Sophia Finucane recommends the best budget friendly spots to grab a bite in Dublin
Dublin is not cheap. It is not cheap to live and it is usually not cheap to eat in, either. Luckily, there are a couple of places in the city where you can get a substantial meal for not too much, and it can also be a good way to try cuisines you might not have had before! Here’s the list:
Govindas, Middle Abbey St or Aungier St:
Govindas has been in Dublin ever since I can remember, and as a vegetarian family in the early 2000s was one of the few places my parents and I could always be guaranteed a really good meal. A lot has changed since then, and veggie options are available everywhere, but this is still one of the places you can get the most food for the least money.
The small plate allows you to choose from 3 dishes, while the large one allows even 5 combinations. For €8.95 you can get the "small" plate which is actually heaping and the food is made up of very filling, slow-release carbs and plant-based proteins like mung beans. The food often consists of curries and casseroles, with plenty of grains on the side, and it is always really well seasoned to be delicious. I have often shared a large plate with one or two friends, so the value is amazing!
Falafel, Essex St:
I am biased to Middle Eastern food as a Cypriot, and one of the most comforting things to me is going to a big city like London, Paris or Berlin and finding a falafel stand or Middle Eastern restaurant. If it’s a good one, you can always get ginormous portions for really good prices, and this was what I came to expect from years of visiting London and staying with my grandfather amongst the Cypriot and Turkish immigrant communities.
Middle Eastern food came to Dublin a bit later, and then suddenly a few years ago pomegranates, baba ganoush and tahini became the things that every new fancy place had to have. When you think about it, these are complex and refined flavours which I understand paying regular Dublin restaurant prices for, as much as I would for Italian or French cuisine. However, there are some places in town where you can get that classic Middle Eastern restaurant experience (i.e. huge portions for no money).
Falafel in Temple Bar is one of those places. Most things are under a tenner for a large portion, and the food is really delicious, with mezze-style dishes of falafel, salad, pitta and dips giving you the full range on one plate. Also, it's open most nights until at least midnight, so it is great grub if you happen to be on a night out in that part of town anyway!
Gurdwara Guru Nanak Darbar, Sandymount:
With the address technically being Ballsbridge, Gurdwara Guru Nanak Darbar temple on Serpentine Avenue is a 10 minute walk from Sandymount Strand. It is well worth the visit, or even just as a look-in if you’re passing by. However, if you are ever really stuck for cash, you can also get a meal here, as they offer vegetarian meals to people of any faith, entirely for free.
This service is known as "Langar" and is completely managed by volunteers, from getting raw materials, cooking, serving and cleaning, so it is not something to be abused, but it is there if anyone is ever stuck, and students often use the service of Sikh temples in cities across the world. During the height of the pandemic, volunteers from the temple cooked and delivered hundreds of free meals to vulnerable families, gardaí and health workers.
Everyone is welcome, and maybe to be respectful to the work of the volunteers, when you're done eating, kindly help people serve food who will be coming in after you, or if you are able to, leave a small donation down on the floor of the prayer hall. The best part? The food is delicious.
The food often consists of curries and casseroles, with plenty of grains on the side, and it is always really well seasoned to be delicious
Aobaba, Capel St:
Vietnamese food is delicious, and not always the easiest to find in Dublin. Pho Viet on Parnell Street is wonderful and I’ve heard it is relatively authentic, and not even that expensive itself! But recently I was recommended Aobaba on Capel Street and its ridiculously good value for what you get.
A bowl of pho is €7! And they also have the delicious banh mi on the menu - which are hard to find in Dublin- that are only €4. for Alternatively, you could get €3 miso soup and €3.50 summer rolls, for a light and healthy meal capping at €6.50.
The best part of Aobaba for vegetarians and vegans out there is they do an alternative to most of their dishes with vegan meat substitutes. Not only are these delicious and high in protein, but anyone who's been eating plant based for a while knows that ordering vegan meat substitutes is not always economically sustainable. Usually, it means a Beyond Meat burger or some vegan fried chicken in a place where everything starts at at least €13 while your meat-eating friends pay way less. Here, the vegan meat options are for the most part the same price as everything else, and so so tasty and filling.
Xian Street Food, South Anne St:
I think by now most students know that the food in Xian is really good, and if the small noodle box is enough for you, it is really cheap too. However, recently I was there and not that hungry so I went for something from the ‘warm noodle salad’ section.
It was not a salad as we’d know it in Ireland. I got to try something called Wuhan Hot Dry Noodles for €6, and now it's genuinely my favourite Chinese dish. I had to bring most of it home because, as I said, I wasn’t that hungry, and it was these deliciously filling soba noodles covered in a spicy sauce made with Chinese sesame paste, which if you don’t know is like a richer version of Tahini with more depth of flavour. It was incredible, I can’t think of any other time I paid €6 for food in Dublin and left as full and satiated!
Bonus tip- Too Good To Go:
The anti-waste food app has finally come to Ireland, and plenty of places have signed up with Too Good To Go. This app works by entering your location and seeing if places in your area have food left over at the end of the day. You usually pay about €4 for something valued for at least €15, and can get both groceries and meals.
Meat eater friends have recommended The 51 in Ballsbridge, which gives away huge portions of carvery following the afternoon rush. KC Peaches and Umi Falafel also provide considerable amounts of food for the price you pay.
There’s a bit of a knack with getting the best deals on the app. You need to be checking regularly, as things can go up and sell out quite quickly, but in some cases, you can reserve bags of food from the day before. Once you get the hang of it though, it’s really worth it.