Smithfield is like walking into a real life reminder of everything that was bad about the Celtic Tiger. It is a mixture of bad city planning and ill thought out spaces in one of the best parts of the city. I lived there for 2 years in about 2007 and I really couldn’t have picked a worse place to rest my head because the whole place reeked of a failed project that everybody had given up on. The money had dried up as quickly as the cement on the empty apartments around the square.
Dublin is clearly being re-born at the moment and when any city rises the first thing you’ll notice are quirky bars, cafés and restaurants. On the flip side I remember a pub opened in Smithfield Square belonging to the Thomas Reed Group purchased on an expensive lease back in 2007 at the height of the boom. It was the sort of soulless shithole with no identity that symbolised the boom and this area in particular.
Smithfield has never really recovered but there are signs it could be about to now. Nearby Stoneybatter is one of the trendiest new spots to live in Dublin. Closer to town both sides of the river are being developed with ambitious plans. Even in Smithfield there are a bunch of new restaurants and cafés with the always trendy Joe Macken choosing this location to open a Jo Burger. Another place adding gravitas to the area is My Meat Wagon.
I sort of groaned when I heard that there was another BBQ joint in the city and a look at the menu showed all the same stuff as Pitt Bros and Bison but this place was buzzing when I walked in. So much so that I sat outside so as I could avoid a wait for a table. My only gripe was that the drinks were served in jam jars with handles. In a decades time we’ll look back at this hipster trend and realise how stupid we all were and banish our mistake to the same place we sent previous stupid trends like fondue parties and champagne mojitos. There is absolutely nothing wrong with serving a drink in a glass. It has worked for decades and jam jars are for fucking jam. End of.
The food was super tasty. I’d even go as far as saying it was whopper. You can get it served in either bread, a box or on a board (which I presume is like a plate). I went for the box because I was in a hurry and ordered chicken with beans and mash. The chicken was moist, smokey and off the charts good. I’ve never really had good mash when eating out but this was the business and with the rich smokey beans thrown in with it I was in heaven. This is proper comfort food and with the whole meal including a Coke coming to 13 Euros I felt it was an absolute steal. Serious effort goes into cooking food this good and I nearly thought they were a bit cheap.
While I was sitting there a couple of Yanks came out with takeaway boxes and they said in a thick Southern drawl “I can’t believe we came to Ireland and had BBQ”. I wouldn’t have been proud of those 2 yanks eating our food 6-7 years ago but the fact that they’d drunkenly stumbled into a BBQ joint with great food that they declared “the best burger they’d ever had” (I should mention they were shitfaced which may have clouded their judgement!) means our city is getting better. Smithfield still has a long way to go and the buildings are horrendous in their layout and design but it could just be on the up again and on track to fulfill the potential it has always help.