Saturday afternoon. Courtesy of my demon friend Simon, I was very hungover. I’d also had around 10,000 miles between me and an Irish breakfast for four months.
I wanted a real greasy spoon operation – no fancy herbed sausages or pestos or relishes on sourdough or the like. No. I wanted the type of breakfast that people eat in “caffs” in Carrigstown or Weatherfield or Albert Square or other real-life places I haven’t visited yet. I wanted the type of breakfast people make themselves at home.
I had low hopes and minimal expectations. The fry-up is too often bedevilled by those gammy pale rashers with a white layer of scummy water, low-grade barely pork sausages, and manky cold toast. I stumbled upon Cafe Sofia at the corner of Wexford Street, one of those places that’s been on my long list of places to try for some time. They had many variations on the theme of the fry, so I went inside.
A very excellent BBC Radio station – possibly Radio 6 – was playing in the background. I was seated immediately at a window table and served by some friendly and efficient staff.
There’s a few fry-up options, all consisting of combinations of sausage, bacon, pudding, egg, beans, mushrooms, chips, and toast. Prices start at €5 and rise to €8.50.
I went for the “Jumbo Breakfast”: a fried egg (“of course, no problem” to replace with scrambled they said when I asked), two sausages, two bacon, beans, pudding, chips, toast, and tea for €7.50.
This meal was perfect for many reasons. First, the toast was brought out still piping hot. Second, the back bacon was delicious, freshly cooked, and crispy. Third, everything else was delicious. Fourth, when I asked for mustard, the waiter asked whether I wanted English or American, and promptly brought a jar of Coleman’s over. Fifth, the pot of tea was big, as was the breakfast itself.
Cafe Sofia looks a little bit ordinary from the outside, but it belies a very welcoming and unpretentious cafe inside. Numerous people, clearly regulars, came and went during my long breakfast and were greeted with the warmest of welcomes. I can see why they would come back again and again:
- The atmosphere is fantastic and friendly.
- The food is excellent value.
- The top-notch service is really prompt and friendly – and friendly service is usually a sign of happy, well-treated staff in a well managed restaurant.
- There’s a decidedly local feel for a city-centre cafe; they’ve created a buzzing neighbourhood eatery.
- They get the little things – hot toast, good mustard, crispy bacon – just right.
- And get this: when I finished my breakfast, they brought over two chocolate biscuits on a plate to have with the remaining tea or coffee. The biscuits are cheap but it’s a very generous gesture for a cafe that could easily try and sell you a scone or cake instead. What a simple, simply wonderful touch.
All lunches and dinners in Cafe Sofia are €10 or less, including sirloin steak for €10, fish and chips with peas for €8.50, a warm chicken salad for €8.50, lasagne and chips for €8, and a daily special with tea or coffee for €10. Food on the kid’s menu is all €5. A glass of wine is €5. I will absolutely be back to try the evening meals, hopefully on a regular basis, although sadly they close at 7pm.
Places like Cafe Sofia are what this website is about. I’m adding it to my list of favourite places in Dublin. Hugely, madly recommended.
- Cafe Sofia’s all-day breakfast menu starts at a fiver for the basics of two fried eggs, two slices of bacon, and two sausages, rising to €8.50 for the works: a fried egg, two sausages, two bacon, mushrooms, pudding, baked beans, chips, tea or coffee. There’s also a vegetarian option of egg, beans, mushrooms, tomato, chips, toast, and tea and coffee for €5.
- Cafe Sofia, 5 Wexford Street, Dublin 2, 8am-7pm Monday-Saturday. Closed Sundays.