On a dismal Monday evening that seems to herald a dour purgatory of grey Autumn, the joyless dark of Winter squatting just beyond, I am expending shoe-leather, trudging down the northside of the quays, away from the city and toward the train station that connects our capital with other villages and towns. Their restaurants, such as they are, are no business of mine. I am instead some ten minutes late to meet my wife by marriage and two of my millennial nieces at a videogame and pinball arcade called Token. I’ve decided to invite these age-specific products of my fecund sisters (one from each brood) as I suspect that this place is not really intended for ‘the likes of me.’ The idea is that they might provide some insights denied to someone of my vintage. To protect the innocent let’s just refer to them as niece #1 and niece #2, or alternately, Freya and Orla. I’ll intersperse some of their choicest observations as I go on. My guests are already seated when I arrive to a cacophonous din of bleeps, blips and dings. Dozens of apparently deaf people are shouting in each other’s faces and the lighting is terminally unflattering.
I had imagined some kind of dystopian Philip K. Dick scenario, a null space inhabited by serried ranks of otaku, plugged into coin-operated virtual experiences as they reject the exigencies of corporeal manifestation and the risk of meeting sexual partners who don’t deflate at the first cigarette burn. Turns out I was wrong, the incels are stay at home guys, preferring perhaps the comfort of mother’s home cooking as they spurt their special misogyny online. This place is full of what seem like fully-formed young folk, laughing, drinking and ‘gaming’. While not quite as young as I had feared, I still feel very forty-fiveish. It seems that the joint has become something of ‘a hang’ for foreign students, a suspicion confirmed by the (second-year university) students at my table, both of whom seem curiously hale (and not at all liquor-averse) after 72 hours of Electric Picnic. I don’t think they get down the way we used to get down. Whatevs.
We begin with a round of cocktails – the bar here is well-stocked and well served. They don’t possess the dirty to make my preferred martini so I have a serviceable clean one. Niece #2 contends that her ‘Brain Lemorrhage’ “packs a punch.” It features tequila, gin, rum and Cointreau, ‘topped up with merlot.’ I’m surprised it’s not a K.O. Other drinks also happen.
I’ve never really been much of a ‘gamer’; my research for this piece has mostly consisted of considering Lana Del Rey’s thigh-gap through the prism of post-structural adjacency. I am, however, something of savant when it comes to the humble hot dog and I’ve been told that there are a number of notable iterations on the menu here. My obsession with this greatest of all hand-held foods began not in New York, but in that other broad-shouldered city, the second city of the USA and its sausage capital, the 312, Chi-town, Illinois. Casual observers of monolithic ‘junk-food’ shibboleths will associate the frank-in-a-bun with Brooklyn or Coney Island, but it is in Chicago that the Hot Dog generates it’s most passionate (and often contentious) veneration. The ingestion of a foot-long at Wrigley Field is nothing less than a holy rite, an act of transubstantiation. Red Hots, tube steaks, broiled, grilled, boiled, deep fried, split or tumid with bubbling fat, even NYC’s infamous dirty water dogs, bobbing gamely in their tepid vats of e-coli – all of these are in the service of the frankfurter. My preference is for all-beef weiner (Hebrew Nationals or Schaller & Weber) with a natural casing (for snap), a heavy hand with the Gulden’s Brown Mustard and a fistful of ‘kraut. Ketchup is for french fries, if you want them, or for dumb-ass children if you must have those.
So keen was my disappointment upon seeing my plain ‘Dogg’ that I could scarcely manage a taste as my eyes filled with an unrelated saline discharge. The sausage would probably be best classified as bratwurst. A well-made sausage (especially one of Jane Russell’s) gripped within soft white bread of zero nutritional value is a fine thing to eat. It is always welcome, but it is categorically not a Hot Dog unless the sausage in question is a frankfurter. The Fried Chicken is fine, if a little dry, and comfortably surpassed by recent fowl-centric openings in town. The wild garlic ranch dip served alongside is pretty tame. I enjoy the sliders, (2 per order) which have the funk of good beef, although I’d go a little heavier with the seasoning. Brisket chilli fries are unanimously praised, and rightly so.
If you think that the ‘Vegan Drimnagh-Style Battered Sausage’ sounds like quite a mouthful you’d be both wrong and right. Its appearance would bring a tear to the eye of a eunuch, as it lolls, pallid and ashamed of itself on its paper plate. Get behind me Seitan. I will decline to comment on the ‘Irish curry vegan mayo’. Niece #2 expresses surprise at how ‘real’ it tastes while noting her disappointment that it could be more ‘flavoursome’. I don’t share her sentiment. Nevertheless, the kitchen is to be commended for offering such a breadth of vegan offerings on the menu. They clearly know their market, and don’t need a weathervane to know which way the wind is blowing. Baja-style fish tacos feature limp batter and hake that has been on terra firma for too long.
Upon my return from taking the air, nieces 1&2 are explaining to my wife the expediency of female-only ‘piss-tents’ at modern music festivals. I wonder if these have gained popularity at events like Lollapalooza, perhaps rebranded modestly as ‘pee-pee-tee-pees’. I also note that one of them has ordered a ‘rum-can’ during my brief absence. A dessert special of loaded churros is barely touched for reasons of taste rather than repletion, although we are ‘Christmas Dinner full’ (Niece #1) at this point. As I idle by the bar for a much-needed digestif, my attention is drawn to another patron (almost certainly of the monied grad-student caste) casually questioning a couple of items on his bill. The till receipt, spilling over the bar, looks like something from an Andrex commercial, minus the pup. The figure at the bottom reads €1,248. Let that settle in for a moment. I get the impression that the folks are not really here for the eats. You have two lives remaining. Use them well.
*Subsequent to the filing of this copy I have been informed that the menu has been significantly tweaked, so some of the dishes described may no longer be available. I look forward to trying the new ones, perhaps via Deliveroo.
72-74 Queen St
Words: Conor Stevens
Photos: Killian Broderick