There’s something about being perched up on a bar or a counter that we just love. Maybe it's a reminder of city-breaks to Barcelona or Lisbon where counter dining is the norm and you can have a bit of banter with the bar staff, or maybe we just like to have a nose and see what’s going on around us. When we’re dining with a partner it’s a more intimate and cosier set-up to be seated side by side, and as a solo diner, it’s the perfect chance to have a peek into an open kitchen to see the chefs in action or gaze out the window to do a bit of people watching, without being anxious about taking up a whole table for a solo visit.
Whatever that special sauce is we’re into it, and when given a choice will always opt to be seated up at the bar or on the window counter. If you also enjoy the voyeuristic life, these are the best places for counter dining in Dublin.
Uno Mas, Dublin 2
Taking the lead from their sister restaurant, Etto, owners Liz Matthews and Simon Barrett installed a bar as one of the main seating areas in its Spanish-inspired sibling, Uno Mas. Somehow they've also managed to replicate the convivial feel of the Etto dining room, keeping the service casual and friendly while serving top quality food and wine. We’re not the only ones who think so – the Michelin guide bestowed them with a Bib Gourmand award in 2021, which is presented to restaurants with good quality, good value cooking.
Fish Shop, Smithfield
Fish Shop is counter seating only, and although their bread and butter is fish and chips, this is not your standard chipper. Their fish is local, fresh and sustainably sourced and is lightly beer battered before being fried in rapeseed oil. All of their fish is served with chips and tartare sauce, and the menu is rounded out with a whole baked fish and some shellfish dishes if you’re not in the mood for the fried stuff. Their wine list is very impressive, and this is where you’ll find all the industry heads on a Monday evening when they open special bottles to be served by the glass at lower then normal prices.
Clanbrassil House, Dublin 8
We lucked out on the window seat of Clanbrassil House when we visited back in October to try it out after Grainne O’Keeffe departed to start her own venture, Mae. We were very pleasantly surprised with what we found, and it seemed that James Dobson, formerly of Potager in Skerries, was wasting no time in getting his feet under the table and putting his own spin on the menu. We would go back just for the barbeque pointed cabbage, and we’d be requesting the window seat for some more grade A people watching.
Note, Dublin 2
Everything we publish recently seems to have a mention of Note, our new favourite wine bar on Fenian Street, and this is through no personal bias - they just seem to be ticking every box right now, including a long and welcoming bar on which to base yourself as you get the scoop on what wines are open that evening. Their shelves are stacked with natural wines from the best producers so take a seat and let their knowledgeable staff guide you through their recommendations, while you work your way through the snack menu.
The Seafood Café, Dublin 2
Something that we find lacking in Dublin, despite our obvious proximity to the sea, are restaurants devoted totally to seafood. Sure, every menu might have some mussels or prawns or a decent whole fish option, but there are only a few establishments really championing fish, and they’re mostly run by Niall Sabongi. As the man behind wholesale business Sustainable Seafood Ireland, he supplies only the best, so when you visit The Seafood Café in Temple Bar you know you’re in for a treat. It's just re-opened post-pandemic and seeing the pictures of people sitting up at the counter bar enjoying oysters and Bloody Marys made us immediately crave a long lunch propping up the bar.
777, Dublin 2
Come for the tacos, stay for the margaritas. Probably the liveliest of our list and depending on what time you visit, this could be more club scene than restaurant. 777 is all about fun and the staff are always having a good time, so if you’re perched up on the bar there’s nowhere better to soak up that energy. They’re also very helpful if you’re stuck on what to order, but you won’t really go wrong with anything – this is one of the best Mexican restaurants in Dublin.
Amy Austin, Dublin 2
The team behind 777 and Dillinger’s teased the opening of Amy Austin for months before the doors actually opened in early 2020 … and then swiftly closed along with the rest of the country. It was a short but sweet stint for them, and even with some opportunities to open between lockdowns they were more affected than most other restaurants due to their tiny premises, wedged into a little space beside Drury Street carpark which we couldn’t believe they managed to transform into such a cool wine bar. They maximised the space using all counters, some facing onto the bar and others out onto the street, and they’re now back up running at full capacity - so let this be your signal to book yourself in for some small plates and wine on tap.
Etto, Dublin 2
The buzzy little restaurant on Baggot Street only has a limited number of seats, so you’ll be lucky to snag any at all unless you plan well in advance. While Etto sits in the middle of the city, it has an intimate and casual feel, with a small number of low tables at the front of the room and a bar at the back which brings in more of a wine bar vibe.
Since opening in 2017, Host has been the venue of many a celebration, families and friends crowded around the table, sharing the Chef’s Menu featuring the restaurant’s most-loved dishes - like the now infamous pumpkin cappellacci which they wouldn't dare take off the menu - but our favourite visit was a midweek summers evening when we lucked out on a rare walk-in. Seated at the bar we were able to watch the chefs work away creating their Italian-inspired dishes while we enjoyed a glass of natural wine and some freshly made focaccia. Since then, the bar has been our preference when we visit, but they also have a counter facing out onto Ranelagh's main street. Read more in our once over here.
Spitalfields, Dublin 8
When converting Spitalfields in the Coombe to a restaurant the owners kept the cosy pub vibe intact, including the beautiful big dark wood bar, flanked by traditional barstools which have been reupholstered in bottle green. The bar offers a direct view to the open kitchen, making it the clear choice as you tuck into the clever takes on old school classics, like devilled eggs and cock-a-leekie pie.
Loose Canon, Dublin 2
There’s very little we could fault about Loose Canon, the wine and cheese shop in George’s Street Arcade, except that perhaps it could be bigger so we wouldn’t have to be disappointed so often when we try to stop by for a glass of wine. There’s something about the win when you’re wandering past and spot a free stool at their street-facing counter – even if you were on the way to somewhere important you could be swayed to just slip in for one to take advantage of the opportunity. When we have managed to nab a spot, it’s such an enjoyable experience to share a toastie with a friend (they're big enough to share!) while sipping on a glass of natural wine that the friendly staff have recommended.
Forest Avenue, Dublin 4
You may remember this as Forest + Marcy, the chic restaurant on Upper Leeson Street, but since they rejigged the original Forest Avenue location around the corner to a grocer during the pandemic, this spot has now been renamed as Forest Avenue. They have also revamped the menu – in fact you won’t even be presented with a menu at all, the tasting menu dishes will just start flowing. This is a special occasion venue, with the menu coming in at €98 per person, but it is truly a special experience, and the beautiful chef’s counter is the place to watch each dish being prepared with intricate detail.
Little Mike's, Mount Merrion
Little Mike's is the neighbourhood restaurant that everyone dreams of having around the corner, but unfortunately it’s only the locals of Mount Merrion who hold the privilege. The wine bar and seafood restaurant opened just two doors down from their sister restaurant, Michaels, which could seem risky, but owner Gaz knew there was appetite in the area and the gamble paid off. These counter seats are coveted but proceed with caution and a good sense of humour if Gaz himself is there causing mischief in the kitchen.
Soup, Dun Laoghaire
We won’t pretend that the window counter in Soup is going to provide the nicest view while you eat – this ramen restaurant is located in the more neglected end of Dun Laoghaire, and it’s only in the last few years that the area is seeing a bit of re-generation with new shops and cafes opening. However there's a noticeable change, and Soup have created a little community with their restaurant - the last time we visited for a pre-cinema ramen, it felt as if everyone who walked in knew each other. It's recently been spruced up, and part of this renovation was maximising their window and wall space with a long counter, so while you might not be too interested in the quiet road outside, you can still appreciate the welcoming and warm buzz inside while you sip your soup. Read our Soup once over here.
Cornucopia, Dublin 1
For the real people watching lovers among us, this is the spot to beat. Cornucopia on Exchequer Street is a mainstay on the Dublin casual dining scene, and was one of the first totally vegetarian spots when it opened in 1986. It’s a huge premises, spanning two floors, but the window seats on the ground floor are the ones to vy for. Grab your food at the buffet and you could easily while away a few hours looking out on the comings and goings on the busy street outside.
The Ramen Bar, Dublin 2
As you can guess from the name, The Ramen Bar focuses on one thing, and they do it well. Their selection of ramen has to be the widest menu in Dublin, with loads of variations of broths and toppings so you can try something new every time you visit. The venue itself is a bit dark and divey (in a good way) with a counter running down the wall as you enter – the perfect place for a quick slurp or solo meal.
Did we miss your favourite place for counter dining? Let us know by emailing email@example.com