Supermac’s is indispensable to Irish students

Walking down one of the many pedestrian-friendly streets of Galway, Ireland on yet another chilly, overcast day, I noticed out of the corner of my eye a white plastic utensil. Initially, I thought it was a spork—that fork/spoon hybrid made popular by Taco Bell. As soon as I realized it was just an ordinary fork, I was crushed. No spork, no Taco Bell.
The current weakness of the American dollar makes college students abroad crave, among other things, cheap fast food. For the typical college student, nothing characterizes a night of drinking like the inevitable trip to Taco Bell, Jimmy John’s, Steak ‘n’ Shake or, for those in the St. Louis area, Courtesy Diner. The terms “drunk food” and “beer munchies” are part of student vernacular at campuses across the United States.
In Ireland, there are no Taco Bells. Jimmy John’s does not deliver into the wee hours of the morning. Rather, Americans abroad in Ireland must take a page out of the native book and visit the Irish version of American fast food: Supermac’s. Located only a short walk from almost all of the bars and clubs in Galway city, Supermac’s offers delicious burgers, chicken nuggets, pizza, and fish and chips, all of which seem spectacular at the time.
Every Irish morning after, I can’t help but laugh. Supermac’s makes no effort to disguise whom their target market is: drunk college students. Generally, pubs close between 11 p.m. and 1 a.m. At the latest, the clubs are open until 3 a.m. As these establishments, known as On-Licensees because they serve alcohol, close down, their patrons filter into Supermac’s.
Walking into Supermac’s is like walking into a dream. Everyone in the building, save the employees, has quite obviously been drinking. Standing at the door and patrolling the booths and tables are fast food bouncers. Each night they throw out several inebriated customers for deciding to go to sleep on tables or for their inability to stand. For the most part, intoxication at Supermac’s is accepted, but consumers are expected to be able to order, eat and leave without assistance.
While Supermac’s may seem like a blessing to hungry, culture-shocked Americans, it is anything but. Few establishments in Ireland have drained my bank account as much as Supermac’s in these first three weeks of the semester. My friends and I have begun to rate the quality of an evening out based on how long we were able to avoid going to Supermac’s.
The problem is, cheap fast food prices aren’t the same in Europe as they are in the United States. .99 cent Jack in the Box tacos are not an option nor are delicious items from the McDonald’s dollar menu. Rather, any trip to Supermac’s wrenches at least 5 Euro from us poor, drunk Americans (and that’s with a fair amount of self-control). To give you an idea, that is about $7. We’ve had to budget our spending for a week based not only on the considerable cost of pints, but the inevitable cost of Supermac’s as well.
Don’t get me wrong, it’s delicious, but a warning to anyone looking to study abroad in Ireland: Be prepared to pay your dues to Supermac’s. Once you see the bright signs advertising the Supermac burger meal or the three-piece fried chicken Snackbox meal, it’s tough to keep your wallet in your pocket. Not something you’d think of as the traditional Irish experience, but as a college student abroad in Ireland, it’s an undeniable staple.

Doug Anstoetter is a junior in the College of Arts and Sciences, studying in Galway, Ireland.