The Dirty Souls' restaurant in Derry: Co-owner talks barbecue, smoke houses and sustainability

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Jeanette of The Dirty Souls in Derry talks to The Journal about how she and co-owner, husband Eoin, came to opening the popular barbecue restaurant, the inspiration behind it and why they “love the people of Derry.”

“By far the best American Southern food I’ve tasted,” enthuses one of the many glowing reviews on TripAdvisor.

“No matter what you’re in Derry for, give this place a try, you won’t be disappointed,” exclaims another.

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Those are just some of the glowing reviews raving about The Dirty Souls, the Derry restaurant owned and managed by husband and wife team Jeanette and Eoin after they dreamt up the concept and moved back home from London in order to make it happen.

The Dirty Souls is the Derry restaurant owned and managed by husband and wife team Jeanette and Eoin after they dreamt up the concept and moved back home from London in order to make it happen.The Dirty Souls is the Derry restaurant owned and managed by husband and wife team Jeanette and Eoin after they dreamt up the concept and moved back home from London in order to make it happen.
The Dirty Souls is the Derry restaurant owned and managed by husband and wife team Jeanette and Eoin after they dreamt up the concept and moved back home from London in order to make it happen.
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Nominations open for the  Derry Journal People of the Year Awards 2024

The Dirty Souls specialises in serving up mouth-watering American barbecue and Soul food, with Jeanette explaining she was, incredibly, the “the first female barbecue restaurant owner in Ireland and the North of Ireland.”

It follows a passion borne from essentially growing up in the hospitality industry, having worked in it since just 13 years of age “as a wee part time Saturday job in Ballybofey.”

Jeanette tells The Journal: "We moved back here in January 2019 and the first event we held was in Ballybofey as a pop-up in a pub.

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Jeanette, who has been working in the industry for 27 years, “knew” she wanted to own and run her own restaurant, but couldn’t decide on what style until they moved to London in 2012. “We went to the Blue’s Kitchen and when I walked in it just clicked immediately."Jeanette, who has been working in the industry for 27 years, “knew” she wanted to own and run her own restaurant, but couldn’t decide on what style until they moved to London in 2012. “We went to the Blue’s Kitchen and when I walked in it just clicked immediately."
Jeanette, who has been working in the industry for 27 years, “knew” she wanted to own and run her own restaurant, but couldn’t decide on what style until they moved to London in 2012. “We went to the Blue’s Kitchen and when I walked in it just clicked immediately."

“We then did our first festival in the Guildhall in November where we were invited to do the first cocktail stand. From there, James from the Walled City Brewery invited us to do a La Tacqueria night in February, which was right before the first lockdown. They were the first events we ran as taster sessions – but then Covid hit.”

Undeterred, resourceful husband and wife team Jeanette and Eoin found a food truck which was available for rent on a weekly basis, “popping up” in different locations across Derry and Donegal when Covid restrictions allowed. “Our first night in Derry was our largest ever trading night,” Jeanette explains. “We couldn’t release our location because we had already sold out on pre-orders.”

From here, the couple branched out to operating from a set location: “During Covid we began to trade from the first floor of the Grand Central Bar as The Dirty Souls, so we had a little smokehouse and cocktail bar there and held live music nights.

"We kept that going when lockdown lifted and did a series of fantastic pop-ups with a series of Michelin-starred chefs and renowned chefs.”

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Co-owner of The Dirty Souls, Jeanette, says: 'We love the people of Derry, the way they get behind local businesses and come out and support.'Co-owner of The Dirty Souls, Jeanette, says: 'We love the people of Derry, the way they get behind local businesses and come out and support.'
Co-owner of The Dirty Souls, Jeanette, says: 'We love the people of Derry, the way they get behind local businesses and come out and support.'

The duo now own the restaurant in Derry, Coupe by The Dirty Souls at 10 Shipquay Street as well as the food truck and smoke school at Kinnegar Brewery in Letterkenny.

The restaurant is on track to becoming one of the first fully zero waste restaurants by the end of the year: “We are very active in terms of our sustainability practices, we do not use things like ice machines or walk-in fridges,” Jeanette explains.

"Everything is fresh and we do not use an oven. We make the majority of our own produce in-house and we deal directly with suppliers and small independents. We only sell local beers and we make a lot of our own juices and run our own teaching and training."

Jeanette, who worked and trained as a somalier before opening The Dirty Souls, is a mixologist who specialises in cocktails to complement the mouth-watering food, and has a wide range of non-alcoholic drinks available as well.

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Husband and wife team Jeanette and Eoin now own their restaurant in Derry, Coupe by The Dirty Souls at 10 Shipquay Street as well as the food truck and smoke school at Kinnegar Brewery in Letterkenny. And Jeanette says she thinks husband Eoin is incredible at smoking the meats: "He's definitely one of the best," she enthuses.Husband and wife team Jeanette and Eoin now own their restaurant in Derry, Coupe by The Dirty Souls at 10 Shipquay Street as well as the food truck and smoke school at Kinnegar Brewery in Letterkenny. And Jeanette says she thinks husband Eoin is incredible at smoking the meats: "He's definitely one of the best," she enthuses.
Husband and wife team Jeanette and Eoin now own their restaurant in Derry, Coupe by The Dirty Souls at 10 Shipquay Street as well as the food truck and smoke school at Kinnegar Brewery in Letterkenny. And Jeanette says she thinks husband Eoin is incredible at smoking the meats: "He's definitely one of the best," she enthuses.

The talented duo have been running a range of supper clubs called Meet the Makers, including one with Wild Atlantic Distillery who are “neighbours with whom we have a fantastic relationship,” Jeanette reveals. “We have another one coming up on 12 April with our meat producers and suppliers which we are so excited for.”

The cattle for The Dirty Souls is bred in Wexford to suit the style of produce and cooking the husband and wife team use, with their butcher a man Jeanette grew up with in Ballbofey. She says: “The local collaborative support businesses have for one another here is just amazing.”

Jeanette and Eoin are also looking into opening an education academy after struggling to recruit staff in the hospitality sector.

"There is a group of us looking at how we can encourage more young ones into the sector and stay in the sector, in order to improve employment rates,” Jeanette reveals.

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“We have a lot of people in Derry city alone who come from amazing hospitality backgrounds who have worked internationally and nationally who bring a lot to the city and I think our younger people need to see and understand what they can do, and how far a career in hospitality can take you.

"That is actually why we came back, because we wanted to showcase what we love to the people of Derry.”

The duo now own the restaurant in Derry, Coupe by The Dirty Souls at 10 Shipquay Street as well as the food truck and smoke school at Kinnegar Brewery in Letterkenny.The duo now own the restaurant in Derry, Coupe by The Dirty Souls at 10 Shipquay Street as well as the food truck and smoke school at Kinnegar Brewery in Letterkenny.
The duo now own the restaurant in Derry, Coupe by The Dirty Souls at 10 Shipquay Street as well as the food truck and smoke school at Kinnegar Brewery in Letterkenny.

Jeanette, who has been working in the industry for 27 years, “knew” she wanted to own and run her own restaurant, but couldn’t decide on what style until they moved to London in 2012. “We went to the Blue’s Kitchen and when I walked in it just clicked immediately. So in 2017 I packed me and my husband up and we visited smoke houses in America and learnt all about the smoke houses there.

"I create all the menus, the food, the drinks, the wines – everything! My husband is just amazing at smoking meat and our close-knit team of staff are just amazing.

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"The Dirty Souls is all about getting back to how food was traditionally served, with just oil and fire. It’s about getting back to the core elements and enjoy foraging, which all comes from my experience working in London and learning from those guys how to collect garnishes.”

Jeanette adds: "We love the people of Derry, the way they get behind local businesses and come out and support. We really found, especially opening up throughout the pandemic, the support has been incredible from the ground up from both the people of Derry and fellow local businesses.”