Photos by Conal Thomas

Phibsboro is starting to feel trendy all of a sudden.

With more affordable rents than much of the city and an increasing student population, new local businesses have begun to reflect the transformation.

Last year, the folks behind Bodytonic opened the Back Page sports bar on Phibsboro Road. Last Friday, brother and sister Daniel and Grace Lambert opened Bang Bang, a brand-new deli-and-convenience store on Leinster Street North.

Bang Bang takes the old model of the local convenience store and swanks it up. Its owners reckoned it was about time the area reflected the youth who call Phibsboro home.

“The idea came about six months ago,” says Daniel Lambert. “I lived in New York, worked in vintage stores in Brooklyn, and Grace has a real passion for food. It was that simple.”

Over the course of December, they roped in family and friends to bring Bang Bang to residents looking for something different.

The set up is minimalist, yet the small space retains a cosy aspect. Each morning at 4am, fresh pastries are delivered. Grace, with the help of boyfriend Keith, prepares the soup and sandwiches for the day as Daniel fires up the coffee machine.

“The food is healthy and simple,” says Grace. “It’s an alternative to the nearby Spar or Tesco, and closer for a lot of people.”

The sandwiches are all priced at an affordable €4.95, and range from goat cheese, chorizo and home-made red-onion jam on Arun bohemian dark rye, to the more adventurous curried tuna, dried apricots and sultanas in a wrap. Grace sources her ingredients daily.

Her breakfast option is low-fat yoghurt with granola, rolled oats, almonds, pecans, raisins, cranberries, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, coconut oil, maple syrup and Dublin honey.

The coffees range from €2.40 for an americano to €2.90 for a mocha. Unlike many of the cafés that adhere to the supposed ‘quality-coffee regime’, these guys actually deliver.

Bang Bang is more than just fresh-food-focused though. The Lamberts wanted to create a space where locals could pick up their basics.

Filling a Gap

“Most of the convenience corner stores are gone,” says Daniel. “We wanted to combine Grace’s love of food with a practical approach and create a social aspect for those around the area.”

The shelves have a mix of artisanal preserves and pastas, but there are also cartons of milk, loaves of freshly baked bread, a fruit and vegetable display, and individual eggs on sale at 40 cent a pop.

The coffee is sourced locally from Glasnevin roastery Silverskin, and the array of sweet and savoury pastries arrives each morning from Project 12 in Smithfield. “Anything we can get local, we will,” says Daniel.

The owners have taken a pared-back approach, with unadorned wooden panels and black countertops.

The walls, however, are bursting with artwork: vinyl records of Thin Lizzy and The Dubliners, as well as Brendan Behan’s portrait tucked behind the shelves, and several prints of local characters by illustrator Colin McGinley.

But what about the name? And what’s with all the keys around the room?

Daniel explains that Thomas ‘Bang Bang’ Dudley was a colourful character in Dublin who, in the 1950s and 60s, would travel the buses and trams staging mock shootouts. His ‘gun’ was a large key which he’d aim at passersby, who would often engage with him and act the part of the wounded victim.

“Dudley was raised in Cabra and died in Drumcondra,” says Daniel. “We thought this would resonate with the area.”

The Lamberts are certainly championing the local with their new venture, yet there’s also a touch of Daniel’s time in Brooklyn. Beside the seating area, there’s a selection of vintage clothes for sale, and battered old suitcases on display.

The challenge now will be whether they can carve out a niche for themselves in a residential area. Leinster Street is by no means a busy one, yet the consistent queues out Bang Bang’s door since Friday auger well.

“I think there’s a demand for this kind of thing around here,” says Daniel. “Phibsboro’s gotten a bad rap over the last few years but it’s a great spot. We’ve got Bohemians, Joyce lived around the corner and Bob Marley’s last outdoor concert was in Dalymount.”

It’s still early days, but Daniel and Grace plan on rolling out a Sunday brunch menu in the coming weeks, as well as hosting spoken-word events in the evenings. They also plan on supporting other local enterprises with advertisements and signs, as part of a joint effort to bolster the area.

Says Daniel: “We want to get to know all our customers and anything they feel we’re missing from the shelves we’ll try to get in.”

Bang Bang is open 8am to 7pm between Tuesday and Friday, and 11am to 4pm on Saturday and Sunday. It’s closed Mondays.

Cónal Thomas is a city reporter for Dublin Inquirer.

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