Eat, Drink, and Be Merry - Eating Ins and Outs - Part 1
Update: 20-May 2016
Before I talk about the restaurants of Galway, we need to talk about Irish restaurants in general. Restaurants in Ireland are not too different from restaurants in North America, but they do have some differences around service, paying, and tipping.
As in the rest of Europe, the service in Ireland is mostly leisurely. If you just want to sit and eat and leave quickly, get take-away (take out). If you are at a restaurant, you are there to talk and interact. You will generally seat yourself, and a waiter or waitress will be with you shortly, but not necessarily quickly. You may get asked: “how are you doing?” several times during your meal. The waiter is looking for a clue about when to proceed to the next service step. If you need a menu, then ask for the menu; ready to order, then say so; want your check, then ask for it. I've only exaggerated slightly.
In Ireland, one generally doesn’t tip unless it is “table cloth dining”, and then the suggested tip is 10%. Generally, this generally means that you “own” the table for the night. You want to sip coffee for an hour after dinner? … fine, no pressure.
In general the wait staff at most restaurants is team style. You won't necessarily a single waiter or waitress and if you need something you can generally ask any of the staff.
When it comes to paying, you will generally have to ask for the check. In the more informal and smaller restaurants; you just walk up to register and ask to clear the check. Sometimes you pay at the table, but normally only at high-end restaurants. Not sure? Then ask. If you pay at the table then the waiter will bring the Credit Card machine to your table. Most restaurants take CC’s, but several times I’ve had to come up with cash to pay the check since “the CC machine is not working”. In pubs, you can pay for your alcoholic drinks with cash at the bar, or you can put the drinks on your dinner check; you will see both.
Typical Restaurant Till
There are several types of restaurants in Ireland: Pub, Irish, Italian, Mediterranean, India, Chinese,...Fish, Beef ..... We tend to stick with Pub, Irish, Italian, and Mediterranean food. The Indian food is very popular. I’ve had Chinese food that was pretty good. In addition there are the usual fast food restaurants with Burger King and KFC dominating, but Ireland does have McDonalds. Supermac’s is an Irish fast food chain that is a cross between Dairy Queen and McDonald’s with pizza in the mix. Supermac’s owns the Papa John’s franchise in Ireland.
In the small towns, you will find “Chippers” that serve fish, chips (French fries) and other fried foods. The chips come with the usual catsup and vinegar, but also can be ordered with curry and other sauces.
When you order drinks, there are a few things to keep in mind.
If you are finicky about your coffee, you will need to check that you are not getting instant. When ordering decaf this may be the case even if you see an espresso machine. If you like drip coffee, but not Americano, then you will need to ask. Most “coffee” is Americano. Drip coffee is often referred to as filtered coffee in Ireland. If you ask for cream with your coffee, you will get whipped cream. You really want milk (where the l is pronounced). It is almost always "full fat", so it is close enough to American cream. In general, the Irish don't do "creamers" or artificial "stuff".
You will need to ask for water. If you drink a lot of water, then ask for a “jug”. You can also get bottled water, still and sparkling. The restaurant may or may not have ice. You can obviously order hot tea, sometimes there are several to choose from, but iced tea is usually not available. Artificial Sweeteners are not universally available, so if you need these then bring your own.
If you are looking for a restaurant, ask your host, or the hotel desk clerk. If this doesn’t work out, and you don’t have a suggestion from me ;-), then try Trip Advisor or their App. Trip Advisor is used extensively throughout Europe, and I have had excellent results looking for restaurants.