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In praise of the full Irish breakfast

From black pudding to beans, it offers so much, without our ever having to make a decision

Cook Michael Figueroa completes an order of Irish breakfast at Adams Corner Cafe & Butcher. It includes Irish beans, home fries, soda bread, Irish bacon (rashers), tomato, Irish sausage (bangers), black and white pudding, and over-easy eggs in the center.Pat Greenhouse/Globe Staff

It is very nice to go out to brunch, which is something people are doing again, if the patterns of foot traffic on a late Sunday morning are any indication. In Adams Village in Dorchester, people are streaming into the Industry Bar & Grill and Landmark Public House, and Lucy’s American Tavern on the other side of Gallivan Boulevard, for eggs Benedict, chicken and waffles, avocado toast, breakfast burritos, maybe some bubbles or a Bloody Mary or two.

That’s a lot of choices for a groggy bruncher to sort through. I love options, but making decisions before I’ve had coffee isn’t my best event. If I order pancakes, I’ll spend breakfast staring longingly at someone else’s huevos rancheros, wondering what I was thinking. Or vice versa.


This is why I love a full Irish breakfast. It has a little 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. Thus nobody asks, and I don’t have to answer. I’m also not very social before I’ve had coffee.

This time of year, around St. Patrick’s Day, Boston gets worked up about boiled dinner, which is lovely. The stores are stocked with corned beef, round green cabbages piled precariously high. But boiled dinner does no one any good the morning after. That’s when a proper fry truly shines.

Clodagh Rioux, 7, of Dorchester, enjoys her chocolate pancake and Irish bacon. Her mom has Irish bacon, mushrooms, home fries, and fried eggs at Adams Corner Cafe & Butcher.Pat Greenhouse/Globe Staff

“It’s kind of a hangover cure to be honest with you,” says Donegal native Oran McGonagle, partner and director of operations for East Coast Tavern Group, behind Irish pub Emmets in Beacon Hill, the upcoming Dubliner, and others. “You need a really greasy fry to get yourself going again the next day.”

Both Emmets and his 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 tomato, 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 a carnivore and an herbivore could plausibly split, if they didn’t mind a little touching on the plate. (McGonagle put the Cottage’s version to the test himself over the weekend. “I had a little bit of a sore head from Friday night,” he says. “I just had a wee baby boy last week, and we ‘wet the baby’s head,’ as we call it in Ireland,” with a few drinks to celebrate at Emmets.)


There are umpty variations due to personal preference and regionality — see the potato farl of the north, which lands somewhere between bread and pancake. But we can argue over what exactly constitutes the correct Irish breakfast later at the pub, which is where said breakfast is often consumed. For now, let’s go with McGonagle’s working definition: “a massive plate of meats and grease to soak up all the alcohol 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 parts: the Black Rose, the Burren, the Corrib, the Druid, Granite Street Cafe, the Mad Hatter, McKay’s Breakfast and Lunch, McKenna’s Cafe, Mr. Dooley’s, Mul’s @ Amrheins, the Plough and Stars, Tavern at the End of the World… The list goes gloriously on. But it begins — alphabetically and practically — back in Adams Village where we started, at Adams Corner Cafe & Butcher. Here, owners Gordon and Jeannie Saverse make the sausage that goes on the plate for their own Irish breakfast, as well as others served around town. (They’re not naming names, but McGonagle does mention they serve it at Emmets.)


People line up to be seated for breakfast at Adams Corner Cafe & Butcher.Pat Greenhouse/Globe Staff

“We have a spice mix brought over from Ireland that we put into the sausage,” says Jeannie Saverse. “We use ground pork, and we don’t put any fillers or preservatives or anything like that in, so it’s fresh constantly.” It’s delicious, the star of the plate. “We’ve had a few Irish people that say these taste better than the ones at home,” Saverse says. “People come up from Florida in the winter, and before they go, they come in and buy sausage and freeze it so they can bring it back down in a cooler.”

Another advantage to Adams Corner Cafe & Butcher’s full Irish breakfast is that it’s available seven days a week, not only on weekends, as at many places. It comes with two sausage links, plus two eggs, two rashers, a round each of black and white pudding, grilled tomato, home fries, a dish of beans (they’re Batchelors, from Ireland), two slices of soda bread. Add sauteed mushrooms if you want them; I think it’s a good move. 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 come over from Ireland, they’ll come in just to get the Irish breakfast,” Saverse says.

Adams Corner Cafe & Butcher owner Jeannie Saverse completes a takeout order.Pat Greenhouse/Globe Staff

You can eat in the little cafe in the back, which offers a full menu and plenty of specials, or get your breakfast to go. Or buy the ingredients to make your own. The shop sells everything from Barry’s Tea to potatoes to Irish snacks and candy. At the butcher counter, in addition to the usual steaks and more, you’ll find the house-made Irish sausage plus rashers (made for Adams Corner, but using the shop’s own brine mix) and black and white pudding. Both are very good, the former darker, made with blood, both rich, flavorful, and warmly spiced.

Then head next door to Greenhills, the Irish bakery and cafe, for a loaf of soda bread, handed over still warm. Maybe a few scones, too. Don’t be dissuaded by the line, which moves quickly; in addition to other specialties and its own full Irish breakfast, Greenhills serves Irish breakfast rolls, egg sandwiches with all the meats, convenient for takeaway.

You’re only missing one thing now, according to McGonagle: “A pint of Guinness is something that goes hand in hand with an Irish breakfast.”

Adams Corner Cafe & Butcher, 782 Adams St., Dorchester. 617-506-7387, www.adamscornercafeandbutcher.com

Carolyn Wengler takes an order of two full Irish breakfasts from Dorchester couple Harry McCaul and Shannon Fitzgerald at Adams Corner Cafe & Butcher.Pat Greenhouse/Globe Staff

Devra First can be reached at devra.first@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @devrafirst.