Happy St. Patrick’s Day! Today, I’m taking a stroll down memory lane to the time I visited Dublin, Ireland for a day.
It was February 2016. I was a grad student studying in London, and flights to Dublin were cheap. Four years later, two memories still stand out to me: (1) the overwhelming beauty of Trinity College Library and (2) the moreish lunch I ate that day.
On a day trip, you might have only one major meal at your destination, and you have to make it count. Breakfast is often hastily eaten on the road or in the airport, and dinner plans depend on your flight schedule. This makes lunch the most important meal of any one-day trip. The Boxty House gave me the perfect lunch experience and the perfect first taste of Ireland.
As with anywhere I travel, my goal is to try the food that represents the city. Ireland is generally known for its potatoes, cabbage, and Irish stew. Nothing about those prospects excited me. I came to Dublin with the expectation that I’d try some Irish stew, have a pint of Guinness, and go home.
Instead, I tried boxty for the first time, and it changed the way I think about Irish food.
What is boxty?
Boxty is a traditional Irish potato pancake. It’s usually made from grated raw potato and mashed potato mixed with flour and milk to make a batter. The texture and thickness are somewhere between an American pancake and a French crepe. The boxty pancake is wrapped around a delicious hefty filling and covered with a sauce.
I didn’t know any of this when I walked into The Boxty House. All I knew was that “boxty” was an odd-sounding word, one I had never heard before.
The Boxty House
Pádraic Óg Gallagher started The Boxty House in 1989. It’s in the heart of Temple Bar, the neighborhood of Dublin most popular with tourists. They serve the 3 types of boxty found in border counties of Leitrim, Cavan, and Fermanagh: pancake, boiled dumplings, and baked in the oven.
The chef, restaurateur, and potato expert behind The Boxty House, Pádraic Óg Gallagher has had a lifelong love of Irish cuisine. His undergraduate thesis was titled “Origins and Peculiarities of the Boxty.” He has published several papers on Irish food, including “The Potato in Irish Cuisine and Culture” and “Irish Corned Beef: A Culinary History.” A self-described potato enthusiast, Gallagher is passionate about using natural ingredients and carefully selected artisan food products from Ireland.
In recent years, boxty has become more well known among tourists and in restaurants outside Ireland. Back then, I had no expectations for a food I had never even heard of.
What does boxty taste like?
My friend and I shared the Gaelic boxty and the corned beef boxty. The Gaelic boxty is stuffed with beef medallions, Irish whiskey, doused in a mushroom cream sauce. The corned beef boxty is stuffed with… well, corned beef, plus cabbage and kale, covered in a parsley sauce.
Irish beef, whiskey, and a mushroom cream sauce are a winning combination, but as it turns out, I actually liked the corned beef boxty more.. Both were rich, filling, and comforting, but the saltiness of the corned beef hit the spot for me. The boxty was fluffy (just look at those air bubbles) and challenged my expectations of what an Irish potato can do, besides being mashed, roasted, or fried. Even the side salads were good and offered a nice counterpoint to the hearty boxty and filling.
I washed it all down with a Guinness Dublin porter.
Our waitress was great, too; she suggested a few highlights for us to hit on our day trip and gave us directions to the major sights. My experience at The Boxty House was a perfect lunch on a rainy, gloomy Irish day—comforting, satisfying, and warm in both food and hospitality. The lunch menu is affordable and filling. It warmed me up from the inside and fueled the rest of our sightseeing without breaking the bank.
The evolution of The Boxty House
I visited The Boxty House four years ago, back in 2016. Since then, Gallagher’s Boxty House has become even more famous. Their menu has changed, too. One such change is the introduction of new “boxty fries,” strips of lightly fried boxty pancake. They also have a boxty ice cream on the dessert menu, which sounds curious.
If you haven’t had your fill of boxty yet, they also offer a boxty tasting platter. Showcasing all the various forms of potato—boxty loaf with goat cheese, boxty fries with garlic dip, and boxty dumplings—The Boxty House pays respects to its Irish heritage and embodies their ethos: “the humble spud, made beautiful.”
Want to try your hand at making your own boxty? Find Pádraic Óg Gallagher’s boxty recipe here. While you’re there, you can also read the article I wrote for The Culinary Travel Guide, ”London for Foodies: An Eater’s Guide for First-Time Visitors.”
A few of my favorite cheap eats in London that fit a grad student’s budget.
When thinking of Scottish food, you think haggis. But the food scene in Edinburgh has so much more to offer.
Is it “American” food? New York American, or comfort food American? Is the cuisine Asian, or “Asian-inspired”? And what about that fried chicken?
You can’t beat Buck a Shuck weekday happy hour at The White Horse in Edinburgh, where the oysters are a crowning achievement.