My Boy Blue represents a life change for Dubliner Stephen Brennan. He opened this café in Dingle last summer after having worked in finance in Dublin for years.
“Finance didn’t suit me and I’d had an interest in coffee and in café culture for a long time,” he says. “It was time for a change.”
He had some experience in the catering sector. His father had a pub in Dublin where Stephen had worked when he was younger. He had also worked in a friend’s restaurant in Killarney for a year or so before opening My Boy Blue; cooking, waiting and serving coffees so as to be ready when the time came to opening a café of his own.
Stephen’s girlfriend Amy is from Dingle, which is why he opened there rather than in Dublin. “I was keeping a lookout for suitable premises and when one came up, I asked myself what I was waiting for,” he says. Amy joined forces with Stephen in getting My Boy Blue open for the first of June last year. “We opened before things were perfect,” says Stephen. “Our décor was a bit bare but the essentials were there.”
Those essentials were 3FE coffee and a new food offering for Dingle. “I knew the 3FE gang from when they first started in Dublin,” says Stephen. “It’s definitely the best coffee I’ve tried and a lot of our customers come in because they knew we serve it.”
The food was inspired by Dublin’s vibrant café scene. “Dingle has a lot of places serving traditional breakfasts and lunches,” says Stephen. “But I thought something was missing, something more casual.”
That casual offering amounted to an all-day brunch menu that features the likes of buttermilk pancakes and huevos rancheros, superfood salads, vegan options, sandwiches, a good selection of cakes and great coffee. A focus on local suppliers is another priority of Stephen’s. He uses bread from the local Bácús Bakery and buys in cakes from Blúiríní Blasta. He also buys from stallholders at the Dingle Farmers’ Market, which takes place right outside his door on Fridays.
My Boy Blue was popular from the moment it opened, so much so that the first summer was a challenge for Stephen.
“It was hard to gauge how busy it would be,” he says. “That made it difficult when it came to shopping and ordering. Our kitchen is small and there isn’t much storage space. Our fridges were also small so we couldn’t make huge batches.”
Being so busy meant they didn’t have time to reorganise the kitchen or think about making changes to the menu. All of that had to wait until the winter. “That’s when you get a chance to think about different ideas,” says Stephen.
As soon as the summer was over and the tourist numbers started to fall from the high-season peak, the team at My Boy Blue decided to introduce more lunchtime specials for locals.
With the winter behind them, now they are even thinking that they might open for evenings in peak season. “Dingle has a lot of high-end restaurants as well as pubs serving food but there are not many places in between,” says Stephen. “I’ve already got a menu in mind that could do that.”
There are a few things he needs to iron out first. The first is to take on more staff. “We got very lucky with Dave and Jack who work in the kitchen,” says Stephen. “They are permanent residents of Dingle and they will hopefully stay with us now. That’s one of the reasons we decided to stay open year round. We wouldn’t have retained them otherwise.”
However, Dave and Jack aren’t enough. “Amy and I didn’t take a single day off last summer and I’ve made pretty much every single coffee that’s been served since we opened,” says Stephen. “I’d like to take on a barista to help with that.”
In the meantime, Stephen, Amy, Dave and Jack will continue to do what they have been doing. “We’ve had great support from locals ever since we opened, even during the quiet season,” he says. “I take that as a sign that we must be doing something right.”