Eight minutes into our Uber drive from the Dublin Airport, the driver made sure to tell my friends and I that spending the bulk of our stay in the Temple Bar district was a big mistake.
I had stayed in the hectic area known as Temple Bar in a previous visit and I knew the pitfalls. The non-stop party of tourists lasted until the sun came up and included an unattractive assortment of overpriced pints, bartenders who had no Irish blood, and pub fare akin to the frozen food variety found in lazy America bars. My strategy began months earlier when I booked my friends and I an AirBNB near the old Jameson Whiskey Distillery.
And when staying next to the old distillery, why wouldn’t you just drop your bags and run in for a tour?
The old Distillery on Bow Street doesn’t handle any of the production and distilling these days, but it still delivers the goods. A slick interactive tour was headed by a young, dashing ginger who gave a full dose of Jameson propaganda along with sly and witty remarks.
This is the charm I knew Dublin could deliver and the charm is always well paired with a comforting glass of Jameson. As an added bonus, the 8-year-old next to me couldn’t drink her sample of whiskey, so I got a double helping. By the tour’s end, I had bought a special bottle of the classic Irish beverage, though it certainly didn’t make it back to America.
After the tour, it was time to counteract the whiskey with some authentic Dublin dining. Just a short walk away from the Distillery is Wuff, a lovely bistro with a great neighborhood vibe. With only about 40 seats, it is a great location to have a cozy dinner with friends without having to yell to be heard. And with a three-course dinner at 24.50 euro, it is comfort for the soul and the wallet.
Creative wine-based cocktails along with a robust beer menu make up for the absence of liquor. You’ll forgive them for not having Guinness because the beer variety is so finely curated. While my friends ventured for some sparkling wine cocktails, I opted for a local lager, which paired well with my entrée.
A stand out on the menu is the vegetarian tajine which is definitely not the typical dietary restriction afterthought. The sophisticated sauce balanced perfectly with the fresh vegetables and the collection of almonds, dates and raisins left a surprise in every bite. Though I’m never shy to order meat, the description drew my attention and I was rewarded by a wonderfully crafted dish with just enough bite to make a few beads of sweat gather on my brow.
Though I swore I wouldn’t indulge my sweet tooth, when one of my friends ordered the crème brulee, I had to have a bite. I also stole a second bite when she turned away.
A stroll after dinner led us to a bar in an unlikely structure. As the Irish have slowly lost interest in organized religion, the giant spaces once full of congregants find new purposes.
St. Mary’s Church in Dublin closed in 1964 but was purchased by John Keating in 1997. A few years later, Keating opened The Church, a full restaurant and bar in the historic landmark. The organ that was played by accomplished musicians like George Frideric Handel still looms over the space, but on Friday evenings, The Church is a full-on club atmosphere with lounge furniture, stiff drinks, and a DJ spinning pop tunes and dance jams.
The crowd was a fun mix of Dublin locals and out of towners and I found myself dancing with complete strangers soon after my arrival. The cocktails are a bit expensive, but the atmosphere is worth the extra cost. The party seemed to be reaching a fever pitch when we exited, with no signs of stopping.
The bottle of Jamison I had bought at the distillery was opened on the way back to the Air BNB. In the morning, an Irish hangover was a friendly reminder of the night before. A great cup of coffee and a fresh scone would be the perfect cure for the pain.
The Coffee Bean, a local coffee shop, was a few blocks away. The shop is busy with an eclectic mix of Dublin young professionals and college students. Two wonderful ladies run the shop and they were perfect hosts as we inquired about all the delicious pastries they had baked that morning. The breads, along with a strong cappuccino, set me back on the road to adventure.
After a few hours of lounging, it was time for a relaxing lunch. Comfort was the order of the hour at PHX Bistro, and for 16.95 euro, a two-course lunch and a glass of wine was mine. Duck Liver Pate and homemade Gnocchi provided a dream combo. The wine is a bit of an afterthought, but for the price, it served its role as a compliment to the lovely culinary offerings. Our server noted that the restaurant is busy when the local courts are in season, but because of holiday, we had the restaurant to ourselves.
My second trip to Dublin was far superior to my first, and though Temple Bar does have some charming options, staying in the Distillery neighborhood proved to be a wise and satisfying choice.