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The economic boom years of the early 2000s in Dublin brought with them a new generation of international, sophisticated restaurants. Ireland embraced foodie culture in a way that it never really had before. However, as the economy crashed, so too came a minor resurgence in the popularity of traditional Irish fare, even in expensive restaurants. That’s not to say that the food in Dublin is on the downswing—far from it—it’s just become easier to find traditional-style Irish food in the city than it was a decade ago, as Ireland re-embraces and re-invents its national food heritage

Dublin remains, however, a notoriously expensive city in which to eat out. Prices have certainly come down in recent years, but you’re still likely to pay much more for a meal here than in a comparable U.S. city, and maybe about the same as you’d expect in Paris or London. But when the food here is good, it’s very good—if you can afford to splurge once or twice while you’re in town, you’re in for a treat.

Outdoors Is the New Indoors (for a Smoke) -- While Ireland has a reputation as a hard-drinking, heavy-smoking place, it is not above American-style health laws, and thus it has a sweeping antismoking law. Smoking is banned in virtually all public spaces, including restaurants, bars, hotel lobbies -- you name it. Therefore, there will be no smoking at the table, and not even any nipping into the bar for a quick drag. It's out into the cold and wet to indulge.

The Irish are not entirely unsympathetic to the addicted among us, and most restaurants and bars have created lavish patios and gardens, usually covered and heated, where smokers can puff away in relative comfort.

Eating Out Without Breaking the Bank

Although not quite as stratospheric as once they were, prices for food in Dublin are still sky-high. Visitors may find themselves a little shell-shocked when the check arrives -- even in comparatively "cheap" places. In other words, unless your pockets jingle with some serious change, you're going to want to get creative sometimes when it comes to eating out.

You can get a cost break in the city's many cafes and tearooms, which offer sandwiches, scones, soup, and hot platters at reasonable prices. The cafe in the tourist information center on Suffolk Street -- Fionn McCool's -- does good, cheap food for less than €10 (you can also download a voucher for free tea and coffee here at www.visitdublin.com). Or you could have your lunch in a pub, where you can get a hearty meal for around €10. The pub option is for lunch only, though, as most pubs don't serve food after 3pm.

If it's summer, cut costs by buying a sandwich at one of the many sandwich shops -- or even in grocery chains like Tesco and Dunnes -- and have a picnic in a city square or St. Stephen's Green. Store-bought sandwiches are better and fresher than in North America, and they only cost a few euro. Some Spar grocery stores are now making crepes and stir-fries to order for a few euro. And at the Botticelli gelataria at 3 Temple Bar you can have a scoop of excellent ice cream for €2.50.

In the winter, though, getting out of the cold can be a priority, so consider popping into a coffee shop and grabbing a sandwich there -- usually no more than about €4.

At dinnertime, bargains are harder to come by. However, many restaurants offer "early-bird" or fixed-price menus at about 25% off their normal price -- look out for signs in central Dublin.

Definitely take advantage of free breakfasts if your hotel offers them, as that's the best deal on food you're going to get in Dublin. However, if your hotel offers a room-only rate (not all of them do), it's often cheaper to find your own breakfast elsewhere. We mention this in reviews where the saving is a big one.

How to Eat Like an Irishman

If you've come to Dublin expecting to find plenty of restaurants still serving "proper" traditional Irish food, you're going to be disappointed. Despite a recent trend away from overfussy modern cuisine, Dublin is still far too chic, and Dubliners far too sophisticated, for the Irish stew, soda bread, and shepherd's pie they grew up eating. The food you cannot escape in the Irish countryside, you cannot find in Dublin.

A number of pricey restaurants do modern, upscale interpretations on Irish cooking; places like Chapter One and Restaurant Patrick Guilbaud use only Irish ingredients in their complex dishes, for which you will pay a premium. But the simple, basic food that the Irish are known for is not really represented.

Still, you can get around this, as long as you don't mind eating in a pub. Several of the city's traditional pubs still serve plain, hearty Irish food, and as an added benefit, it's certainly much cheaper than what you'll find in the high-and-mighty restaurants. Your best options include the Porterhouse microbrewery on Parliament Street in Temple Bar, which is an excellent place for a midweek lunch of dishes such as Irish stew with brown bread or "bubble-and-squeak "(made with fried potatoes and cabbage). Not too far away, O'Shea's Merchant (12 Bridge St. Lower; tel. 01/679-3797) and the Stag's Head pub are good places to find real Irish food. Both offer home-cooked, traditional food in pleasant surroundings (just don't try to eat there on busy weekend nights when it's too crowded for comfort).

Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.