Dublin may have a reputation as an expensive city, but there are still plenty of restaurants where you can enjoy delicious, budget-friendly dishes without sacrificing on quality.
Navigating Dublin on a budget means thinking creatively, avoiding overpriced tourist restaurants in favour of exploring the city’s cheaper culinary treasures. A search to find good food without breaking the bank will lead you to discover local favourites, amazing atmospheres and, of course, some unbeatable food. These are the best restaurants in Dublin for cheap, flavourful dishes that won’t leave your bank account reeling.
Yamamori has been serving up quality sushi in the city since 1995, and its North City location, which overlooks the Ha’Penny Bridge, opened in 2007. While many head here for a celebratory dinner, savvy diners know to come here at lunchtime. Each day, it serves up at least eight combinations of bento boxes (including vegan and vegetarian options) priced between €10 and €15 (£8.94-13.41); they’re filled with tempting morsels such as tempura vegetables, sashimi, gyoza, salads and skewered tofu, fish or meat. The portions are generous, and the home-made lemonades are freshly prepared to order. The fast-paced to-and-fro of chefs in the open kitchen assembling different dishes creates an amazing fusion of sights, sounds and smells.
In the middle of Stoneybatter, a small, arty neighbourhood in the city’s north side, you’ll find a taste of old Dublin at classic greasy-spoon-style café Cowtown. Start your day with the fortification of a generously sized full Irish breakfast (a plate of bacon, eggs, sausages, hash browns and tomatoes), served with home-made brown bread and a strong coffee for under €10 (£8.94). During the day, choose from filling, comforting cuisine such as Dublin coddle (a type of local sausage stew), fish and chips or a BLT made on thick, fresh Irish bloomer bread for just €5 (£4.47). For a taste of true nostalgia, finish with a classic childhood dessert such as the knickerbocker glory. With a relaxed atmosphere and fast, friendly service, Cowtown is a great place to fuel up before exploring Phoenix Park or the National Museum of Ireland, both of which are just minutes away.
Over the past few years, scores of burger restaurants have opened up in the capital, but one of the most consistently reliable options is Bread and Bones in Millennium Walkway. The broad menu provides dishes such as vegan Beyond Burgers, buttermilk fried chicken and irresistible sides including pork bao buns, sweetcorn fritters and sticky wings. Portions are large and excellent value; it costs around €14 (£12.52) for a burger and fries. For an even more budget-friendly option, a €10 (£8.94) lunch menu is available between noon and 3pm, with options including a classic burger and a steak sandwich. For something a little different, don’t miss the kimchi loaded fries for €6.50 (£5.81).
Dublin boasts some great Middle Eastern restaurants, but what puts Falafel at the top of the list is the sheer variety of fresh, fragrant dishes on its menu. It’s also a great cheap eat in the city; a hearty Iraqi, Palestinian or Turkish falafel wrap is just €5 (£4.47). To branch out from its eponymous dish, try the shawarma (don’t miss its fresh hot-off-the-griddle flatbreads) paired with a sambousak, a pastry stuffed with cheese, vegetable, lamb or chicken. Lavish mezze platters are perfect for sharing with friends, and Falafel also serves Moroccan tea and shisha, encouraging diners to sit for a while and enjoy the friendly, relaxed atmosphere. After a wallet-friendly bite to eat, head to the Project Arts Centre across the road to catch a show.
Cornucopia is Ireland’s oldest vegetarian restaurant. Opened in 1986, it’s been keeping plant-based cuisine in the city interesting ever since, with a constantly changing selection of vegetarian, vegan and whole-food options. Order at the counter and choose from its towering bowls of fresh leaf, pulse and vegetable salads, paired with comforting hot mains such as roast mushroom and hazelnut cannelloni for around €14 (£12.52). The portion sizes are huge, and the rotating menu means both old and new visitors can try something different every time. Its lunch special – soup, salad of your choice, freshly baked bread, vegetarian pâté and a drink – is particularly good value at €12 (£10.73). If the weather is good, get your meal to go and enjoy it in the sunny surrounds of nearby St Stephen’s Green.
Amazing Korean food may not be something you’d expect to find in a traditional Irish pub, yet Kimchi Hophouse is not only Ireland’s oldest Korean restaurant but also arguably the best. Opened in 2005, this pub serves up a lunch menu featuring classic dishes like bulgogi, kimchi stew and spicy chilli pork for just €10 (£8.94), and the staff is happy to explain which dishes can accommodate vegetarians. For dinner, the Korean Tapas menu is brimming with reasonably priced delights such as pumpkin croquettes and deep-fried octopus. Don’t miss the authentic bibimbap, served sizzling in a stone bowl with your choice of salmon, beef, tofu or tuna and a raw egg yolk for €10.50 (£9.39). The fusion of a Korean restaurant with a traditional Irish pub creates a unique atmosphere, and there’s a great selection of local and craft beers on tap to team with your food.
This California-inspired burrito bar is colourfully decorated with old luchador masks, but the main focus of Pablo Picanté is top-notch healthy Mexican food. What sets it apart from Dublin’s other burrito restaurants is the mouth-watering selection of tortas (Mexican-style sandwiches). For €5.95 (£5.32), you can get a hefty slow-cooked pork Tinga Torta with jalapeño aioli or a Sweet Pepper Torta with feta, guacamole, chipotle aioli, black bean purée and greens on a crispy roll. Pair it with the fresh, spicy home-made salsas served with tortilla chips for €2.75 (£2.46).
Nestled around the corner from the Light House Cinema and the Jameson Distillery is an understated entrance you could almost miss, but once you step inside, you’ll be greeted with a full nostalgia trip. This one-of-a-kind restaurant-bar doubles as a retro games arcade, serving up budget-friendly junk food with a side of Mario Kart. The menu features crowd-pleasers like chilli dogs, dry-aged Irish beef burger with vintage cheddar and unmissable fried vegan chicken tenders with garlic aioli, all for under €10 (£8.94). As it stays open until late in the evening, Token is an ideal place to pass a few hours playing Street Fighter 2 and Pac-Man while enjoying some upscale American fast-food classics.
Dinner and a movie in Dublin’s city centre don’t have to break the bank; the café in the Irish Film Institute regularly has deals pairing dishes with screenings for a reduced rate. It has a constantly changing specials board that offers great value mains like garlic and chilli prawn linguine and authentic Irish lamb pie for under €15 (£13.41). The drinks menu features an excellent selection of wines from around the world, a full cocktail list and numerous local craft beers.