Remember that feeling in mid-December when every purchase seemed like a good idea, and even if it wasn’t we happily convinced ourselves that it was grand because January (AKA responsibility) was a very long time away? Well, here we are - new month, new year, new decade (depending on who you ask) and most of us are still the guts of three weeks from pay day.
There are three clear options:
a) Stay inside until February eating nothing but instant noodles and left over miniature Bounty bars.
b) Find some very tasty food for not a lot of money in Dublin to tide your cravings over.
c) Quit your job on your second day back after the Christmas break, move to a different country, and work to “become financially independent” while still taking the occasional tenner (or £2 million, who’s counting) from your granny. The obvious answer here is c) but, it’s tough to pull-off if you’re not royalty so we’re strongly advocating for b) with our list of where to eat in Dublin when your wallet says no but your stomach says yes.
Dark January mornings are the worst now that we no longer have windows of twinkly fairy lights to elevate the wintery gloom. Getting back to the rat-race when you’re up before the sun is hard, but the promise of a nice breakfast can help get you through these dark times. There’s no end of pretty good coffee and pastry/scone/sausage roll offers across the city but, if you’re looking for something a little more January-friendly, Keogh’s Café (Trinity Street and College Green) will set you up with a full Irish for under €9 and, in what we think may be the best value in the city, French toast for €4.50.
Lemon Crepe and Coffee Co. on South William Street has a pretty impressive breakfast menu, but for value you can’t go wrong with the 'crispy breakfast crepe' (stuffed with egg, bacon, and Ballymaloe relish) and an Americano or tea for €8.90. Add an orange juice and you’ll be keeping scurvy (and your bank manager) at bay for a bit over €10.
On Dorset Street, Veginity opens Wednesday to Sunday for those who prefer their diets plant-based. Sourdough toast with their homemade hazelnutella (€4) is basically dessert for breakfast, and we approve.
We all know Dublin can be eye-wateringly expensive, but there’s lots out there for lunch at around the €10 mark that will keep you filled up straight through to evening time, and doesn’t involve a depressing deli sandwich and a glass of water at your desk. We did a double-take on Instagram instantly when The Cupcake Bloke posted the news that The Bakery in Rialto has started doing a daily soup that’s served with fresh porridge bread for the amazing price of €3.50.
Cheap doesn’t have a mean mass-produced, as Masa’s freshly made tacos go to show. Portions aren’t huge but the prices reflect that and you’ll be able to get two tacos or a quesadilla and a side of tortillas or bravas-style potatoes for around a tenner.
Sprezzatura is quickly building a reputation not only for delicious and homemade pasta, but for exceptional value. A big plate of pasta will cost you no more than €10 but we’ve seen some as low as €6.50 so the temptation to add a glass of wine and still feel like you’ve saved money is strong. That said, we loved the lamb shank croquette (€3.50) when we were there recently so would be tempted to forego the wine and add that in as a starter, and we don't say “forego the wine” lightly. (Check out our Sprezzatura once over here)
Unsurprisingly, meat-free meals are a great way of keeping costs down. Umi Falafel has loads of excellent lunches featuring falafel (obvs), halloumi, sandwiches, and salads. A lunch deal for one will set you back no more than €9.50 but, for really amazing value, bring a friend and opt for the €17 mezze for two - falafel, salad, hummus, spinach rolls, stuffed vine leaves, stuffed friends, good times.
Join the queue in 3 Leaves, Blackrock, for their daily lunch special of a mini tasting menu for €12. Walk-ins only and there aren’t too many seats but it's so worth it when you’re tucking in to spiced lentils, homemade hotpots, and fragrant curries. Owners Santosh and Millie are currently on a break until January 22nd but plan this one as your pre-payday treat. (Read our 3 Leaves once over here)
There’s no shortage of great pizza in Dublin, but many will cost in the region of €14 - €16. If you’re watching your wallet, Sano’s prices start at €6 for a marinara, and a loaded pie will come in at under €10.
Slightly above the €10 price point is Lucky Tortoise’s lunch deal, but you get so much food for very little money that it’ll probably be the best €12 you spend this month. It’s also available for take-away if you want to snaffle some for later.
Bento is one of our favourite ways to eat - a selection of small portions of Asian food usually found at lunchtime. Both Musashi and Sisu Izakaya (below) do really good bento offer for around €10 with choices changing daily but usually featuring a main dish like teriyaki chicken with rice, miso, dumplings, and sushi.
For something similar with a Korean-slant, Brothers Dosirak on Capel Street has boxes of dosirak (typically a selection of Korean lunch items) and bibimbap (rice topped with assorted meats and vegetables) starting at €9.95.
Eating out for dinner can be harder to do on a budget and we’ve all been caught-out by the early bird that looks like good value but quickly runs to €100+ for two people once you realise that everything except the soup and tap water has a surcharge and you add a bottle of decent wine. There are loads of places (especially around Parnell Street, Moore Street, and Capel Street - we’re thinking Aobaba, Pho Viet and Bun Cha) that are all perfect when you want a quick dinner for not a lot of money, but if you’re looking to linger longer, these are all doable for around €20 a head.
777 is just the spot for a lively and inexpensive weekend dinner. From 2-10pm each Sunday all dishes are €7.77 each. Bring a group and order everything. You’ll thank us. Selected cocktails are also €7.77. You may not thank us on Monday morning.
From 5pm to 7pm Tuesday to Thursday (and 12pm - 7pm on Sundays) just €19 in Grano gets you two courses, though you may want to avoid the wine list if you’re on a budget.
Featherblade on Dawson St. does a €14 steak. Yes, you read that right. Steak for €14, and it’s very, very good. You’ll need to add a side, but a steak dinner in the city centre for around €20 is great value. Find someone to split a side with, and you might even find room in your budget for a small glass of wine.
BYOB is a great way to keep costs down, especially if you have a rack full of wine after Christmas. Moroccan restaurant Dada’s early bird menu is €19.90 for two courses all week from 17:00 - 18:30 and corkage is a very reasonable €4 for a bottle of wine. Shouk in Drumcondra (below) is also BYO,and you’ll eat like Middle Eastern Royalty for probably around the same as you’d pay for a take-away (read our Shouk once over here). An evening sharing wine and mezze with friends will make you forget we’re still in the midst of dark, cold winter, and make you feel just that little bit more sunny and optimistic about the grand stretch in the evenings that should be here any day now.
Did we miss your favourite place for eating on the cheap? Let us know by emailing email@example.com