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Wednesday, June 07, 2017

Live Irish Music

A golden harp is blazoned on the Irish coat of arms, and for good reason, as music is an integral part of the Irish culture.  Not only would no trip to Ireland be complete without enjoying some traditional Irish music sessions, it would be a near impossibility to spend any length of time on the island without finding yourself surrounded by Irish melodies.  So our June topic is Irish music.

Music is a key element of Irish society and nightlife, so unsurprisingly live music (both modern and traditional) can be found in any number of pubs across Ireland.   For tips on where to go for some authentic Irish music, I’ve tried to offer a wide selection of venues including city streets known for great busking performances, pubs, music halls and theaters.

If you’ve heard about great street performances (busking) in Ireland, you’ve likely heard the name Grafton Street.  This Dublin pedestrian street is also known for its shopping venues and attracts a lot of street performers offering tourists and locals a taste of traditional Irish music while they shop.  On the other side of the island in Galway, Shop Street takes on this role.  Again a pedestrian street lined with shops and pubs, Shop Street is brimming with traditional Irish music.

Music Halls and Theaters
The Gaiety Theatre in Dublin offers great performances from plays to Irish music and dance.  The University Concert Hall in Limerick is also host to some amazing entertainment including some great music.

Pubs are the most likely place to find some traditional Irish music sessions all over Ireland.  Whether paid performers or informal music sessions by local musicians, many Irish pubs host frequent traditional Irish music on a regular basis.  Some are even popular for bringing in both traditional Irish music and dancing acts.

In Dublin, check out The Cobblestone on the northside, O’Shea’s Merchant on the southside, O’Sullivan’s near Trinity College, O’Neill’s not far from the Temple Bar district and O’Donoghue’s near St Stephen’s Green for starters.  The Irish capital also offers a musical pub crawl which runs every night from April through October.

For traditional Irish music in Killarney try Murphy’s Bar on College Street, Jarvey’s Rest Traditional Irish Pub within walking distance of the main part of town, Courtney’s Bar, or O’Connor’s for a wide range of entertainment including music, comedy and readings.  The Grand also offers a club open every night with music and dancing.

Dolan’s is a popular venue for live music in Limerick.  Though you can also find frequent live music performances at The Locke or The Hurlers Bar.  Galway pubs for traditional Irish music include Róisín Dubh (or dark rose), The King’s Head, Monroe’s Live and The Crane.

You can also do some research ahead of time to find locations for traditional Irish music.  A Dublin Sessions site tracks a wide variety of performances across the city, similar to which has pages tracking upcoming concerts in cities like Galway.  Another Galway site for finding live music venues and entertainment is  And sites like and list popular music venues across Ireland.  There are even Facebook pages, like Music for Galway, to keep up on upcoming events.

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Food in Galway

One last post for May ...

Our final overnight stop is my personal favorite, Galway!  Those staying on the mainland for free time on Day 8 will have plenty of opportunities to test out Galway’s finest pubs and restaurants, and those opting for the Aran Islands excursion will still have a half day in Galway on Day 7 plus two nights to go out and explore.

My top picks for Galway are based on both recommendations from other travelers and my own experiences.  My criteria is still traditional Irish food at reasonable prices with “bonus points” for great atmosphere.

v       The Quay Street Kitchen offers traditional Irish food but also vegetarian, vegan and gluten free options.  As with many costal area restaurants the seafood is a big part of the menu including seafood chowder, sea bass and mussels.  But they also offer additional Irish favorites like their “fall off the bone Irish lamb shank”.

v       The Pie Maker is good choice for a budget friendly and unique lunch.  Everything on the menu is “handmade sweet and savory pies”.  Some customer recommendations include the rhubarb-ginger pie, a beef & stout pie with gravy, mashed potato, peas and red cabbage and an Irish sausage pie with veal gravy.  They also offer vegetarian and gluten free pies.

       ⦾ O’Grady’s on the Pier specializes in seafood including sea bass, prawns, crab, oysters, mussels and seafood chowder.  However, they also a highly praised shoulder of lamb, braised short ribs and duck.

       ⦾ The King’s Head offers traditional Irish food in a 17th century pub with live music every night.  I can personally recommend the fish & chips, but other favorites included Irish stew, seafood chowder and Moules Frites (“steamed Galway mussels with shallots, white wine & cream”).

       ⦾ Dock 1 Seafood Bar Restaurant has a nice view of the harbor and offers vegetarian and gluten free options.  Some recommendations include lamb shank, mussels, seafood chowder and fish & chips.

       ⦾ The Galleon Restaurant offers an all-day full Irish breakfast.  They also are noted for their seafood, including seafood chowder, salmon & prawns and cod & chips.

       ⦾ Tom Sheridan’s garners the ultimate Irish praise of having “great craic”, as well as, great food.  The atmosphere there is a huge plus and I definitely wouldn’t mind returning, possibly to celebrate our last night in Ireland next year.  Menu favorites include pork belly, lamb cutlets, fish & chips and seafood chowder.

       ⦾ White Gables Restaurant has a charming façade.  With both a café, gourmet food shop and restaurant there’s a wide array of “home cooked foods, breads & cakes”.  Online reviewers praised the black & white pudding, seafood chowder, roast duck, smoked salmon, crab claws, lobster and char grilled fillet steak.

       ⦾ Cooke’s Restaurant & Wine Bar, located in a “restored medieval building”, offers Irish favorites including fish cakes, seafood chowder, lamb shank, fish & chips, grilled fillet of salmon and Irish stew.  The restaurant is also recommended by travelers and locals alike. 

       ⦾ The Front Door has live music and traditional Irish pub food.  Traditional Irish fare includes shepherd’s pie, Guinness stew and fish & chips.

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Friday, May 26, 2017

Food in Limerick

We’ll only have one afternoon and night in Limerick while on tour, but there are plenty of lunch and nightlife options among the local restaurants and pubs to make it a memorable one!  

As usual, my criteria for this list of favorites is reasonably affordable, authentic Irish food, particularly in a traditional or uniquely Irish setting.  And, as I haven’t yet had the pleasure of visiting Limerick, I’m grateful to all of my online traveling friends for their informative reviews.

Bobby Byrne’s, known to the locals as “Bobby’s”, is known to have especially good fish & chips, always an Irish favorite!

The Locke offers traditional fare from fish & chips to bangers & mash.  Irish stew, seafood chowder and fish pie are also on the menu.  Plus there’s traditional Irish music & dancing every night.

The Glen Tavern, in Limerick’s Georgian Quarter, is a great place for a wide variety of Irish favorites, including Irish stew, seafood chowder, Irish soda bread sandwiches, shepherd’s pie and fish & chips.

The Curragower Bar & Restaurant has a great view of King John’s Castle and the river Shannon, plus authentic Irish dishes like seafood chowder and bangers & mash.  They boast “quality food with locally sourced ingredients”.  

The Cornstone offers great seafood options like mussels, prawns, cod and a lobster & shellfish pie.  They also have vegetarian and gluten free meals.

Dolan’s has live music every night and has earned the highest praise possible in many of its online reviews by being noted as having “great craic” (probably best described as a lively, fun atmosphere).  They offer authentic Irish “mains” including bacon & cabbage, fish & chips and Irish stew.

Freddy’s Bistro has an impressive menu including a popular mushroom risotto, steak medallions and pork belly.  Fish cakes and lamb shanks are also a great idea here when craving traditional Irish fare.  And they offer vegetarian, vegan and gluten free options.

Rene Cusack Fish Bar is clearly a place where seafood is king.  You can also get gluten free chips as part of your fish & chips there.

Luigi’s Traditional Fish & Chips may be famous for its signature dish but they also have very popular curry chips and battered sausages.