Whenever people in the States ask me “what is Irish food?” I want to hand them an Aer Lingus ticket so they can fly straightaway to the Farmgate Cafe in Cork City. Farmgate is an unmissable stop for anyone visiting Cork for the first time, or the fifty-first time. Located on the second floor of the historic English Market, the cafe overlooks the lively hall of vendors, which is great for people-watching purposes but also to see first-hand where all the food at Farmgate comes from. The raw oysters (the size of your face!) and Atlantic salmon? Straight from Pat O’Connell, the jolly fisherman downstairs. And the spiced beef? From Tom Durcan at his meat counter. Farmgate was farm-to-table before the term ever existed. The menu honors the humble roots of traditional Irish cookery — potatoes, lamb stew, fresh-baked soda bread, fresh butter, and farmhouse cheeses. It’s not fancy or complicated, at all. Just fresh, wholesome, and produced with loving Irish hands. Owner Kay has been supporting local producers in Cork since she opened Farmgate Cafe back in 1984, and now you can find her daughter Rebecca running around as well, delivering bowls of stew and taking orders of rhubarb crumble. For me, this is Irish food at its best, and I can’t let myself (or anyone else!) visit Ireland without stopping by Farmgate.