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Where To Eat On Your Holidays In Kerry

Ireland is having a Lion King moment. You know when Simba’s dad sits him down on Pride Rock and explains that “everything the light touches is our kingdom”? Seems that a pile of Dubs have taken it literally and seem to think it applies to the Kingdom. If you’re one of the many drivers of D-reg cars setting out for a slice of life beyond the N7 in the coming weeks, here are some of the best places to eat around Kerry's top summer destinations.




Dingle


If you’re packing your vaccine passport, extended family, luggage, pets, and anxieties up for a week, Dingle is an excellent choice for some R&R. Rugged scenery, hidden beaches, and a buzzing artsy town means there’s lot to do, plenty of outdoor activities, and no shortage of independent places to eat. First make your way to Green Street.


Start with The Fish Box; the family-run restaurant serving the freshest seafood from their own trawler. The portions are huge and you’ll find classics like fish and chips (made from local Maharees potatoes, of course) plus loads of specials that change depending on what’s caught that day. Fish kebabs with homemade salsa, buffalo hake bites, prawn Thai red curry, fish spice boxes - we’ve never had a bum meal here. Currently operating take-away with some outdoor seating. Be warned that it gets busy so we’d recommend ordering online, and taking your food for a stroll to a nearby bench if you can’t secure a table. They also sell beer from neighbouring Dick Mack’s pub and brewery, and there’s a surprising number of vegetarian and vegan options for a seafood restaurant.



Speaking of Dick Mack’s, head for the pub’s courtyard and you’ll find two food trucks - Chewy and the Beast selling wood-fired pizzas, burger, and chips, and Cáis, a toastie truck.



If eating from food trucks in the back of pubs is your thing, and it totally is ours, Mex West Dingle is tucked away behind Paddy Bawn Brosnan’s and serving tacos, nachos, brunch, and daily specials with homemade salsas and sauces. They’re on a short break but back from July 20th.



Next stop down the street is Bean in Dingle, a coffee shop that does their own roasting. Keep an eye out for sausage rolls with Anascaul black pudding, and lots of cakes and desserts. There’s a Bean in Killarney too.



On the market for an ad-hoc picnic? We have the ultimate dream team. You’ll spot Bácús Bakery on the corner and need to go there for traditional made-from-scratch bread and some of the best baking in Munster - their cinnamon buns alone are worth the trip. What you may not spot as easily is The Little Cheese Shop that’s right behind it. Walk into the small shop and you’ll find a massive selection of Irish cheeses, charcuterie, chutneys, crackers, cultured butter, and just random, beautiful things. It’s basically a cheese tardis.



At the bottom of Green Street, veer left and keep an eye out for beards and checked shirts as the coffee hipsters gather; you’ve found My Boy Blue. Great coffee, epic brunches, and excellent bakes await you inside the blue door.



Across the way, you might clock Reel Dingle Fish Co. and dismiss it as just another chipper, but the sheer number of McKenna’s Guide plaques over the door will leave you in no doubt that there’s something special here. Fresh fish, proper chips, homemade tartare sauce with the John and Sally McKenna seal of approval.


For lunch by the water, Out of The Blue is our favourite kind of seafood restaurant. The menu, hand-written on a blackboard, is completely dependent on what comes off the boat that day, nothing’s frozen, and you won’t find any chips. You’ll need to reserve a spot on their outside terrace, but it’s worth the planning.



On Main Street Land to Sea is a Dingle institution and we predict indoor tables will be in high demand once they’re able to open fully but, until then, they’ve pivoted to a Lebanese menu for takeaway.


If you’re staying in Dingle and fancy a night off from cooking, Solas Tapas is operating on a book and collect basis. Currently on a little break, they’re back from July 22nd so you have ample time to squeeze in some pulpo gallego, manchego croquettas, Pollack kiev, or Cromane oysters with mirin.




Ring of Kerry and Valentia Island


If the idea of a 180km drive along cliff edges and narrow, sheep-dotted, coastal routes has been on the bucket list but also terrifies you, the lack of coach tours this year might mean you have an opportunity to experience it without having to compete with buses for the limited road space. Obviously, the main draw here is the sights, but nobody can enjoy a view on an empty stomach.


Killarney


Poor ol’ Killarney has had a rough 18 months without the normal influx of tourists, but lots of restaurants have outdoor dining options in place, ahead of indoor dining plans, to cater to visitors and locals who are sticking around this summer. The town is packed with restaurants and pubs serving food so you’re likely to stumble upon something that interest you, but here’s a few of our favourites.


You’ll see Quinlan’s fish counters and seafood takeaways dotted around the county, and their Killarney restaurant The Mad Monk is a continuation of their tide to table attitude. Currently there’s outdoor dining available on a walk-up basis. Menu is traditional (think chowder, Portmagee crab claws, lobster salad) and exceptionally well done.



The Hungry Donkey, the food truck from chef Chad Byrne, has developed a really loyal following since it launched earlier this year and, having eaten pretty much everything on the menu there over the last while, we can see why. Prawn and chicken spice bags (with an option to add scallops, which is a necessity rather than an option as far as we’re concerned), proper Kielbasa hotdogs, and tacos, it’s a good call for a take-away to eat while sitting on the grass around Ross Castle. It’s also right next to an off-licence; you know what to do.



The INEC venue is normally best known for Nathan Carter tours but that’s all changed. Damn you, Covid, can’t we have anything? This summer, you’ll find Eleven77 Food Bus parked outside and serving up a pretty interesting mix. There’s coffee and tea, housemade chai and bakes, but you’ll also find croissants packed with crab, lachha bread with khati chicken, smash burgers (on their holidays from Dublin), tacos, and Cubano sandwiches. Not your average food truck.



At the very bottom of High Street, under a sign that has lost several of its letters, you’ll find Petite Delice, a French boulangerie and patissierie that also serves coffee. The bread is great and there are lots of sandwiches and filled rolls for lunch, but the real draw here is the pastries. We don’t care what you have to leave behind you, you will want to keep car-boot space free to bring as many home with you as possible. They also have a spot in Cahersiveen.



At the time of writing, indoor dining is still not open and, given the chopping and changing that have plagued planning along the way, we don’t think anyone is sure of what July 26th will bring. Once you’ve had your full vaccines, can recite the Greek alphabet backwards, don’t mind offering-up your firstborn, and are therefore allowed to eat indoors, The Celtic Whiskey Bar and Larder is definitely one for your list. Contemporary Irish menu and an extensive drinks list, they unfortunately weren’t able to open for outdoor seating.




Kenmare


Possibly the jewel in the Kerry eating crown, Kenmare isn’t a huge town but it punches well above its weight when it comes to dining options. Between cafés, Lorge Chocolate, Kenmare Ice-Cream shop and lots of lovely little boutiquey shops, you’ll easily spend a day there eating and shopping exceptionally well.


Before you even hit town, you can start eating. As you drive past a bright yellow and red cottage called The Strawberry Field near Moll’s gap between Killarney and Kenmare, you’ll likely do a double-take and ask yourself “did that sign say pancakes?” It certainly did and you need to take that as a sign from the pancake gods that you should pull in to a world of sweet and savoury pancakes, Dutch apple tarts, and soups. But really, you’re here for the pancakes. There’s a lovely garden outside for al fresco pancakage.



Top of our list is No.35 which, unfortunately, is closed until indoor dining resumes. Until then, start planning on when you’re going to reserve your table in the cosy restaurant, and dream about when you can get your hands on locally-sourced, seasonal ingredients, and pork from their own farm.


Similarly, keep an eye out for when The Lime Tree re-opens.


No. 35 / The Lime Tree


Thankfully open for business is Boka on Henry St. which is operating a takeaway menu and has outdoor seats. The menu is casual with a focus on seafood, burgers, salads and healthy rice bowls.



Davitt’s benefits from a pretty sizeable outdoor eating area, and good food in a relaxed environment. Possibly the only place we’ve seen in Kerry lately with Jambalaya on the menu.


Mulcahy’s Restaurant and Bar describes what they do as having an “emphasis on simplicity”, and that’s fine by us as “simplicity” covers crab and lobster croquettes, and brioche stuffed with lamb. Currently operating a scaled-back street menu for takeaway or outside dining, it’s a popular spot so plan to reserve a table if you want to get inside when restrictions allow.


Davitt's/Mulcahy's


We love Kerry and we don’t think it’s ever right to compare it to Dublin because there’s just no comparison between what a small rural town can sustain businesswise compared to a city, but if we could wave our magic wands, we’d clone Maison Gourmet and move it to Sandymount or Drury Street. Until the technology to clone cafes is invented, you’re just going to have to drive to Kenmare to stock up on breads, light lunches, and some of the best patisserie on the island.




Cahersiveen


As you drive through Cahersiveen, you may wonder why there's a church with picnic benches outside - you’ve found The Oratory Pizza and Wine Bar. While indoor dining is in the lovely and atmospheric old church, the grounds are a pretty lovely place to sit and watch the world go by. Pizzas range from the classic Margherita to a blue cheese and peach number.



Quinlan and Cooke is a boutique townhouse with accommodation and also houses QC’s Seafood Restaurant. Head here for cocktails and outdoor dining with lots of local seafood and steaks.



Currently takeaway only, Fertha Bar and restaurant has a pretty classic menu with soup, chowder, smoked salmon, and some unexpected surprises like squid puttanesca.


Outdoor dining right by the water is always going to mean a battle for tables so we would recommend booking if you want to bag a table at O’Neill's, The Point. Don’t worry if you miss out, they’re doing takeaway also. As you’d expect, the menu is seafood heavy and with fresh crab, prawn pil pil, and Atlantic lobster, we wouldn’t want anything else.




Valentia


Public service announcement: you should not visit Kerry and skip Valentia. It’s beautiful and every turn gives you something new to take in. You will definitely need a car, though, but fitter people than us (hey, we eat for a living, do not judge) would probably break out the bikes.


Cable & Co. Food Trucks is a collection of colourful trailers not too far from the waterfront and ferry (you can drive onto Valentia, but for the full experience on a sunny day, opt for the ferry from just outside Cahersiveen), selling coffees, pizza, burgers, loaded fries, hotdogs and shakes.



Set your sat-navs for Valentia Ice-Cream. It’s an ice-cream shop housed on a dairy farm so super fresh and plenty of flavours, plus there’s waffles. There are little benches at the front but walk behind the shop to the end of the carpark and enjoy the best view with your dessert.



Driftwood Surf Café is the restaurant that Valentia reserves - okay it's just outside Valentia in St Finian's Bay, but close enough. We stumbled upon it on a recent trip and were just blown away at so many things - the beautiful building with giant glass wall opened out to views over the bay and the Wild Atlantic Way, the morning yoga classes, some of the cutest Highland cows in the adjoining field, and the food; local, seasonal and so fresh. We loved it. There’s lots of picnic tables outside but they fill up quickly. Lunch is walk-ins only, but you can book a table for the evening menu.



Just below, as you walk towards the bay, you’ll find An Bothán, their sister-trailer selling coffees, cakes, and occasionally fish and chips.



Pro-tip: if you see a sign for Geokaun Mountain, follow it. It’s €6 per car to drive all the way up to the top where you have a 360° view across Dingle Bay, the Kerry mountains, Skelligs, and what feels like half of the Atlantic Ocean. At the very top, you’ll find seating areas carved into the landscape so bring a picnic.


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