Have you ever heard of the term greasy spoon diner? While it originated in America, I think that there are equivalents located all around the world. In Ireland, they take the form of the cheap little coffee shops that boast linoleum floors, seats at the counter, and a cheap traditional ‘fry’ – what most of us would probably know as the full Irish Breakfast. There’s plenty scattered around the country, and it’s one of those things you absolutely have to experience when you go to Ireland – it’s the traditional working man’s big meal of the day to keep them full throughout the working day.
We dropped into Brendan’s Coffee Shop in the Smithfields region of Dublin for a traditional breakfast on our last morning in Dublin. What better way to finish our stay in the Emerald Isle? Brendan’s is a favourite with the local workers at the fruit markets, opening around 5am in the morning to cater for the workers and closing by the early afternoon. The menu is pretty simple, with variations on the ‘fry’ (large, medium or small), and a variety of sandwiches involving fried bacon, sausages or eggs.
Most of the customers seem to eat at the counter so they can chat away to the cook and waitress, but we chose to move to one of the tables in the adjourning dining room. Each ‘fry’ comes with a complimentary tea or coffee (served black and strong unless you request otherwise), and a little shot of orange juice. Two condiments are available with every meal – the perennial tomato ketchup and the undescriptive bit-of-everything Irish ‘brown sauce’, better known as HP sauce.
A few buttered slices of toast come with each meal – unfortunately not traditional Irish brown bread or Guinness bread which I’ve discovered I’m a real fan of, but just plain white bread. Still, it serves as a good base for the large fry to come.
K enjoys black pudding, so he ordered the Large Breakfast (8.50 Euro) of bacon, egg, sausage, tomato, black pudding, white pudding, mushrooms and fried potatoes. I refused the black pudding but tried a slice of the white pudding which I enjoyed – plain pork meat and fat mixed with oatmeals is a surprisingly tasty combination! I also enjoyed the plump mushrooms on his plate, and stole more than my fair share.
I chose the Medium Breakfast (7.50 Euro) of bacon, egg, sausage, tomato and fried potatoes. The crispy bacon served at Brendan’s is superb – extremely thick-cut, salty and tasty with a healthy sliver of fat on each piece. If you’re not looking for a full meal, I would definitely suggest dropping in just to get a bacon sandwich as a snack! The fried potatoes are also excellent – cut so thinly that it’s almost like eating chips/crisps instead.
If you’re anyone other than a middle-aged Irish man, you may feel somewhat out of place as you walk into Brendan’s and receive a few curious looks. Everyone is very friendly though, and very familiar with each other with customers are greeted by name as they enter. It’s the type of local joint that’s very popular with blue-collar workers, so you know that the food is cheap and tasty. For a no-frills traditional Irish breakfast, you can’t do much better than Brendan’s!
Brendan’s Coffee Shop is located at 10-11 Marys Lane in Dublin, Ireland.