That’s why I love a full Irish breakfast. There’s a bit of almost everything, so I don’t have to make up my mind. Would I like bacon or sausage with that? The answer is simply yes. So nobody asks, and I don’t have to answer. I’m also not very social until I’ve had a coffee.
This time of year, around St. Patrick’s Day, Boston gets upset about a boiled dinner, which is very nice. Stores are stocked with corned beef, precariously stacked round green cabbages. But the boiled dinner is useless the next morning. This is where a good fry really shines.
“To be honest with you, it’s kind of a cure for a hangover,” says Donegal-born Oran McGonagle, partner and operations manager for East Coast Tavern Group, behind Irish pub Emmets in Beacon Hill, the next Dubliner and others. “You need a really greasy fry to get you going again the next day.”
Emmets and its Weymouth spot, the Cottage, serve the full Irish breakfast, where eggs are an excuse to eat a proliferation of breakfast meats: Irish sausage, Irish bacon and black and white pudding. Beans, grilled tomatoes, toast or fried bread (often soda bread), and sometimes mushrooms and potatoes are also part of the package. It’s one of the few plates that a carnivore and herbivore could conceivably separate, if they weren’t afraid to touch the plate a little. (McGonagle tested the Cottage version himself over the weekend. “I had a bit of a headache on Friday night,” he says. “I just had a baby boy last week, and we “wet the baby’s head”, as we call it in Ireland”, with a few celebratory drinks at Emmets.)
There are many variations due to personal preference and regionality – see northern potato farl, which falls somewhere between bread and pancake. But we can discuss what exactly constitutes good Irish breakfast later in the pub, where said breakfast is often eaten. For now, let’s go with McGonagle’s working definition: “a huge plate of meats and fat to soak up all the booze from the night before.” (Also delicious after a night of pure sobriety.)
There are so many places to find a full Irish breakfast in these areas: The Black Rose, The Burren, The Corrib, The Druid, Granite Street Cafe, Mad Hatter, McKay’s Breakfast and Lunch, McKenna’s Cafe , Mr. Dooley’s, Mul’s @ Amrheins, the Plow and the Stars, the Taverne du Bout du Monde… The list is gloriously long. But it starts – alphabetically and practically – in Adams Village where we started, at Adams Corner Cafe & Butcher. Here, owners Gordon and Jeannie Saverse cook the sausage that goes on the plate for their own Irish breakfast, as well as others served around town. (They don’t name names, but McGonagle does mention they serve it at Emmets.)
“We have a spice blend imported from Ireland that we put in the sausage,” says Jeannie Saverse. “We use ground pork, and we don’t put fillers or preservatives or anything like that, so it’s always fresh.” It’s delicious, the star of the plate. “We’ve had a few Irish people say these taste better than the ones at home,” Saverse says. “People come from Florida in the winter, and before they leave, they come in and buy sausages and freeze them so they can bring them back in a cooler.”
Another perk of Adams Corner Cafe & Butcher’s full Irish breakfast is that it’s available seven days a week, not just weekends like many places. It comes with two sausages, plus two eggs, two slices, a round of black and white pudding, a grilled tomato, home fries, a side dish of beans (these are Batchelors, from Ireland), two slices of soda bread . Add sautéed mushrooms if desired; I think it’s a good decision. There’s also a half Irish breakfast, but that means one less sausage link for you.
“I would say the crowd is 50-50, half Irish and half American, but a lot of people when they have family from Ireland, they just come to have the Irish breakfast,” Saverse says.
You can eat in the small cafe at the back, which offers an extensive menu and many specialties, or take your breakfast to go. Or buy the ingredients to make your own. The shop sells everything from Barry’s Tea to potatoes, snacks and Irish sweets. At the butcher’s counter, in addition to the usual steaks and more, you’ll find the house-made Irish sausage plus slices (made for Adams Corner, but using the store’s own brine mix) and black and white pudding. Both are very good, the first darker, made with blood, both rich, flavorful and warmly spicy.
Then head next door to Greenhills, the Irish bakery and café, for a loaf of soda bread, still warm. Maybe some scones too. Don’t be deterred by the fast-moving queue; in addition to other specialties and its own full Irish breakfast, Greenhills serves Irish rolls, egg sandwiches with all meats, convenient to take away.
There’s only one thing missing, according to McGonagle: “A pint of Guinness is something that goes with an Irish breakfast.”
Adams Corner Cafe & Butcher, 782 Adams St., Dorchester. 617-506-7387, www.adamscornercafeandbutcher.com