I think that talking about casual dining in Galway is something of a misnomer as it perhaps implies that there is anything other than casual about eating out here. One of the things that I love about Galway and its food scene is that even our fine dining Michelin starred restaurants Aniar and Loam have an ambience and philosophy about them that is laid back and approachable, rather than stuffy and inaccessible. This is typical of the relaxed and welcoming nature of this town and it’s reflected in its restaurants. There are many great locations that could have made this list but I’ve focused on a diversity of cooking styles, value for money and overall experience.
Something of an institution in Galway now, this gem run by EATGalway husband and wife team, chef patron JP McMahon and business manager Drigin Gaffey, is the quintessence of casual dining. Originating in 2008, it has been at it’s current home on Middle Street for the past three years where the space was transformed into a bodega with a rustic style and relaxed atmosphere. Cava showcases the best of Spanish cooking with over 50 tapas, though for me, as in Spain, some of their best dishes are pork based. Slowly braised and succulent pig cheeks with apple and sultanas (€8.50) is one you just won’t want to share, as is the pork belly, apple compote, and thyme gel (€5 for a pincho or €10 for a tapa), or indeed the unbelievably delicious free range pork fillet, Serrano ham, apricot, sherry (€10). However, it’s not just about the pig and you’ll find everything from vegetarian dishes, fish and shellfish, and the perhaps more familiar dishes like patatas bravas (€5.50), jamón croquettes (€4/€8), and meatballs in tomato sauce (€4/€8). For an even more laid back choice there’s an extensive list of pinchos (Spanish canapés or small bites) ranging in price from €4 to €7.50 or different combinations of cured Spanish meats and cheeses. There are daily specials on the board, an extensive Spanish wine and sherry list (don’t be afraid to ask for help) and Beers and Ciders too. I could keep on ad nauseam about the menu but there is no doubt that you’ll find something here you’ll love. Look, just go. Cava is open 7 days a week.
Cava is also running a Sherry Festival for the month of September. Find out more about this by following Sherry Festival on twitter @SherryFestival To coincide with this the 3rd edition of the Cava Cookbook is also being released at the same time. This is an excellent cookbook and well worth picking up if you have an interest in creating your own tapas at home.
Cava Bodega, 1 Middle Street Mews, Middle Street, Galway
Hooked on Henry Street
Another jewel in Galway’s West End dining scene is Hooked on Henry Street. A small family run business headed up by the friendly Nuisin Jalilvand, this is a seafood restaurant with one philosophy; fantastically fresh fish and seafood cooked simply. Located right next door is Ali’s Fish market and this has become a treasure trove supplying the morning’s catch, which makes it’s way onto the board for daily specials. Hooked has recently launched a new menu which takes on board (pardon the pun) all the classics and combines it with some more adventurous offerings. Starters and lighter bites include the popular chowder (€6.95), and panko crumbed fish cake (€9.50). Also there and new on the menu is monkfish cheeks which is a delicious piece of fish that has been a somewhat popular chefy cut recently and is now thankfully reaching the mainstream. Served with chorizo, creamy mash and garlic and parsley, I’m sure this will prove to be popular (€8.95). Some of the best dishes to enjoy for main course here are the extremely popular fish and chips (€9.95), the wonderfully fresh seafood platter with Galway Bay prawns, gambas, oak smoked salmon, lemon & lime cured ceviche, served with side salad, marie rose dip & brown bread (€17.50.) Also on the menu is 1/2 Galway Bay Lobster, which is served with twice cooked chips and Béarnaise sauce (€16.95). This is excellent value and gives people the opportunity to enjoy the succulent sweet meat of lobster that is so often priced out of reach for many. Hooked proves that excellent food, particularly seafood, doesn’t have to be complicated.
Hooked, 65 Henry Street, Galway
The Dough Bros.
From food truck to pop-up, brothers Ronan and Eugene Greaney, opened their pop-up restaurant on Abbeygate street in July 2014 and have been flying pizzas out of their wood fired oven ever since. With a philosophy of making good pizza in a relaxed environment they have certainly hit the nail on the head. Pizza is a beautifully complex and yet paradoxically simple thing and so many get the balance wrong. The Dough Bros have got it just right, using really good quality raw ingredients in their dough and with a menu of just about ten pizzas there is no sense of over complication here. As is true, and is part of the communal brilliance of pizza, there is something for everyone. On the menu you’ll find the usual margherita, ham & mushroom, and posh pepperoni, to perhaps something a little different with ingredients such as spicy ‘Nduja sausage, an Italian spreadable sausage from the Calabrian region in Southern Italy which is thankfully becoming a bit more popular here. Pizzas are priced around €9/€10 so it makes it some of the best value food in town.
The boys are moving up the road and around the corner very soon which, I believe, will nearly double their seating capacity. Open 7 days a week 12-10pm
The Dough Bros., 24 Abbeygate Street Upper, Galway (until they move!)
TGO Falafel Bar
Staying in the same part of town, TGO (The Gourmet Offensive) Falafel stall served us these Middle Eastern nuggets of delight in the Galway market since 2005. Just over a decade later and they are now in a fixed premises on Mary Street serving up everything falafel related from a wrap (€4.50) to a mezze plate for 2 or 4 people (€14/€25) featuring falafels, grilled aubergine, halloumi, salads, hummus, tahini and fresh breads. The also have a new veggie burger on the menu which has yet to be tried because every time I go there I fail to get past ‘The Worx”, a wholegrain pitta filled with 3 falafels, hummus, tahini, and salads, all with a choice of extra toppings from pickles, chillies and sauces. This is fantastic value for €6. I’m also going out on a limb by suggesting that they may have the best chips in Galway. There I said it, no going back now. You’ll just have to try them and judge for yourself. There is seating upstairs for about 20 or you can of course get takeaway, like the good old days of the market. Open Tuesday to Sunday
TGO Falafel, 11 Mary Street, Galway
Papa Rich (Street Food Kitchen)
Only open since last December, husband and wife team, Rebecca and chef Kevin, have created an Asian restaurant that’s creating quite the buzz down in Woodquay. Kevin has previously worked in Asian Tea House and Neo so you can get a sense of the standard that is being delivered here. All Asian cuisines are covered but Thai, Malay, and Indonesian food dominates in an extensive and superb value for money menu where all main courses are €10, salads, €7, starters €5, and desserts €5. There are not many places you can get a 3 course meal of this standard for €20 at any time of the evening.
Standouts in the starters are the Taiwanese gowgee, somewhat similar to Japanese goyza, this with a minced pork, prawn, pak choi, spring onion filling. The Vietnamese spring rolls are also delicious and are incredibly delicate and light with prawns, vegetables, and peanuts wrapped in rice paper. Finally the chicken skewers with a delicious homemade peanut (satay style) sauce are extremely moreish. For main courses, it’s to difficult to go through everything here but expect classics such as Phad Thai, Mee Goreng, Singapore Noodles, Nasi Goreng, Rendang, Cantonese style roast duck, and both green and red Thai curries, which are all fantastic. Some dishes that stand out from among the more common classics is the umami laden Japanese Udon noodle dish with Asian greens, dried Shitake Mushroom and seaweed, and vegetables. There are some also excellent curry dishes particularly Grandma’s Famous Curry. For those of you with a particularly spicy palate make sure to take on the extra chilli flame challenge and try to get on their Wall of Flame. It’s getting very popular so make sure to book to guarantee a table. Open 7 days a week 12.30-10.30pm
Papa Rich, 3 Daly’s Place, Woodquay, Galway