Put the familiar eggs, sausage, beans and black pudding from a “full Irish breakfast” on a corn tortilla and you’ve got Bia Cantina’s “Bricfeasta Tacos” (There’s also a vegetarian version.) I loved the breakfast taco and the three Mexican-style salsas I got with it.
The mild salsa was a guacamole, the medium was a pico de gallo, and the hot salsa was made with dried chiles. I used the guac and pico together–they made a lovely combination as the guac was a little underseasoned and the pico added exactly the right lime and chile flavor boost.
I also got a “chicken filet roll’ taco, which is a hilarious take on the most popular sandwich at every Irish bakery and convenience store snack counter. A French bread sandwich roll is split and dressed with your choice of condiments, usually lettuce, tomato and mayo, then filled with a whole chicken filet sliced into strips. The filet, pronounced FILL-it in Ireland is a flattened fried chicken breast with a breadcrumb crust.
My biggest thrill was finding excellent Mexican churros, dusted with sugar and served with you choice of Irish dipping sauces, including Wexford strawberry or melted chocolate. It’s been a long time since I’ve had churros and these were delicious.
Bia Cantina head chef Conor Dillon calls his style of cooking “Eire-Mex,” a term you may be familiar with if you follow this blog.
I first used the term after eating the imaginative tacos served at McHugh’s Pub in Ennis. I named their Monkfish tacos with mango salsa #2 on my Top 10 dishes of 2018. I put their duck tacos on my Top 10 list in 2019. We also had a Cinco de Mayo Eire-Mex feast in 2019.
Conor defines the term Eire-Mex as “Mexican food with an Irish twist.” And I couldn’t improve on that description. Conor learned to cook Mexican food, Tex-Mex, and Cal-Mex while working as a roadie on tour with a Scottish indie band. He loved the Mexican flavors and decided to introduce them to an Irish audience.
I asked Conor why he didn’t serve tortilla chips and salsa, since tortilla chips are readily available and very popular in Ireland. “Well, this is Eire-Mex,” he said. “So we fry our own potato chips, season them with chile powder and serve them with a salsa.” Fair enough, I had admit that’s a truly Irish answer to Tex-Mex chips and salsa. And the red chile coating was quite tasty too. (Move over Tayto cheese & onion!)
The familiar Tex-Mex convention of combining English and Spanish words, as in “cheese enchiladas, crispy tacos, and picante sauce” goes Gaelic here. The name “Bia Cantina, Tacos Le Grá” combines Irish words with Mexican Spanish, loosely translated, it means “food bar, tacos with love.”
I was absolutely delighted to sample this take on Eire-Mex and I hope to return and eat more soon. The menu is a work in progress with new dishes appearing every week as the chef reacts to the tastes of his audience. Business is brisk and the Farmers Market crowd is intrigued by the concept.
Conor Dillon’s food stall is located at the Tullamore Food Fayre, a Farmers Market in the Offaly town of Tullamore. The market and the Bia Cantina food stall are open from 10am to 2pm, Saturdays only. Go check it out.