My Day in Stoneybatter: Would one of the coolest neighborhoods in the world live up to the bill?

I haven’t been to Stoneybatter since my bike was stolen there last year. But when TimeOut magazine recently named it the 49th coolest neighborhood in the world, I had to see for myself what all the fuss was about – and this time, of course, I took the bus.

The first port of call linked to a recent Twitter post in which a bartender at a pub had left free pints in the chopper’s fridge next door. Dubliners were convinced it was Kavanagh’s on Manor Street.

The pub was closed when I arrived, so I followed the smell of freshly fried fries to the Manor Takeaway, where the owner, Giuseppe Vani, was chatting to regulars.

“I swear we’re not alcoholics! Kavanaghs are our neighbors, our families have known each other for years,” he said.

“They have the best Guinness as you can see from the pictures. We help each other, you know. We make records for their parties and they give us a drink or two.”

Guiseppe’s parents moved from Italy and opened the shop in 1989. He has lived in the area for 30 years and took over the business in 2000 after graduating from high school.

“Stoneybatter has good, friendly people and big families. Now it’s getting bigger because students are coming. I think it’s great to see it changing,” he said.

A customer in a black cowboy hat nudges me with a wink and whispers, “Hands down the best fish and chips in Dublin.”

Michael Monaghan tips his hat and promises not to charge me for revealing his secrets about Stoneybatter. Thirty-one years ago he ran a ladies’ hair salon in the area. Although he has now moved to Wicklow, he visits her as often as he can.

“One of the reasons Stoneybatter is so popular is that a lot of people have emigrated from the country and settled here. Now a very young, diverse audience is moving in. You’ll find that this neighborhood is a mix of tradition and modernity,” he said.

Right in the center of the Museum Quarter and only a 15 minute walk from Phoenix Park, Stoneybatter is a stone’s throw from everything Dublin has to offer. But somehow life still moves slowly for the residents.

As we step out of the store, Michael waves to his old friends in each store. He chats with Dominic Cooney at the Manor Pharmacy, a building that has been there since 1939.


Grants have been in business at Stoneybatter for decades

Further along the road we are greeted by Jim Grant of Grants, a family run tailoring business that has been around in Stoneybatter as long as the trees outside line the footpath.

Children in the area have sewn their school uniforms at Grants for decades, you can still see the blue coats with their embroidered badges proudly displayed on the shop front.

“We were military tailors back then. During the riots up north, we were one of the few people allowed to bring clothes from different barracks,” says Jim.

“What has changed the most is that people now have access to contraception,” he laughs. “We don’t sew that much baby stuff anymore.”

Everyone tells me that Stoneybatter is changing. As I make my way through Arbor Hill Cemetery, I find an institution that embodies this growing spirit.

Across the street from a new coffee shop that has taken her name is Lilliput Press, founded in 1992 by Antony Farrell. When I ask him why the world thinks Stoneybatter is cool, he tells me I’m in the right place. “We invented cool,” he jokes.

“I’m from the Midlands, where Jonathan Swift spent his summers. Lilliput takes its name from Gulliver’s travels. It’s small and special.”


Antony Farrell at Lilliput Press in Stoneybatter

Lilliput has published 800 books in 38 years, including work by the likes of Tim Robinson and John Moriarty.

Enejda Wasaj, who has just started working there, believes it is one of the special places where the two sides of Stoneybatter meet.

“The books reflect the culture we live in, such as photography, fine art, memoir, history and cutting-edge fiction,” she said.

I couldn’t end a day in Dublin’s hipster district without trying avocado toast. So I made my way to Slice, where the outdoor tables were buzzing with brunch and conversation.

Independent companies like Slice, founded by Ray O’Neil, are exactly what sets Stoneybatter apart.

“I love that I can say I work for Ray,” says manager Murke Burke. “It is amazing to work for someone who is still in touch with the daily workload of the employees.

“Even as a customer, it’s nice to go in and put a face to the person you’re supporting.”

Chef Laoise Tara O’Reilly, who walked into her kitchen a year ago, arrives with a freshly baked plate of carrot cake. Born to an Irish father and Punjabi mother, Laoise has lived most of her life in Malaysia. She moved to Dublin three years ago.

“It’s crazy. I wasn’t educated in France or Europe, my nutrition education basically consisted of crouching on the floor of my grandmother’s kitchen in Malaysia and peeling a mango over a tiny metal bucket,” said Laoise.

“She used to cook in huge woks for 400 people at the local women’s club. This is the environment I grew up in.”


Murke Burke and Laoise Tara O’Reilly in front of Slice

This month she introduced her first dish on the menu. Inspired by her grandmother’s mango cucumber, Naniji’s Achaar is a new favorite.

A lot happens when you enter the Preussenstraße. Among a slew of new restaurants is The Little Cactus, which sells coffee, houseplants, and vintage clothing. Founded a year ago, Kate O’Dea and Jamie Stewart just wanted a place to sell all the things they love.

Jamie fits right into Stoneybatter. A couple of tattoos peek out from his sweater sleeves – a couple of cacti, a frog that eats itself, and a pot of coffee with the word “stonehead” written on it. He got them after quitting his job at the company.

“I knew I would never go back. I’m sticking to what I love and I’m not being judged here. It’s fun imagining you’re in the city because it feels like you’re in the country,” he said.

“This is the biggest community I’ve ever seen. Everyone knows everyone, everyone helps everyone. If we have a problem, a shopkeeper next door will help us. It’s a beautiful environment.

“What works with Stoneybatter is that everything is largely independent. Many people who live here are singers, artists and actors. All cafes and restaurants are independent. It’s all in the community.”

Stoneybatter mixes the old with the new like they should have always belonged together. The place and the people speak of how far Dublin has come and how far it can go.

It’s easy to feel like a local. As I wait for my neighborhood bus, I realize that Stoneybatter didn’t just steal my bike—it might have my heart, too.

The facts about Stoneybatter

visits … Arbor Hill Cemetery, the burial place of 14 executed leaders of the 1916 uprising.

Go eat … classic avocado toast at Slice or try the newest addition to their menu, Naniji’s Achaar.

Go shopping … grab a coffee from The Little Cactus and browse the quirky collection of used clothing.

go drink …end off the day with a pint or two at Kavanagh’s or head to Hyne’s Bar for live traditional music.

get there … take 39 or 39A from downtown to Manor Street or Preussenstrasse. My Day in Stoneybatter: Would one of the coolest neighborhoods in the world live up to the bill?

Fry Electronics Team

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