A restaurant reviewer's best friends are the ones who can make themselves available and work up an appetite at the drop of a hat. Your mates who have kids are no good --either the babysitter lets them down, or they arrive after the bairns have gone to bed and go home early. The only friends worse than friends with kids are friends who are in the hot, early grip of romance.
Truth be told, my best friend when it comes to reviewing is The Cartoonist. He's single, he's hungry and he eats what he's told. I call him up, ask him to come on a review and he's with me as soon as he's done buffing Roberta's saddle. Or at least that's how it was until Irish Rail started meddling in my affairs and I got a breathless voicemail telling me that, henceforth, he'd be unavailable to review on weekends. Now that you can take your bike on the train, himself and Roberta are off to explore the highways and by-ways of Ireland. Until, he said, they run out of road.
He only had an hour, you see, in which to dump me. So I chose Honest To Goodness -- a place I've never sat down to eat in, but every Friday afternoon I go there to buy myself a take-away Sloppy Joe, which I eat in the green room at Today FM before going on The Last Word to talk about the absurdities of news, while sucking stray pieces of meat from between my teeth.
But anyway, there I am -- sitting down on a Tuesday, in a place I usually stand on a Friday -- it's four days into the new year and I'm being jilted for a bicycle. It occurs to me that food is my one true friend, so I order as much of it as will fit on the table. I've only ever eaten the Sloppy Joe (why? Because that's the special on a Friday, it's bloody amazing, and it costs a fiver). But now with a whole menu before me, I see that monogamy doesn't pay in the sandwich game. I should have tried my luck with the home-cooked ham. Or roast beef. Or Fermanagh free-range chicken.
Honest To Goodness also bakes its own breads: white, brown and tomato, focaccia, and an experimental loaf. The selection of fillings ranges from classics such as turkey club and tuna mayo to the ethnic: tandoori chicken with yoghurt dressing. Instead of a BLT, you'll find a PMT (roasted peppers, mozzarella and baked tomatoes), and for afternoon risers there's the toasted "Honest Start" breakfast sandwich with bacon, sausage, pudding, egg and relish.
I went for the Honest Club, which comes with a scoop of cous cous and salad. Made up mostly of moist turkey breast, bacon, bolstered with Swiss cheese, lettuce, tomato and punchy mustard mayo, it was delicious. I swapped half of it with The Cartoonist and got to sink my teeth into his sandwich of the day -- a cheese and onion foccaccia stuffed with smoky chorizo, gooey mozzarella and tomato relish. Another winning combination.
They always have two cauldrons of soup on the go -- one veggie, one meaty. I tried the carrot and coriander, which was surprisingly robust and earthy. The Cartoonist's chicken broth with leek was soothing.
If you're avoiding bread as part of a new-year health kick, I can recommend the salad menu. I took a Cobb salad home with me and it was a meal and a half: roast chicken, feta, a perfectly timed boiled egg and a sharp Dijon dressing. Other options include the Signature salad with bacon, roast chicken, Gorgonzola and red onion in raspberry vinaigrette; or, for veggies, warm portobello mushrooms stuffed with goat's cheese and caramelised red onion.
Before I discovered the joys of the Sloppy Joe, I avoided Honest To Goodness because I thought it was a treffpunkt for people who subsist on wheatgrass shots and righteousness. Who knew about the hangover healing all-day breakfast on a Saturday? Not I. The bottom line is this: don't be discouraged by the worthy name. They serve generous portions of tasty, unprocessed grub. They do it cheaply, efficiently and with smiles on their faces. It's enough to take the misery out of having to eat alone. Damn you, Roberta.
TYPICAL DISH: Super sandwiches
RECOMMENDED: Sloppy Joe on Friday
THE DAMAGE: €28.75 for two soups, two sandwiches, one large salad and two coffees
ON THE STEREO: Wilson Pickett
AT THE TABLE: All walks
Day & Night