Archive for October, 2011

No blues here

Presidential election day. Cynical timing by the Government to hold it on a Thursday, effectively disenfranchising thousands of students and closing a massive number of primary schools. How is deliberately disenfranchising young voters meant to restore confidence in the efficacy of politics?

One positive consequence, however, was that the young lad was free to join me in the latest episode of the gentle eatforafiver extravaganza. As soon as I mentioned it to him, he chose the venue: Burritos and Blues on Wexford Street.

Burritos and Blues, Wexford Street

I’ve eaten here before – twice – following a suggestion by the older lad who had fed himself there several times following late nights in the nearby Palace nightclub. Having (once or twice) visited late night eating establishments myself, following evenings spent in various hostelries, I understand how late night eating can seem to be quite a different experience from normal eating. So I initially took the older lad’s initial recommendation with a pinch of salt but changed my mind after my first visit. It is indeed a good place to eat.

Burritos and Blues has three branches (I think. The website is not too clear, or up to date): one in Wexford Street, one in Stephen Street and one in the IFSC, near the National College of Ireland. The Wexford Street branch is small but brightly decorated with seats inside for about 24 or so and two tables outside. It also has a counter in the middle on which I suppose you could lean, if necessary.

There’s a big poster behind where they make up the burritos which explains the permutations and alternatives. But it’s easier just to ask. And then it’s entertaining to watch.

The menu (click to embiggen cromulently)

One of the things I’ve liked about Burritos and Blues on each visit has been the good humour and pleasantness of the staff. You’re invariably met with a smile and your questions are answered with good grace and humour.

We both chose to have burritos, the young lad getting the student option (€5) while I chose the Diet Burrito (€4.15). The burritos are made in front of you and you choose between certain options. The tortilla wrap is placed on the counter and you choose between two bean paste options. Rice goes on next and then you have a choice between minced beef and chicken. The young lad went for beef and I chose chicken. The wrap is then passed to the next server who adds a salsa. There’s a choice of 4 different strengths, from mild to ouch. The young lad went for number 2 and I, for the hell of it, opted for number 4. Grated cheese, lettuce and chopped tomato are added and the burrito is quickly and expertly rolled up and placed in foil.

We asked for glasses of water, paid and took our seats. It being the end of October, the young lad chose to sit outside.

The restaurant was pretty full at lunchtime. Mostly students, at a guess (DIT is very close) with a fair smattering of besuited blokes also. Not many women, now that I think of it.

So, the burritos –

The young lad tucking in to his student burrito

My diet burrito

I asked the young lad was he enjoying his. ‘Hell, yeah’, was the response, which I took as a positive. He couldn’t quite finish it and I had a bite of the left-overs. It was tasty with no part of it dominating any of the other parts. It kind of feels healthy too, for some reason.

Mine was hot and I don’t think I’d go for salsa number 4 again. It was quite overpowering and somewhat eye-watering. I could still taste the other components but only just. At a previous visit i opted for salsa number three which is hot enough and complementary rather than dominant. The diet burrito was filling, though, and excellent value for €4.15.

I’m not averse to a burger when I have the hunger but this is a tasty and far more interesting alternative and it feels a lot healthier. I’ve looked at the prices in some of the other burrito joints in town and Burritos and Blues is the only one that has food for a fiver or less. Fair play to them. I’ll return, probably frequently.

The damage:

Stuffed x 2 for €9.15. Result!

 

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Falafel in the park

I was in two minds as to whether to blog about this but, what the hell, it’s my blog and I can do what I like.

The ‘Village Market’ phenomenon seems to have grown. Quite why they term it ‘village’ escapes me. Essentially, from what I can see, the company behind the initiative has managed to rent a number of sites around the city and offers pitches to what seem to be termed ‘pop-up stalls’ selling food. Visit their website if you want to know more.

At lunchtime today, I decided I’d nip into town and try one out. The easiest one to get to, where I knew there’d be parking, was Fitzwilliam Square. A long time ago, I used to work in a basement on Fitzwilliam Square. Nice place to work except, in those days, one had to spend a little time in the morning sweeping up used condoms from outside the basement door following the previous evening’s transactions.

The landlord of the building I worked in had a key for the gate to the actual square but I never managed to get hold of it, so today was the first time I ever set foot inside the railings.

The ‘market‘ is located at one end, comprising about (I didn’t count them) 10 food stalls offering a variety of foods: paella, burgers, falafel, noodles and other oriental dishes, pork on a spit, salads, Mediterranean dishes, cupcakes and coffee.

Some of the pop-up stalls

One of my eatforafiver criteria is that you have to be able to sit or perch somewhere. If you get to the park early enough, I suppose you can grab one of the park benches. Otherwise you sit on …

... the grass.

Like these people here:

Lunchers

Naively, I had thought that my fiver would give me a fair amount of choice here. Not so. Most offerings came in somewhere between €6 and €8. Disappointing. Very disappointing. For a fiver, I could have got 3 cup cakes, a ‘small’ serving of chilli something, some penne pasta with shavings of parmesan, ‘Singapore’ fried rice (fried rice with precious little Singapore as far as I could see) or a Mediterranean salad.

I had none of those. I went for a falafel wrap.

Bingo

I made my order and a man whisked it up in about 20 seconds. Whoosh. A wrap, a good covering of hummus, some chopped tomatoes, lettuce, a squirt of chilli sauce, three slightly crushed falafels, rolled efficiently, inserted in a bit of paper and presented to me with a smile. Well, sort of a smile.

The stalls were busy, with the biggest queues at the hamburger stall, the chilli stall and a stall offering tandoori chicken in a naan wrap. The customers were mixed. Some suits, business skirts and tasteful make-up but a fair scattering of students too. There was some live music – a young woman with a guitar singing tunefully.

I ate my wrap wandering around. I’d almost finished before I remembered to take a photo of it.

My wrap

I wouldn’t normally write about a wrap. This was a pretty substantial wrap though. It’s now about 7pm and I’m still not hungry. The best falafel meal I ever has was in the Marlay Park market one Saturday. A pitta bread absolutely stuffed with salad, sauces, pickled chillis and Falafel – oozing with scrumptiousness. This one was a pale-ish imitation but it was tasty, to be fair.

I left soon after. Slightly disappointed. I probably shouldn’t have been. I mean, I could probably have stuffed myself for €7 but I just expected a greater selection of offerings for my fiver.

 

Old Town Café

Aaaand … we’re back. Holidays and real life took over for a while but the quest for good value eats resumes here.

We used to live just off Clanbrassil Street and I used to work on Montague Street so the Camden Street/ Wexford Street area is familiar territory. It’s changed hugely since then but it still retains some of its atmosphere with its vegetable stalls, small butchers, Go West clothes shop and Travel World, an excellent travel agent that has served us very well over the years. Devitt’s pub on the corner of Camden Street and Pleasants Street used to be called the Cusack Stand and was one of our firm favourites.

The area now caters for a massive nightclub crowd at the weekends, drawn to The Palace, (situated in an old cinema building where bits of The Commitments was shot in the very early 1990s) and a few late night eateries have opened there recently. I’ll write about Burritos and Blues in a later post as it does a slimmed down burrito for under a fiver.

I was driving down Wexford Street recently and the words ‘noodle box’ caught my attention. I just had that feeling, looking at the outside, that it might be somewhere worth exploring for this blog.

Two of my customary dining companions weren’t available. The big lad’s in Britain taking a Masters in Physiotherapy and the young lad was taking part in some high-end karate training session. The young lad is pretty good at the karate. A few weekends back he was part of the Irish squad at the JKS World Karate Championships in Edinburgh where he performed very well.

The spouse, happily and fortunately, was in town shopping and agreed to eatforafiver with me.

The Old Town Café Noodle Box is located half way down Wexford Street on the left as you’re going into Town. It’s surprisingly big inside, with about seven or eight 2-person tables on the left and tables for larger groups on the right. The kitchen area is at the back. The restaurant is clean, roomy and plainly decorated.

There’s a menu in the window, more in a leaflet holder just inside the door and others scattered around the tables. The menu is divided into four sections: Old Town Regular Boxes (noodle dishes), Old Town Rice Boxes, Old Town Malaysian Boxes and, oddly, Old Town Italian Boxes.

Prices range from €5 for some of the noodle boxes to €7.50 for some of the Malaysian meals. There are also some bits and pieces for under a fiver as you’ll see from the menu (for the full menu, click > here).

The spouse opted for the Lo Hon Box, comprising ‘thin egg noodles, tofu and Asian vegetables, wok tossed in special soy sauce’. I went for the Teriyaki Chicken Box, ‘thick egg noodles, chicken, prawn and Asian vegetables tossed in our teriyaki sauce’.

You order at the kitchen counter and, if you’re eating in, take your preferred table. I forgot to mention that it’s also a take-away.

We ordered, paid over the tenner to the nice man behind the counter, sat down and waited. The food didn’t take long. Contrary to the name of the restaurant, the food comes in bowls, on a tray, with chopsticks (not the disposable ones), a fork and a serviette.

The spouse’s food came first:

The spouse's Lo Hon Box

It was steamy hot. The spouse tucked in with gusto and gave it the thumbs up. It was nicely flavoured, with cucumber, broccoli, baby corn, tofu and onion, and a good heap of noodles, as you can see.

My Teriyaki Chicken box came soon after:

My Teriyaki Chicken Box

Thicker noodles, three or four big prawns and plenty of thin slices of chicken. The sauce had the sweetness of teriyaki but ‘teriyaki-flavoured’ might have been a more accurate description and it was a little salty for my taste.

That being said, I’m not complaining. It was a good wholesome feed for a fiver and there’s plenty more on the menu to bring me back, outside the budgetary constraints of this blog. It was also nice to eat with substantial chopsticks.

So, if you’re in Wexford Street and you’re a bit peckish for Oriental food, I’d say ‘go for it’. Good value, clean premises, friendly service. What more could you ask for?

 

 

 

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