Get revved up for some delicious seaside treats as we map out the finest mobile twists on takeaway favourites
A “food truck” once meant greasy burgers or fish and chips from a van on the street after a gig or a match. Not any more, as the humble truck has taken on the status of destination dining – and it’s not all down to the pandemic.
Back in 2016, Chan Hon Meng in the Chinatown area of Singapore was awarded the first Michelin star given to a food truck for his Hong Kong Sauce Chicken Rice and Noodle dish. Since then, chefs around the globe have been inspired to roll out their wares in everything from trucks and trailers to Airstreams and buses.
Now the old fish and chip van is quite likely to offer scampi and calamari, lobster rolls and mussels, while beef burgers will be high grade ‘Dirty Burgers’ on brioche buns, maybe using the much revered and expensive Japanese breed of Wagyu beef.
It’s high summer, so get your motors running and check out my edit of Ireland’s best “meals on wheels” around our magnificent coastline.
1 Cluck Chicken
Bray, Co Wicklow
The seaside town of Bray was once a major holiday destination for the English market, but all that fell away with cheap flights in the 1960s. The town still has a magnificent Victorian promenade, stretching the length of the seafront, with the imposing Bray Head as a backdrop.
I remember being taken there as a child to stay in one of the many old-style B&Bs along the seafront. It felt as if I was away somewhere exotic, and yet it was a mere 19 kilometres from Dublin. Now Bray is a vibrant town again with lots of bars, restaurants and shops.
One of the recent arrivals is the Cluck Chicken Truck at The Hibernia Bar on Bray’s seafront. Chef Ian Ussher hatched his bright yellow food truck last year in Walkinstown and it proved so successful he expanded to a permanent Cluck Yard base on Greenhills Road and rolled his truck out to Bray. The Korean wings are a winner, but you need to try the Incredible Cluck with Rings Farm free range chook, Parmesan mayo, truffle mac and cheese, and Cluck cheese sauce.
Make a day of it: Sealife on the seafront is fascinating and will have the kids squealing with excitement when they see the world’s most poisonous creature, the pufferfish, the black tip reef shark or other awesome creatures of the deep; visitsealife.com
Open Wednesday to Sunday, 2pm until sell out; Instagram @cluckchicken_truck
2 Fred & Nancy’s
Killiney Beach, Co Dublin
My fail-safe tour for visitors from abroad is a drive around my neighbourhood. I start at Seapoint’s Martello Tower, then work my way along the coast past Dún Laoghaire’s three yacht clubs. Then we cruise by the pier, with its beautiful Victorian bandstand, and continue past Joyce’s Martello Tower in Sandycove.
We head down through Bulloch Harbour, and on through Dalkey aiming for the heights of Vico Road, where views down over Sorrento Terrace and Dalkey Island are the reward.
This is “the gold coast” where stars such as Bono and wife Ali now have a handy port of call for coffee (and more) at Fred & Nancy’s Airstream on Killiney Beach.
It’s the brainchild of well-known publican/restaurateur Declan O’Regan whose portfolio includes l’Gueuleton, Drury Buildings, and Hogan’s pub. They do great sausage sambos with grilled onions, peppers ketchup and mustard, as well as Killiney clam chowder, hemp and date protein balls, and shawarma roast lamb flat breads with chili hummus and slaw.
Make a day of it: Pack your togs, drive to Killiney Hill Park and climb up and over the hill, taking the steep path down the other side to cross the Vico Road. Take the steps down to the beach for a cooling dip, before you treat yourself at Fred & Nancy’s.
Open Monday to Sunday, 7.30am-6pm; fredandnancys.com
3 Happy Out
Bull Island, Dublin
When I was 13 years old, my mother used to give me driving lessons up and down the beach at Bull Island in Clontarf in our old banger. I probably wasn’t the first or the last, but don’t even attempt it now.
There was nothing back then to eat or drink on Bull Island, just Mum’s lovely egg sambos. But in 2017 the uncle and nephew combo of Karl McCullagh and Brian Hanratty took the plunge and opened Happy Out, a Beach Boys style shipping container on Dollymount Strand.
Now there are queues of beach walkers lining up for coffee and their delicious toasties as though they were manna from heaven. With Covid, Happy Out’s menu is restricted to coffee and cakes, but they’re hoping to be back to normal service some time in the not-too-distant future.
Make a day of it: Join the cycle path from Howth or Clontarf to Bull Island to avoid the traffic, take a dip at the Ladies or Men’s Swimming Shelter before refuelling afterwards at Happy Out.
Open Sunday to Saturday 9am-5pm; Insta @happyoutcafe
4 The Cheeky Cod
The sunny southeast of Co Wexford has wonderful, making it the perfect place for staycationers, while the Viking town of Wexford has narrow winding streets packed with shops, restaurants, cafes and bars.
One of its most popular restaurants is Paul and Edwina Hynes’ La Côte Seafood Restaurant, which lends a French feel to the Custom House Quay where it stands.
The pandemic has prompted the siblings to set up a terrific food truck, The Cheeky Cod, which has been wowing customers. Set just across the road from the restaurant, you can now enjoy Paul’s monkfish curry with sesame scented rice, along with Thai spiced fish rissoles, Kilmore hake with tartare sauce and hand-cut chips and more.
Make a day of it: Take a jaunt to Hook Head to see the 800-year-old lighthouse where monks first lit fires as beacons to warn ships off the dangerous rocks – tours are currently outdoors only, due to Covid – then go fossil-hunting on the headland.
Open Tuesday to Sunday 12.30pm-8pm; Instagram @thecheekycod
5 Niamh’s Larder
Ballybranigan, East Cork
As my Twitter followers know, east Cork has long been one of my favourite destinations for a break – I like to stay at the Garryvoe Hotel for the best Dublin Bay prawn scampi in the country.
But for holidaymakers, it’s the choice of beaches along this shoreline that is the draw — with Youghal, Garretstown, Ballybranigan and more, lining the coast along the way to the golden sands of Barleycove in west Cork.
At Ballybranigan, 20km from Garryvoe, local Niamh Hegarty has perched her Niamh’s Larder truck on the cliffs above the beach.For the last year, she has been selling cracking sambos, pastries, and picnic boxes to walkers and beachgoers — she also welcomes four-footed friends.
Make a day of it: Visit the Titanic experience in Cobh where the last passengers boarded for that fateful voyage; titanicexperiencecobh.ie.
Open Friday 11am-6 pm, Saturday/Sunday 10am-5pm; Insta @niamhs_larder
In summer, Cork yachties flood into pretty Baltimore, where after a day’s sailing they can enjoy a first-class meal at Ahmet Dede’s eponymous Michelin starred restaurant. In fact, the coastline of west Cork is a paradise for food lovers.
But if you’re after something more casual, local Alan Shannon and fellow chef Kieran Coughlan serve up fresh fish and chips, steak baguettes, chicken curry and so on, in their sleek Thyme2eat van.
Make a day of it: Visit nearby Lough Hyne, a seawater lake, where twice a day tidal rapids rush through a narrow channel known as the Rapids. Or take a 10-minute ferry ride across to Sherkin Island from Baltimore to take for a dip at Silver Strand, followed by a pint at the Jolly Roger.
Pre-order from Thyme2eat by phoning Alan or Kieran (086 3227150/086 6622219) or visit them on The Pier in Baltimore, Durrus, Ballydehob… but check their Instagram for locations.
Dingle was brought to the world’s attention when David Lean chose it as the location to film his 1970 Academy award winner with mega stars of the day Robert Mitchum, Trevor Howard, John Mills and Sarah Miles.
Not too long after that, another star emerged – Fungie the Dolphin, who delighted locals and visitors for almost 40 years, until his disappearance last year.
These days Dingle town is a vibrant spot full of good restaurants and shops with a unique charm. If you fancy some Mexican Food, west Kerry-style, beat a path to Chef Louise Brosnan’s Mex West truck in the yard of Paddy Bawn Brosnan’s pub.
You’ll find a BLT burrito or, if you’re looking for more substantial grub, choose the whopping steak tostada with a griddled egg on top.
Take to the waters of Dingle for a half-day supfari – stand-up paddle boarding safari – with . Or walk the beautiful Coumeenoole Beach, which is also in .
8 Julia’s Lobster Truck
I remember asking some Canadian golfing friends who were visiting Clare how they found the narrow roads. “They’re just what we want,” they told me. “We don’t want motorways, we have them at home, we like to amble along and see the scenery.”
In the past four years or so, the wild beauty of Clare has also attracted lots of young people from the food industry. The result is a burgeoning of wonderful food shops and cafes – such as This is It and Pot Duggans in Ennistymon, Hugo’s and the longer-standing Randaddy’s in the surfers’ paradise of Lahinch.
And also Julia Hemingway’s smashing Lobster Truck, which has been trundling the roads of Clare for a couple of years now with tasty barbecued lobster, lobster rolls, scampi or mussels with chips, and more.
Make a day of it: Go underground in the Burren to see the weirdly wonderful Aillwee Caves, with bridged chasms, waterfalls and the bones of the extinct brown bear; aillweecave.com
Open Fridays/Saturdays: Daly’s Bar Bell Harbour 4pm-8pm; Sundays: Burren Food & Wine, Ballyvaughan, 2pm-5pm; Insta @juliaslobstertruck
9 Misunderstood Heron
Leenane, Co Galway
Kim and Reinaldo Young opened their Misunderstood Heron in the spectacular shores of Killary Fjord in 2017. Two years later, they were featured among Lonely Planet’s Top 80 Food Trucks in the world. Suddenly, they were no longer a pit stop, they were a destination.
Reinaldo grew up in South America where family asados (barbecues) served up lots of different cuts of meat and of course wine. So, with a new Santa Maria style traditional grill for 2021, he’s firing up the real thing for a South American BBQ season.
Coupled with mussels and fish from Killary Fjord, cooked in their own distinctive style, with a great outdoor seating area and unparalleled views, this is a must.
Make a day of it: Test your nerve with a day (or half day) of gorge jumping, plunging in river pools, splashing your way along a waterfall, and finishing up with a leap in the Atlantic; killaryadventure.com.
Open Thursday to Sunday 11am – 5pm. Main food 12pm-4.45pm; Insta @misunderstood_heron
Teelin Pier, Co Donegal
Last year saw a huge increase in domestic visitors to the county as families rediscovered the holiday hotspot on their doorstep. Its landscape is a staple for movie makers – Star Wars filmed here, as did Game of Thrones, while actors Matthew Broderick and Sarah Jessica Parker have long had a home near Kilcar.
Its food scene has come on in leaps and bounds in the last decade. In 2016 Prince Charles and Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall, visited not only Glenveagh Castle and Glebe House, but also met local artisan producers and stopped at McGettigan and Sons Butchers in Donegal Town to taste the sausages.
Now Gary and Linda Boyle of the popular Fusion Bistro in Killybegs have set up the cracking Fusion food truck on Teelin Pier, cooking up great seafood, burgers, tacos, chicken dishes and fresh chips.
Make a day of it: Take a boat trip out to see the sea cliffs – the highest marine cliffs in Europe – with Sliabh Leag Boat Trips; sliabhleagueboattrips.com.
Open Sunday to Wednesday, 1pm-6pm, Thursday to Saturday, 1pm-7.30pm; Insta @fusionfoodtruckdl