My mother has never particularly enjoyed meat. Chicken yes. Fish….definitely yes. Other than that, she has never really had a desire to eat meat. So it should not have been a surprise to me that she decided to become a vegan around her 50th birthday. Although, we had just booked our tickets to do our road trip through Ireland around the same time. It was a large concern for me to make sure she still was eating delicious and authentic Irish cuisine, and also to not restrict our plans around finding her food all the time. I wanted it to be as easy as possible for her (and us) while traveling.
I work with an Irish restaurant group in Chicago. The owners are Irish. They hire Irish management. We take in J1 visa students every year, and some of the staff is Irish. When asking my colleagues about vegan-ism advice in Ireland, I was mostly responded to with a hearty laugh or huge grin. "Vegan-ism is basically non-existent" they would tell me. I was prepared to use some creativity. I researched the restaurants in the cities we were aiming for, for a couple of months. I found several places (mostly ethnic) that already had designated vegan dishes. I tried not to include so many Indian and Asian places, since those were the ones with the most vegan dishes, but the least authentic to Ireland. Surprisingly (especially after the reaction I got), I found a lot of authentic Irish places with vegan options. There were only one or two, but that is comparable to what you might find in the U.S.
I wrote an itinerary for our 11 days of travel and after the facts about the city and each site we might visit, I wrote out a number of restaurants with vegan dishes as an option for us to check out. In Dublin, we found Cornucopia which was all fresh vegan or vegetarian foods in a cafeteria style adorable vintage building.
In Kilkenny, we branched out with a tapas cuisine styled Wine Bar called Lautrecs. They had a beautiful arrangement of options for vegans with hummus, sweet potato wedges, and Mediterranean olives.
In Galway, we stopped at The Quay Street Kitchen and they had an amazing vegan burger with vegan cheese and roasted red pepper and arugula….and I had the best meat burger I have ever had!
Ireland's cuisine is not as closed minded as I thought they might be. In fact, Ireland is extremely up on the scene of fresh produce, complex flavors, and quality of food. I am glad I was prepared for nothing, because when I found the surplus amount of vegan options as we did….it was like finding a pot of gold!