The Italian American Style Neighbourhood Cafe Off Ballsbridge
After doing a piece on the best places to go for a cup of coffee near the web summit someone mentioned that this cafe should have been on the list. Having never heard of the place before I immediately checked out their Facebook page and after a good 10 minutes of food porn I decided to go there the following day for lunch.
Maia is tucked away on Shelbourne Road just off the bridge and definitely has an Italian American vibe to it. Once you go in the door you notice the cheery vibe, helpful staff and relaxed atmosphere. I plonked myself down on a seat opposite a board listing the most delicious sounding fresh juices, I had to will myself not to order a beetroot juice as I'd been drinking so much of it lately I was worried I'd turn into a beetroot. The menu had some great options including Italian classics like pastas and pizza, and New American style exciting burgers and salads that all sounded delicious and hearty. Despite being tempted by a meatball and polenta special and a chicken burger that sounded mouth-wateringly good, I went for one of their chicken salads as I wasn't hugely hungry. The service was really fast which is great to know if you're going for a work lunch during the week.
The chicken salad with curried chickpeas and mint yoghurt dressing was colossal, if you are the type of person who thinks salads are rabbit food then fear not. The chicken was delicious, it was freshly roasted and looked like it was pulled off the bone which was a welcome change to the tough pieces of chopped up chicken breast that cafes ad restaurants often use for salads. The lightly curried chickpeas and mint yoghurt sauce was divine too, it was really satisfying and tasted like a total treat despite being really healthy. If you go to the gym a lot then this would be the perfect protein packed dish to power you through a post-work workout. Despite choosing the salad because I thought it would be light and I wasn't really hungry (blame all the delicious free Foods of Athenry biscuits and Glenilen panncotta at the Web Summit) I could only eat half, so I took the rest away with me for dinner that night which I never do! The portions were so huge it literally fed me for two meals.
I really liked Maia and if I was to go back I'd definitely try one of their pasta or pizza dishes. Their brunch is apparently top class too so it might make a nice weekend spot after a walk in Herbert Park. Either way it's a good excuse to head over to Ballsbridge!