A Bar of Many Layers: The Dirty Onion, Belfast – Bar Review
Tradition and modernity are often presented like opposites. A bar is either all bout the good old fashioned -pun intended- craic and trad sessions, or it is this edgy, neon-lit coolness hub with unpronounceable beers and DJ-like bartenders. At The Dirty Onion, however, it’s not all black or white, and I don’t mean that only because gray and neutral colours dominate the place’s decor.
Just as industrial style metal chairs surround solid wood tables, their craft beer selection coexists with more mainstream names and with a surprisingly large spirits selection that has a remarkable emphasis on whiskey and Bourbon.
As my visit occurred relatively early on a weekday, the majority of the visitors where concentrating more on dishes than on glasses, particularly on the generous portions of free range roasted chicken that are the specialty of Yarbird, the upstairs restaurant which offers very reasonably price meals and bites such as a BBQ Ribs (half rack £8, full rack £13), the Yardburrito (£5) and 1/4 chicken with a side (£5). Their combo of a whole roasted chicken with two sides and two Yardbird Pale Ales (£20) or a carafe of wine (£22) is really good value and, judging by the amount of spinning birds on the rotisserie, it must fly.
Back downstairs, I decided to go for a Boilermaker, a drink inspired and named after the combination of a shot of Bourbon and a beer that became popular among 19th century working class Americans. Again, you can appreciate how innovation and heritage blend as they came up with a more sophisticated version of the pair, presented in custom made tasting trays that only add to its appeal. They’ve a menu with different whiskey and beer combinations and in each of them, they’ve work to find a pairing of whiskey and beer that compliments each other flavour-wise.
In this case, it was a bottle of India Pale Ale from Farmageddon Brewery in Northern Ireland and a serve of Jameson Black Barrel. A very friendly bartender pointed out that the tasting trays are made from aged whiskey barrel wood, and as the ice was broken I took the opportunity to ask him what was the story behind the brig red statue on the front area. Turns out, the bar is actually on one of Belfast’s oldest buildings, originally used as a warehouse for spirits including Jameson, hence the anthropomorphic sculpture holding a barrel of the famous Irish whiskey.
By the way, while I was happy and cozy inside, that outdoors front promised to be THE place to sip a summer pint, with plenty of long tables and space.
And if you need another proof of their eclectic flirting with tradition and trends, have a look at The Dirty Onion’s music line up, which includes gigs and workshops every night of the week: Ciorcal Comhrá & Ceoil, Bodhrán lessons, live Blue Grass session and more.
The Dirty Onion shows that in a city with numerous whiskey-and-beer bars, you can stand out with a creative approach. If you add tasty food, a friendly service and affordable prices, it’s not a mystery why it’s it’s such a hit.
Gabriela’s passion for writing is only matched by her love for food and wine. Journalist, confectioner and sommelier, she fell in love with Ireland years ago and moved from Venezuela to Dublin in 2014.
Since then, she has written about and worked in the local food scene, and she’s determined to discover and share the different traditions, flavours and places that have led Irish food and drink to fascinate her.