Let’s face it, eating out can be a struggle on the wallet, particularly in Dublin. We’re one of the most expensive cities in Europe – the third most expensive, pricier than London, Paris and Rome, according to a recent report - and we're all feeling it. The same report also found that the average cost of a three-course meal for two was €80, and when we saw that figure our first thought was - "where can two people eat out for €80?? "Which we guess confirms the findings.
The price of *waves hands around* literally everything, coupled with the cost of living and the housing crisis bringing rents sky-high, can make the financial impact of eating out burdensome, but we strongly believe that the pleasure of enjoying a meal in a restaurant is one that should be accessible to everyone – regardless of budget. With this in mind that we set out to find some of the best spots in town where you can enjoy a two or three course meal and a drink that won’t leave you eating beans on toast for the rest of the month.
Sprezzatura , Dublin 8 & Rathmines
Now with two homes – the O.G. in Camden Market, Dublin 8, and the latest iteration in Rathmines – Sprezzatura is our go-to spot for an extremely good value pasta dish (or two). They offer small plates, arancini, fresh pasta and gnocchi dishes, and there’s a few delicious desserts to choose from too. Almost all of their ingredients are sourced in Ireland, there are nice little Irish twists on Italian classics, and pastas start at €6.95 for tomato basil spaghetti, to €13.95 for pappardelle with Jane Russell sausage fennel ragu.
Aobaba, Dublin 1
A classic pit-stop for anyone who knows what's what in the Capel Street area, Aobaba is a casual Vietnamese serving the only handmade Vietnamese-style noodles in Ireland. There’s a fantastic selection of phos (you can get a small portion too if you’re budget-conscious starting at €8.50), and lots of great value street food staples like banh cuon, banh mi, and bun cha, priced from €6 - €10.50. You can grab a Vietnamese coffee, bubble tea or smoothie to wash it all down and still have plenty of change in your pocket.
This NY-style pizza shop might not be a sit-down meal, but if you’re lucky you’ll grab some free stools and perch yourself at a counter to enjoy a slice or two of seriously good pizza, and enjoy a glass of wine along with it. With roughly ten different slice options, from triangular to square, red to white, and daily specials, there’s something for everyone in Bambino and lots to choose from. Try the blue cheese and leek for €5.50 a slice, or the burrata square for €6.50.
We haven’t been able to stop thinking about this midweek Dillinger’s deal since we heard about it. The Ranelagh restaurant has recently introduced a Tuesday / Wednesday night special of Dover Sole for two with a choice of two sides for €45. If that’s not a reason to get out of the kitchen and down to this US-style neighborhood restaurant, we're out of ideas.
We bleat about Shouk in Drumcondra enough, but usually it’s about the quality of the food and the fact that we believe it’s some of the best middle eastern food ]in Dublin. What’s even better is the price point, with pittas ranging from €9 - €14.50 and main dishes like the Batata, Arayes and Shakshouka ranging from €12 - €15. There’s also a tasting menu if you’re undecided and want to try everything for €34 per person. Freshly squeezed juices, cocktails, draft beer and wines are all on offer too, and corkage is €8 per bottle of wine. All in all a bargain night out`in our books.
M&L Chinese, Dublin 1
The Szechuan province is in focus at this properly authentic Chinese restaurant off O’Connell Street. M&L Chinese has been serving reliably consistent, must-have Chinese dishes (green beans with pork, and homemade dumplings to name a couple), with fantastic chef’s recommendations that won’t hurt your wallet too much - our last meal worked out around €25 a head ex-booze. There’s a wine list, soft drinks and Chinese soft drinks available, but at €6.50 for corkage, this is some of the best value around for BYOB.
Mister S, Camden Street
A live-fire BBQ joint from the folks behind Featherblade, Mister S is a meat-lover’s dream, and we’ve been clamouring for a Friday lunchtime table here since they introduced their steak frites lunch deal for €19. Available until 16:30 every Friday, there’s usually another lunch special on the go for the same price point. With the best of Irish produce, great wines and cocktails, this is super value for a late lunch / early dinner - if you can nab a table.
Pho Kim, Dublin 1
One of the best Vietnamese restaurants in town, Pho Kim serves steaming bowls of pho €14.50 - €15.50, Banh Cuon (a rice flour pancake filled with ground prawns, pork and mushroom, €14). We're very partial to some Banh Xeo (a crispy savoury pancake with prawns, pork and veggies served with lots of fresh and zesty herbs, €15), and a bowl of 'Bun Tom Thit Nuong', with marinated pork and prawns, rice vermicelli noodles, peanuts, carrots, coriander, crispy onions, cucumber and a tangy sauce - €16.
Bunsen Burger, Various Locations
Bunsen is a great option if you're in the mood for a straight-up burger (FX Buckley beef accompanied by the classic American hamburger bun - the Amish dinner roll), fries (shoestring are our choice but they’ve also got hand cut and sweet potato), and a drink (beers, wine, milkshakes and soft drinks). Since opening, they’ve expanded to multiple locations around the city including South Anne Street, Wexford Street, Dame Street, Temple Bar, Baggot Street, Ranelagh and Blanchardstown, and you can get in and out for under €20 for a cheeseburger, fries and a milkshake.
Lee's Charming Noodles, Dublin 1
Based on Parnell Street, Lee’s Charming Noodles serves up some of the best hand pulled noodles we’ve had, from various Chinese regions including Sichuan and Chongqing. We love their sesame king prawn toast and crispy aromatic duck pancakes for starters, followed by Lanzhou hand pulled soup noodles, chow mein or pan fried noodles – the Szechuan spicy lamb noodle is not for the faint hearted. With starters hovering around the €6/7 mark, and noodles around €13, Lee's is great value and always extremely tasty.
Sfuso, Dublin 1
This chilled little spot is tucked away on Bloom’s Lane in the ‘Italian Quarter’ just off Dublin’s northside quays. Sfuso, meaning ‘unpackaged’, is a deli-restaurant-winebar serving Italian dishes in a cosy setting. Nab a table in the dining space or outdoor seating area, and on the little blackboard at your table you’ll choose from a mains like parmigiana, gnocco alla romana, lasagna and sides of grilled veggies, roast potatoes and Insalata Russa (all served by weight), as well as the option to have boards and nibbles – the lazy platter is a mix of cold cuts and cheeses, arancini and cantabrian anchovies with burrata and crostini. There's a daily lunch option for €10, and wines by the glass start at €6.
Just Chubby's, Clontarf
Based in Clontarf, Just Chubby’s food truck has become a destination for the taco lovers of Dublin. From the people behind 147 Deli, we knew it would be good, but the chicken, beef, and veggie tacos they have on offer surpassed all of our (high) expectations. The sides are great too – nachos, corn ribs and fried jalapeno cheese rolls – and at just €5 per portion of tacos, and €8.95 per (generous) side, this is great food for great prices.
Lucky Tortoise, Dublin 2
For a fun night and a great deal, check out the ‘all-in’ menu at Lucky Tortoise on Aungier Street (now also in Temple Bar). This is some of the best value in Dublin, with plates of okonomiyaki, scallion pancakes, pancetta potstickers and more for €29. They’ve also got an ‘all-in’ veggie and vegan menu for €28, as well as a lunch deal for €15 (€14 for veggies/vegans), with rice, kimchi, slaw, miso, okky and siu mai / sweet potato.
777 Sundays, Dublin 2
Since its darkened doors opened in 2012, 777 has been heaving, in no doubt down to its fantastic cocktails and innovative, ever-changing small plates. Visit on a Sunday when selected dishes are €7.77 (see what they did there?), as are selected cocktails. It's a fun spot, and the ‘afuera’ outdoor area behind the restaurant is always the life and soul of the party.
Xi'an Street Food, Dublin 1 & 2
Located on South Anne Street and North Earl Street in Dublin, Xian Street Food has serves a taste of Xi’An, one of the oldest cities in China. This casual restaurant serves hand pulled noodles, and their signature Biang Biang Noodles, a popular dish from the Shaanxi province. The noodles are named after the sound they make as the large belt-like noodle dough is slapped against the counter when they’re being pulled. Noodles are priced between €13 and €16, with plenty of other Chinese dishes to sample - we recommend the Roujiamo, Xi’an burger, a multi layer crispy bun and possibly the world’s oldest hamburger, dating from the Zhou Dynasty.
Featherblade, Dublin 2
For great value steak in the city, Featherblade on Dawson Street is it. You can get a perfectly cooked featherblade here for €14, massive burgers and really good sides. Before 4pm, for €11.50 you can get your hands on a steak sandwich, or a smoked bacon BLT for €9.50. There’s also a set menu option for €35 which includes starter, main, side, sauce and dessert (with a supplemental charge for pichana and ribeye).
Piglet, Temple Bar
The go-to wine bar and restaurant tucked away on Cow’s Lane that transports you to a little Italian village, Piglet is an industry favourite for wine, wine and more wine. They change the menu regularly but you'll find small bites as well a lunch menu (running from 12:00 - 15:00) with two courses for €29.50, and a dinner menu (served from 17:00), with a two-course option for €37. Just don't say we didn't warn you if you spend your food savings on wine.
Hang Dai, Dublin 2
Still one of the buzziest places in town, Hang Dai’s woodfired duck, family style feasts, great music and cocktails all set against a neon subway carriage backdrop, make for a great night out. If you’re looking for a good value sharing feast, the €40 tasting menu will serve you well, featuring some of the best the menu has to offer including cheeseburger spring rolls, sesame prawn toast with yuzu mayo, and Irish Wagyu steak with ponzu cured egg yolk. And best of all no horse-trading over what to order.
Osteria Lucio, Grand Canal Dock
For solid Italian cooking centred on quality ingredients, Osteria Lucio in Grand Canal Dock should be on your visit list. This is an Italian eatery by way of Michelin (Ross Lewis formerly of Chapter One and Luciano Tono whose Italian restaurant held a star for ten years). This sounds like it’s going to pinch my pocketbook, I hear you say, and you can run up a sizeable bill, but there’s a €55 per person ‘Big Lucio Sharing Menu’ that runs until 20:30 every night. For tables of maximum six people, you'll get a taste of the whole menu, so as long as you don't go too crazy on cocktails and wines you should be able to get out at a reasonable spend per head, especially based on what you're getting.