Increasingly distinguishing itself as a foodie destination in Ireland, Galway is a small city with a dense number of noteworthy restaurants. It can be considered the culinary capital of Ireland! I found it especially inspiring to see so many restaurants dedicated to sustainability, local ingredients and heritage cuisine. From pub-style foods to fish and chips to fine dining, you really can find it all in Galway.
Prior to visiting Ireland, I honestly didn’t know much about the culinary scene on the island. Images of sausage, potato and fried fish came to my mind, but not much else. Thankfully, I was connected through a friend to Kate McCabe, an Irish food expert who curates small-group tours with her company Bog & Thunder. She gave me a list of recommended restaurants in Dublin & Galway, which I used as my primary source of foodie tips. After eating at a number of her suggested foodie spots, I can tell you this woman knows her stuff! Check out Bog & Thunder’s upcoming tours if you are looking for a special food experience in Ireland.
Breakfast & Coffee
For an affordable yet delicious breakfast option in Galway’s West End neighborhood, pop into Urban Grind. Beloved by locals, this buzzy cafe has an eclectic menu that is vegan and vegetarian friendly. There is a nice patio out back if it is warm enough! I enjoyed delicious tofu and kimchi cakes with a poached egg, while their coffee and baked treats are also lovely.
This stylishly curated coffee and art shop in the heart of Galway feels like something out of a Scandinavian design magazine. The bright white walls, warm wood shelving and locally made art prints create an approachable minimalist vibe. I can’t recommend the espresso enough – it was the best I had in Galway. While you wait for your brew, browse the deep selection of coffee table books or pop up into the gallery space upstairs.
Housed inside a historic building directly along the harbor wall is one of Galway’s most esteemed restaurants – Ard Bia at Nimmos. This is an ideal spot for foodies. The menu features elevated yet familiar dishes with a focus on community producers and locally sourced ingredients. It also completely nails its aesthetic. I loved the quirky yet onpoint styling inside. You’ll need a reservation for dinner, but if you don’t get one, come for brunch!
Lunch & Snacks
The indisputable place to get fish and chips in Galways is Hooked. Run by a local family in the seafood industry, their fresh fish is a must-try while in Galway. You’ll find all sorts of seafood dishes on the menu, ranging from a classic fried fish to fish tacos and seafood chowder. Don’t let the higher price tag scare you away – the quality and sophisticated preparations are worthy paying a little extra for.
If you don’t want to go through a fussy lunch, make your way to Sheridan’s Cheese Mongers to pick up some cheese to go. Or better yet, let the knowledgeable staff help curate a selection just for you! The company was founded in 1995, when two brothers started selling Irish farmhouse cheeses at the Galway market. The company has expanded around Ireland, but this is the original location. You’ll find an impressive selection of hard and soft cheeses, largely from Ireland, as well as wines and accompanying items like crackers and fruit spreads.
Offering a relaxed dining experience with truly delicious food, Éan is an easy choice for dinner. It functions as a cafe during the day, and then transitions to a small plate eatery in the evening. The chef has a passion for artisan methods and local seasonal ingredients, so you can expect an ever changing menu featuring dishes that you might not be super familiar with. In our case, spring staples like asparagus and strawberries were on display. My favorite dish was charred local cabbage with a black garlic foam and cappellini onions. If they have something with sourdough on the menu (like a toast), definitely order it – they make the bread in house and it is spectacular.
Recommended by the Michelin guide, Kai dishes up a delightful range of organic European dishes that are heavily inspired by seasonality and sustainable farming practices. If you want to learn more about their ethos and approach towards cooking, they’ve recorded a podcast episode all about it! The West End location has this gloriously cluttered, bohemian ambiance with colorful chairs, vintage portraits, and rustic wooden tables. It gives you the sense that you are eating in a cool person’s house, making you immediately feel cozy and at home. You’ll need a reservation for dinner, but lunch is also an option.
To get a sense of what contemporary Irish food is, enjoy a dinner at Rúibín Bar & Restaurant. Like many of the other restaurants on this Galway food guide, the kitchen specializes in fresh, organic and seasonal ingredients. When I sat down to look at the menu, I genuinely had a hard time choosing because everything sounded so good. I settled on stracciatella with marinated zucchini as a starter, followed by a wild garlic gnocchi with egg yolk and asparagus for my main. Also, their cocktail menu is excellent. I had several more than I should have, because they were just so good! Overlooking the historic Galway docks, you can enjoy lovely views of the area while eating at this memorable spot.
West End has a number of great bars to choose from for a nightcap, but my favorite was the Universal. The friendly staff and relaxed atmosphere is the perfect place to end your day in Galway. There is a small selection of classic cocktails, as well as beer and lots of wine. If you happen to be hungry, their food is casual but delicious.
Is it a lovely day for a Guinness? Then grab a pint at the Front Door Pub! Just off the main street in central Galway, this is a classic Irish pub with a decent tap list and whiskey selection. It stood out to me though because the interior has some really good details, like a massive vintage chandelier in their sunroom or moss lined alcoves behind the bar.
This gorgeous distillery opened only 2 months before my visit in May 2022, and it was already a hotly talked about bar on the Galway culinary scene. Located near the harbor, the Galway City Distillery is focused on making cocktails and spirits that are 100% Irish, 100% ecological and 100% seasonally inspired. There is whiskey and gin on the menu, as well as some special Irish options like Poitín, a beloved form of moonshine. Their cocktail menu will change with the season, including the spirits themselves. The entire distillery’s output is used at their bar, without an intention to export or sell extensively outside of Galway. If you’re planning to stay for a longer visit, consider signing up for one of their classes!