The 22 Essential Cork Restaurants

If you still believe Irish food is solely concerned with potatoes and porter, then it is fitting your re-orientation program should begin in Cork, long dubbed the “food capital of Ireland.” With one of the world’s largest natural harbors, Cork has long been a vital maritime port, trading freely since the 13th century, exporting oats, wheat, beef, pork, fish, hides, and malt, and importing cloth, spices, and wine — four times as much wine, in fact, as neighboring England.

Eventually, the most egregious impacts of colonialism, particularly famine, radically skewed the national cuisine and obliterated much of Cork’s food culture. But the Irish revival began here in the 1960s with Myrtle Allen’s Ballymaloe House, just 20 miles east of Cork city. (Noma co-founder Claus Meyer attributes the genesis of the global locavore movement in fine dining to Allen, with whom he “soldiered” in a pan-European chefs organization in the 1980s.)

Today, with the beloved and ancient English Market as its traditional heart, Cork’s food scene is more diverse and delightful than ever, ranging from Ireland’s best-known date-night vegetarian restaurant to a tiny south Indian ayurvedic cafe, from vegan outposts to sourdough pizza, from Japanese food, both casual and starry, to immigrant-run Middle Eastern places, and from impeccable fish and chips to an almost religious craft beer obsession. Ireland’s original food city, Cork endured something of a culinary slump after the economic crash in 2008, but now it’s back and more vital than ever. Here are the most essential ways to experience it.

Editor’s Note: Eater is not updating international maps at this time given disruptions to global travel during the COVID-19 crisis.

Prices per person, excluding alcohol:
$ = Less than 20 euros (Less than $22 USD)
$$ = 20 - 50 euros ($22 - $55 USD)
$$$ = 50 - 100 euros ($55 - $109 USD)
$$$$ = 100 euros and up ($109 USD and up)

Joe McNamee is an Irish food writer, author, and journalist based in Cork. He is also founder of @grubcircus, a traveling activist food “roadshow” dedicated to pursuing truly sustainable food systems.


Co. Cork, Ireland

A 30-minute drive from the city, Kinsale was once dubbed Ireland’s gourmet capital. Though it lost its way for a spell, this impossibly pretty little seaside town is once again on an upward epicurean swing. O’Herlihy’s Kinsale (OHK) and Saint Francis Provisions are fine and funky little cafes, injecting youthful spirit into a town that has been at the forefront of Irish dining for more than 40 years. Bastion delivers excellent produce with precision and finesse alongside a smart wine list and fully merits its recently awarded Michelin star, while Fishy Fishy is a gorgeous portside affair offering superior seafood, including an excellent take on traditional fish and chips, from celebrity chef Martin Shanahan and wife Marie. The Black Pig, a gorgeous old wine bar in the tiny backstreets, offers small dishes to complement one of the very best wine lists in the country, as well as a splendid selection of sherries and fine Irish craft beers. [$ - $$$]

The streets of Kinsale
Darren McLoughlin


16 Lancaster Quay, Mardyke, Cork
T12 FKE1, Ireland

This world-renowned vegetarian restaurant has been going for a quarter-century but remains as vital as ever. Chef-owner Denis Cotter’s cookbooks have guided generations of novice vegetarian cooks, and Paradiso and its farm, Gort na Nain, won Collaboration of the Year at the inaugural World Restaurant Awards in 2018 for Cotter’s partnership with Gort na Nain’s gifted grower, Ultan Walsh. A seasonal menu, constantly evolving, offers dishes such as stunning ewe’s milk cheese (award-winning Cáis na Tíre) cappelloni with sweetcorn, jalapeno, and lime butter. Grilled cauliflower has been refined to perfection in a big, punchy dish enhanced by cashew korma, spinach, mustard, and pickled raisins. The advent of Walsh’s Crown Prince pumpkins sees the return of one particular winter menu favorite: pumpkin gnocchi with king oyster mushrooms, chanterelles, black kale, lemon thyme butter, walnuts, and Cratloe Hills sheep’s cheese. [$$]

Turnip galette with beetroot port gravy
Paradiso [Official Photo]

Pompeii Pizza at the Franciscan Well Brewery

14 N Mall, Sunday's Well, Cork
T23 RHW2, Ireland

During a decade at Cork’s original craft brewery pub, Pompeii Pizza has opted for the progressive approach. As well as turning out great versions of the usual suspects from the wood-fired oven in the beer garden, experimentation is ongoing. A Halloween special featured butternut pumpkin sauce, provolone, O’Mahony’s streaky bacon, and black pepper; the chefs developed an in-house vegan mozzarella for dairy-free pies, and all doughs are made with a combination of house-milled Irish heritage grains combined with Italian tipo 00 flour. Charcuterie and cheese platters are also available at the cocktail bar upstairs. [$]

Nduja pizza
Darren McLoughlin

Ichigo Ichie

No5 Sheares St, Centre, Cork, Co. Cork
T12 RY7Y, Ireland

Having made his name with his eponymous takeaway spot, Miyazaki, Japanese chef Takashi Miyazaki, married to an Irishwoman and now permanently settled in Cork, upped the ante with Ichigo Ichie (“once in a lifetime”), his take on kaiseki served in a spartan yet utterly serene space. Here diners are treated to a seemingly endless procession of jewel-like dishes, combining complex elements and tastes with an air of elemental simplicity. The Michelin star arrived within months of opening. As Miyazaki continues to evolve and grow, the menu is increasingly studded with dishes that could read as haikus of praise to the superlative local produce: sakura-smoked Irish venison, hazelnuts, and Velvet Cloud sheep yogurt; Lough Neagh eel, porcini, Kilbrack organic carrot, and Leamlara Ivan’s nasturtium; Castletownbere black sole, Kilbrack purple kale, Vitabella potato, maitake, and chestnut tuile. The wine list favors organic and natural while the sake list is a hoard of liquid treasures. [$$$$]

The menu and place setting
Ichigo Ichie [Official Photo]


111 Barrack St, The Lough, Cork
T12 FK75, Ireland

In a city where daytime dining has long had the upper hand, Pigalle’s radical revision into a major culinary prospect was most welcome indeed. This delightful space off the cobbled streets of “Barracka” (in the local parlance), and right next door to its sister establishment, Tom Barry’s, one of Cork’s most iconic pubs, now offers a full menu of delicious dishes based on superb local produce and chef Mark Ahern’s sharp little flavor twists. Highlights include: fresh mussels with ’nduja and seaweed cream and Carrigcleena duck, currently served with seasonal squash and sauteed kale. [$$]

One of Pigalle’s most colorful dishes
Pigalle [Official Photo]


1A Evergreen St, Barrack St, Ballyphehane, Cork
T12 E034, Ireland

Michelin-starred Japanese chef Takashi Miyazaki first introduced himself to Cork with his take on the traditional homestyle cooking of his homeland, offering mighty cooking from a minute location. A handful of stools and a shelf counter are the only seating from which to consume his superb handiwork, using fine local produce that inspires the occasional Hibernian inflection. A bowl of plain noodles in his sublime dashi is a must, while the hearty miso butter tonkotsu ramen is based on pork stock cooked over three days. Though he has gone on to open the Michelin-starred Ichigo Ichie, Miyazaki remains a crucial piece of the local dining scene. [$]

Ramen with lemon, stewed pork, and nitamago
Darren McLoughlin

Iyer’s Cafe

38 Popes Quay, Shandon, Cork
T23 YA07, Ireland

Everything about this micro-venue is as contained and humble as chef Gautham Iyer himself, whose South Indian dishes feature brilliant, vibrant, and often ferociously fiery flavors. Cooking alone from 6 a.m. every morning (including an hour spent kneading dough for the utterly unmissable samosas), he makes every dish from scratch each day. Seek out delicious dosas and rotis while sweet, spicy rasam, a broth of tamarind juice and tomato, will clear the head, literally and metaphorically. Every lunch at Iyer’s should finish with the mango kulfi. [$]

Dosa with idlis, medu vadas, mango pickles and chutneys
Gautham Iyer

Farmgate Café

The English Market, Princes St, Centre, Cork
T12 NC8Y, Ireland

An institution within an institution, a visit to Farm Gate — both its al fresco mezzanine cafe and enclosed restaurant — is a quintessential Cork experience, perched over the iconic English Market’s fountain. The cafe does a wide range of excellent sandwiches, hot dishes, soups, and baked desserts while the restaurant menu is largely traditional Irish farmhouse brought into the heart of the city. This is all about good ingredients, cooked well, including the local delicacy tripe and drisheen (an Irish blood pudding), alongside corned beef and spring cabbage or lamb’s liver and bacon, all with discreet contemporary twists, and a short but sharp wine list demanding proper lunching be extended late into the afternoon. [$ - $$]

The al fresco mezzanine cafe
Darren McLoughlin

The Chocolate Shop

Centre, Cork
Co. Cork, Ireland

Ireland’s very first specialty chocolate shop was established 19 years ago by husband-and-wife team Niall and Rosemary Daly. In the wake of Niall’s tragic passing several years ago, Rosemary has continued to run what remains the very best chocolate emporium in the country, offering premium chocolate and confectionery from many suppliers, including all the major Irish artisan producers and bean-to-bar manufacturers. The crowning glory is the excellent selection of fine single-origin chocolates from around the globe. [$]

Chocolate-dipped oranges
Darren McLoughlin

My Goodness

Unit 2 English Market, Princes St, Centre, Cork
T12 W9XP, Ireland

Virginia O’Gara is a force of nature. Along with husband Donal, the Texan-turned-Corkonian has led the vegan revolution in Cork and, by extension — when they take to the music festival circuit — Ireland. If the sustainability of veganism can sometimes be questionable because of a huge dependence on monoculture crops from around the globe (smashed avocado on sourdough, anyone?), O’Gara continually offers local alternatives in her always-creative culinary caperings. Exquisite kombuchas and kefirs use rainwater from their own gathering and filtration systems, her colossal krauts are made using local cabbages and root vegetables, and her vegan nachos make meat-eaters instant converts. [$]

The My Goodness stand inside English Market
Darren McLoughlin

The English Market

Princes St, Centre
Cork, Ireland

The hallowed halls of this glorious covered market have been serving the people of Cork for centuries and are the envy of the entire country of Ireland, viewed with equal admiration by the multitudes of tourists who pass through each day. Still a daily functioning market, shoppers are supplied with the finest Irish beef, lamb, pork, and seafood along with a trove of world-class Irish Farmhouse cheeses, breads, charcuterie, fruit, vegetables, and other delicatessen specialties from home and abroad — and that’s barely the half of it. [$ - $$]

Rows of stalls at The English Market
Darren McLoughlin

Crawford Gallery Cafe

Crawford Art Gallery, 1 Emmet Place, Centre
Cork, Ireland

One of the nicest dining rooms in the country, this is an oasis of serenity in the heart of Cork city in one of the country’s major galleries. The lunch menu remains an immaculate reimagining of the culinary ethos of the doyenne of Irish food, Myrtle Allen, who first opened it as a cafe some 30-odd years ago. The decidedly homey and traditional fare — including eggy quiches, roasted bone marrow, devilled kidneys, and home-baked cakes — nonetheless does not seem remotely out of place in these grand surroundings, but cooking like this is an art form in itself. [$$]

Lamp chops
Crawford Gallery Cafe [Official Photo]

Good Day Deli

Nano Nagle Place, Douglas St, Centre, Cork, Co. Cork
T12 PXV1, Ireland

Clare Condon and her Pacific Cook Islander husband, Kristin Makirere, offer elegant dishes in this gorgeous glass cube secreted away in a little inner-city oasis. Their ethos of sustainability (embracing local, seasonal, organic, and fair-trade foods) is divinely delivered in creative dishes such as hibiscus-poached pear with coconut mascarpone on buttermilk pancakes; or tea-smoked beetroot with sauteed kale, poached eggs, and hazelnut dukkah. Scant seafood elements in a primarily vegetarian/vegan menu — like the Kai Moana fish tacos, battered hake in Irish grown-and-produced corn tortillas — might tempt vegetarians to fall off the wagon. [$]

Good Day Deli on the grounds of Nano Nagle Place
Darren McLoughlin


19 George's Quay, Ballintemple
Cork, Ireland

In a city chock-full of fine coffee houses and a county with the best roasting scene in Ireland, Filter is Cork’s epicenter for serious coffee drinkers. Assembled from recycled materials, it sports the clean, spare lines of a lab with none of the sterility, and an extensive array of coffee-related kit. Filter carries an impressive range of beans from top Irish roasters to titillate the obsessives yet functions equally well as a coffeehouse for the general public. Partner-proprietors Eoin McCarthy and Alex O’Callaghan have established an off-site bakery, supplying the shop (and other coffeehouses) with an inventive range of confections and baked goods. [$]

Espresso tonic
Alex Bruce

Izz Cafe

14 George's Quay, Ballintemple, Cork
T12 EY24, Ireland

A couple of years ago, Palestinian couple Izz and Eman Alkerajah and their children were entangled in Ireland’s asylum-seeker system when they began selling Eman’s traditional recipes from a tiny farmer’s market stall. Success was immediate and — asylum status now granted and full Irish citizenship in the pipeline — a year later they established a brick-and-mortar presence in Cork city, centered around their menu of manaeesh, or Palestinian flatbreads. Try the version with chicken, sweet braised red onions, and pine nuts, with sumac and olive oil for seasoning. The mixed plate of dips, pickles, and tabbouleh is highly recommended, in particular for the makdous, a baby aubergine that’s steamed, then stuffed with walnuts, garlic, and chile and left to “pickle” in olive oil for up to two weeks. Eman’s exquisite desserts range from traditional warbat — syrup-drenched phyllo filled with custard — to the utterly nontraditional cinnamon roll. [$]

A variety of mana’eesh
Izz Cafe [Official Photo]

Da Mirco Osteria

4 Bridge St, Montenotte, Cork, Co. Cork
T23 H10E, Ireland

Arriving in Cork from Italy as a teenager, fresh out of catering college, Mirco Fondrini served a 14-year apprenticeship in the English Market’s Farmgate before finally opening Da Mirco, where his impeccable hospitality does more for the ambience than any decor ever could. Food is as it should be in any osteria: homey, hearty, and complemented by a cracking Italian wine list and some good Irish craft beers. The menu ranges from fish to house-made pastas to bites like the pillow-soft focaccia with speck, olives, and salame Valtellinese from near his Italian home village. For dessert, chocolate salami with cream never fails. [$$]

Handmade pasta
Da Mirco Osteria [Official Photo]

Cork Coffee Roasters

2 Bridge St, Victorian Quarter
Cork, Ireland

Cork Coffee Roasters supremo John Gowan is the godfather of the city’s modern coffee scene. Here the coffee is rock-solid and pastries are thoughtfully chosen, but there is equal pleasure to be derived from the ambience in this tiny space that evokes the cluttered wooden intimacy of a Nantucket whaler’s cabin. Situated at one of the city’s major confluences, it affords a perfect post for watching people and the day go by. [$]

A cappuccino served in a branded mug
Darren McLoughlin


128 Oliver Plunkett St, Centre, Cork
T12 X5P8, Ireland

This comparatively new arrival already promises great things, with head chef and co-owner Aisling Moore and executive chef Stephen Kehoe on board with the “seacuterie” trend, or the nose-to-tail consumption of fish. In one dish, sardines are seared and devilled; head, spine, and tail are deep-fried and served with togarashi to create another course. Crab, langoustines, and scallops are simply grilled to yield sweet-salty hits of marine umami. Less popular species such as megrim and pollock are equally celebrated alongside more traditional favorites, and all can be paired with craft beers from sister restaurant Elbow Lane’s microbrewery across the street. [$$ - $$$]

A fish-centric dish at Goldie
Goldie [Official Photo]


48 MacCurtain Street, Victorian Quarter, Cork
T23 F104, Ireland

The glittering steampunk outfit — all brass, glass, and twinkling lights — is appropriate for this opulent 19th-century space in the city’s Victorian Quarter. Equal attention is paid to a seasonal cocktail menu that’s focused on foraged wild ingredients and spirits from local producers, yielding drinks such as the Rosehip (Connemara Irish whiskey, fig leaf, rosehip), the Pear (Bán Poitín, pear, white port, champagne), and the Wood Sorrel (Glendalough Autumn Gin, Banyuls, wood sorrel). The food menu stretches from bites to full dinners, including soft-shell tacos with herring, anchovies, avocado, black beans, and sweetcorn salsa; and Ballyhoura wild mushrooms, smoked sausage, and scamorza cheese. [$$]

The bar at Cask
Darren McLoughlin

Elbow Lane Brew and Smoke House

4 Oliver Plunkett St, Centre, Cork
T12 YH24, Ireland

The awkward, narrow little room that makes up Elbow Lane is dominated by an open kitchen with a roaring wood-fired grill. It is here, under the guiding hand of executive chef Stephen Kehoe, chef Harrison Sharpe serves the likes of a starter of sunchokes with hazelnuts in a port-and-coffee sauce, while tasty mains include monkfish with lamb bacon, parsnip crisp, and tomato and horseradish salsa. From the grill, there’s pork neck with rhubarb chutney and Angelica-spiced watercress. A flight of Elbow Lane’s own draught beers makes for nice liquid companionship. [$$]

Bread, roasted blue cheese, lambic-soaked pomegranates

Sonny's Deli

3 Albert Rd, Marina Terrace, Ballintemple, Cork City
Co. Cork, Ireland

Sited in a 19th-century artisan’s dwelling, in the city’s former Jewish quarter, Rachel McCormack and Jack Sonny Murphy’s tiny little deli punches way above its weight. With an eye to its location and heritage, McCormack employs an old Ashkenazi Jewish recipe for a 10-day salting and spicing of beef for the impeccable Reuben; their banh mi is a tribute to the Vietnamese classic; creative salads include broccoli with mustard dressing and oat and sesame brittle; while wickedly popular salted caramel and walnut banana bread pairs well with excellent coffees from star local roasters Golden Bean. [$]

Outside Sonny’s Deli
Darren McLoughlin

Sage Midleton

The Courtyard, Main St, Midleton
Co. Cork, Ireland

With a zealot’s commitment to the locavore philosophy, produce for chef-owner Kevin Aherne’s 12-Mile Menu is entirely sourced from within that self-enforced boundary. Just 20 minutes from Cork city by local commuter train, Sage has justly achieved international renown but seasonality means superb producers rather than specific dishes remain the constants on a menu of always innovative, always superbly cooked food. The Greenroom and the Courtyard offer in-house casual dining alternatives, and while in the market town of Midleton, also squeeze in the Jameson Distillery, just down the street. [$$]

Sage [Official Photo]
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