Breakfast is the most important meal of the day and here in Northern Ireland we certainly know how to breakfast on a plenitude of dead pig and other fried accoutrements, but lots of eateries across the province will particularly serve Ulster fries all-day on Saturdays and Sundays for those in the need for a carb and animal fat overload or a full-proof hangover cure.
Northern Ireland is full of greasy spoons who can serve the traditional dish with aplomb, while more newbie posho upmarket brunch outlets will add stylish twists like smashed avocado, sourdough bread, fried potatoes or even chorizo.
But where to head for an straight-forward, honest-to-goodness, no messing about Ulster fly that is budget-friendly, tasty and comes with just the right amount of grease, optional ketchup or brown sauce to the ready?
It seems churlish to pick only six places to chow down on what is a much vaunted national dish, but if we were to narrow it down...here are some excellent places to start (and no offence to the myriad outlets left off this list, we simply don’t have room to be encyclopaedic on the matter - but wherever you find yourself located across the province, a café serving a fine Ulster fry is surely easily accessible in whichever of the six counties you find yourself).
1) Maggie Mays, Belfast – for that traditional touch
Maggie Mays’ breakfasts are known all across Ulster as being some of the most delicious and the most plentiful - expect a bounty of fried goods at a reasonable price.
The always busy cafe is a hugely popular breakfast spot for Belfast’s students searching for that perfect hangover cure, so much so that their online menu even indicates which items are the best for when you’re feeling a little tender after the night before.
Their all-day breakfast menu caters for several different dietary requirements as they offer a ‘Full Fry’ (the traditional meat option), a ‘Veggie Fry’, a ‘Bumper Fry’ for hungrier individuals, and they have even recently started serving a ‘Vegan Fry’.
Their options are super affordable with the full, veggie, and vegan fries priced at just £5.75, while the bumper fry is £6.99 – and it gets a double hangover cure rating!
Address: 2 Malone Road, Belfast, BT9 5BN.
2) The Pit Stop Cafe, Bangor – diner-inspired
The Pit Stop Cafe in Bangor is another favourite locale to enjoy a top-notch Ulster fry.
On TripAdvisor, the Ulster Fry offered by The Pit Stop Café in Bangor, Co. Down, has been dubbed the ‘Definitive Ulster Fry’ due to its great quality ingredients.
Situated around the corner from Balloo Industrial Estate, this little café could be easily missed. From the outside, it looks like a typical American 50s-style diner that you would see on TV.
Their Ulster fry is very reasonably priced at around £5 for their set menu option, but you can add additional trimmings at an extra charge per item if you wish.
Address: 39 Balloo Road, Bangor BT19 7PG.
3) Harlem Café, Belfast – stylish breakfast spot
Harlem Café is one of the most eclectic and unique cafés in Belfast, an altogether funky, art-filled space, and is a must-visit if you’re in the city. As well as its delicious food and daring menu, Harlem boasts an array of antique décor that you won’t find anywhere else in the ever-more metropolitan capital.
They pride themselves on their extensive use of local produce, and their fry consists of two smoked bacon rashers, one pork sausage, a free-range fried egg, Clonakilty Black Pudding, potato bread, pancake, mushrooms, and tomato. They also serve a vegetarian alternative, which includes two veggie sausages, two free-range fried eggs, potato bread, soda bread, pancake, mushrooms, tomato, and beans.
The options here are slightly more expensive with the meat option costing £7.95, while the vegetarian alternative comes in at £7.50.
Address: 34 Bedford St, Belfast BT2 7FF.
4) Slim’s Healthy Kitchen, various locations – perfect for the health-conscious
Slim’s Healthy Kitchen is one of the best places to get an Ulster fry if you are also mindful about the massive calorie intake such a meal can entail.
It offers a range of healthier alternatives for our favourite meals, including pizza, pancakes, and of course, a fry.
Their ‘Healthy Breakfast’ consists of poached eggs, Irish thick-cut pork bacon, a choice of beef or turkey sausage, oven-roasted herb tomato, and mushrooms with soda bread. They also offer a vegan option which includes harissa-scrambled tofu, grilled mushrooms, vegan sausages, wilted spinach, oven-roasted vine tomato, rosemary, and rock-salt crushed new potato, with wholemeal toast.
It also falls on the more expensive side with the meat option costing £8, while the vegan option will cost you £9. But if you’re serious about your health foods, it’s definitely worth a try.
Address: Various locations including Lisburn Road, Belfast and Magherafelt.
5) Barnish Café and Tearoom, Ballycastle – a true hidden gem
Rated as one of TripAdvisor’s favourite, Barnish Cafe and Tea Room has the highest rated Ulster Fry on TripAdvisor with 98% of customer reviews dubbing it as ‘excellent’.
One reviewer said, ‘I come here every time I’m in the area (climbing at Fair Head). The Ulster fry up is excellent. Everything about the Barnish is fantastic, except for the opening hours, which should be a lot longer so we can turn up more often. A seriously great place, well done everyone!’
Located in Ballycastle, it’s the perfect place to stop for some breakfast before heading for a drive along the Causeway Coastal Route.
With a fry consisting of two sausages, two slices of bacon, two slices of potato bread, two slices of soda bread, and one egg, you really do get value for money as the breakfast costs less than £5, making Barnish the cheapest option on this list.
Address: 95 Cushendall Road, Ballycastle BT54 6QY.
6) The Vintage Rooms, owned by The Plough Group, Royal Hillsborough - high-end and hearty
This is a stylish place to enjoy an Ulster fry in an upmarket eaterie owned by the much-respected Plough Group in Hillsborough, one of Co Down’s most beautiful and, admittedly rather posh, towns.
The Mini TVR Fry offers you bacon, pork and honey sausage, potato bread, soda, hash brown, beans and fried free range egg for £7.50, with the option of adding Belfast scullery made black pudding for an additional £.1.50.
Next on the menu for the more ravenous breakfaster, is the Jumbo TVR Ulster fry, which consists of a generous combination of two bacon, two pork and honey sausages, potato bread, soda, hash brown, beans, two fried free range eggs, mushrooms, tomato and the option of adding Belfast scullery made black pudding for £10.75.
The gorgeous spot in Royal Hillsborough also caters for devout vegetarians, with the TVR Veg Fry entailing two poached free range eggs, potato bread, pancake, avocado, tomato, mushrooms and beans, all mouth-wateringly delicious for £7.50.
Address: 3 The Square, Royal Hillsborough, BT26 6AG.
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