Want to try out vegan or vegetarian food in Limerick, but not sure where to start? Limerick Voice reporter Orlaith visited two of the city’s most popular vegan and vegetarian eateries, The Old Fire Station and The UnderDog, to learn more about the food they offer, and their overall missions.
Owners of The Old Fire Station are husband and wife team Sean and Marci McNamara.
The pair have over 40 years’ experience in the food industry, opening Ireland’s first ever vegetarian restaurant and health food shop in Limerick in 1973.
Sean and Marci met in London, and on their return to Limerick found the food options for life-long vegetarian Marci were extremely limited.
This led them to opening the health food shop, with Sean joking: “We got into it to feed Marci more than anything!”
Opening The Old Fire Station in 2017, Sean and Marci’s vision was to create a meeting space for like-minded people to hang out and enjoy locally sourced vegan and vegetarian meals.
All food served in the restaurant is prepared from scratch, and use organic ingredients where possible.
Marci explained: “The recipes that I tend to use in here are ones that I’ve used all my life that are tried and tested.”
At The UnderDog, owner Kevin Kiely Jr. offers a completely plant-based menu to his customers, or as he prefers to call them, his guests.
Opening the restaurant in May of this year, he explained: “I felt that there was a different way forward, there was a way to actually provide an entirely plant-based restaurant.”
For Kevin, veganism and sustainable living goes far beyond food choices – while the menu is vegan, so too is the soap in the bathrooms. The restaurant recently introduced compostable straws, and all compost is recycled.
Explaining his vision for The UnderDog, Kevin said: “I want people to sit, I want people to eat, and I want people to heal – that’s it.”
It was clear from visiting both businesses that they are far more than what meets the eye – neither are operating as a traditional restaurant.
At The Old Fire Station, Sean and Marci host art exhibitions with up to 150 visitors, and encourage local artists to hang their pieces on the walls.
Customers have created a community, with Sean sharing: “We have a customer that comes in and if we’re really busy he gets up and starts helping with the tables. That’s the type of people we get in.”
A similar community vibe can too be felt at The UnderDog, which is both dog-friendly and breastfeeding friendly.
Kevin explained: “Anyone that comes in I would hope that they feel part of the community, rather than walking wallets. It’s my vocation to allow them to feel welcome, to allow them to feel free, to allow them to come and go as they please.”
For Sean and Marci, they hope that The Old Fire Station can act as a starting point for those people who may be wanting to transition to a vegan or vegetarian diet.
“All we say to people is come in and taste the food,” said Marci.
“We are trying to entice the meat eaters – look, one day a week come in, try it, see what you can have,” she added.
At The UnderDog, Kevin is hoping to spread his vast knowledge of a vegan lifestyle to the general public.
He said: “I’m kind of strolling down the road to enlightenment and I’m trying to bring as many people with me as possible, because it’s amazing – it’s truly magical.”