, meanwhile, you will find wrapped around all sorts of things including (yes) bacon and cabbage. All substantial and satisfying stuff.
My visit to Gallagher’s Boxty House, though, was more than the sum of the boxties served.
It lived up to its promise of “bia, caint, ceol agus craic” / “food, chat, music and fun”, thanks, at least in part, to a generous helping of boxty and potato lore from Pádraic Óg himself. As we indulged our obsession with that homeliest of vegetables, I realised that sometimes it takes a local to celebrate the truth of what we are.
That’s really cool. It’s always cool to see what other countries create with the good ol’ spud.
Can’t believe you never made it into Gallaghers. Its quite an experience for the native diner. A tonne a week spud habit sounds like your kind of place!
We skipped going to Gallagher’s Boxty House when we visited Dublin a couple of years ago, thinking along the same lines – it was in all the travel guides and we feared lumping ourselves with the tourist herd. Gah! If only I’d known . . .
Well then, now that it has the approval of the local whom I trust most, it will definitely be on the itinerary when we return! 8-)
Love, LOVE this post, Spud! Gallagher’s Boxty House is near and dear to my heart since I had a fabulous meal there way back in 1991. I had the bacon and cabbage boxty too and I still remember how luscious it was. Good to know they’re still in business … and I hope I’ll get back there soon.
Sounds like it was worth venturing into “tourists only” territory! Potatoes for everyone! :)
yummy.. the foods make me hungry
jenn: …and so many countries have done so many things with the spud, endless material!
makemeahomechef: thanks for dropping in to say so :)
Michelle: can’t believe I had never made it either – they have my kind of potato habit!
Tangled Noodle: I will be sure to join you on your return visit :)
Diva: I hope you get back here soon too – they’ll still be going when you get here I’m sure!
Jenni: yay! potatoes for everyone, definitely my kind of place
tee are: thanks for stopping by – looking back on this is making me hungry too :)
Well now, this all depends on one’s definition of sexy. Ireland does have that mysterious gray sky appeal, and it is all in the eye of the beholder, of course.
I didn’t make it to Gallagher’s on our last trip although boxty was high on the list. I have to admit sometimes I am drawn to the touristy places even if I just need to say I’ve been there.
You’re quite right of course, Lori, it does all depend on your perspective. And I know what you mean about touristy places in general – the same thing happens to me when I’m travelling – maybe there’s a little bit of the been-there-done-that-got-the-t-shirt in all of us.
As I have said before, when I was there I avoided what they told me to try, because (well I believe) they thought we wanted to be catered to in the tourist way- so I found the back of the alley corner pubs to eat in- except for Rock Garden, is it still there? Ah, the young lad with dark hair and lingering glance…uh! Oh, sorry I got lost…but this foods seems fine to me, and I am eating on a pot of potato soup this very moment, so this would be right up my boxty alley :) I know you know the good stuff when it hits your taste buds, and sometimes simple is best for our buds and soul…so much food is over done my winemaker boss says…
Hey E, alas the Rock Garden is no more – it bit the dust quite a while ago – and goodness knows what happened to that young lad! :) There will be other places to go when you make it here again, though, and we’ll have some of the simple but good stuff together – like boxty – whenever that is!
Thanks for great tip! I’ve been living in Ireland for 5 years and never had boxty, would you believe it?
I like the way you describe irish food ;-) And I agree, it is not very advetureous, but it can be nice, hearty stuff.
What a fun read, and I cannot wait to try out Gallagher’s version of the boxtys, or to check out his establishment on our next visit. I love the sound of the bacon and cabbage version
suzanna: oh I can well believe it – I was born and bred here and have really only discovered boxty within the past few years myself
OysterCulture: Gallagher’s boxties are definitely worth trying out – hope your next visit is soon :)
oh, if only I’d known about this when I was in Dublin last year!
OK, I am SO there. That boxty looks sexy and I must have it! :) (How did I not see this post until just now?!).
Awesome post, Spud! Enjoyed watching the videos and now I can recreate the boxty pancake I had there last year. Gallagher’s looks a bit tourist-y from the outside but we had a wonderful time there, one of the most memorable meals of our visit. I fell in love with their version of mushy peas – marrowfat peas soaked in Murphy’s stout, I couldn’t stop eating them!
mom, again: you’ll just have to come back for another visit!
Clare: better late than never :) and yes, you will have to add the Boxty House to your list of Irish experiences…
Phyllis: Thank you! I missed out on the Murphy’s mushy peas, so I am clearly going to have to pay a return visit myself :)