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Edinburgh: Five top cheap and tasty restaurants

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Elephant House
Grab a bite and sip a coffee with locals and Harry Potter fans at Elephant House. Photo: Axon Manage

If you’ve travelled straight up from London, the affordability of eating well in Edinburgh will come as a pleasant surprise. It’s a city of cozy cafes where it’s easy to satisfy your stomach with soup and baked potatoes. Evening options are more wallet-friendly too—though if you really want something super cheap, head to a chippy to sample the city’s famous chips with salt and ‘sauce’ (a brown sauce meets vinegar concoction). For something more classy and artery-friendly, here are five options that are some of Edinburgh’s best cheap eats.

Elephant House pastries

Buying pastries at Elephant house. Photo: Axon Manage

The Elephant House
21 George IV Bridge

The Elephant House is famous for three things. First of all, the elephants that gave the place its name: there’s loads of them dotted around this charming café. Then there’s Harry Potter. J.K. Rowling apparently wrote some of the first Harry Potter sitting in this café’s back room that has what you might call inspirational views over to Edinburgh castle. And, finally, there’s the food. Although it does open in the evening, this is mainly a sandwich and soup, or a coffee and cake kind of place. Attracting academics from the National Library of Scotland opposite as well as Potter tourists and aspiring novelists, the Elephant House is a great place to sit and people watch for an hour or so.

The Mosque Kitchen 
22 Nicolson Street

Another firm student favorite, this eatery—as the name suggests—is related to Edinburgh’s mosque. It originally served the congregation but opened its kitchen to all, much to the delight of curry lovers around the city. You’ll need to queue, and it’s more of a canteen than a restaurant (meals are served on paper plates), but when you can pick up a tasty chicken curry with two sides for less than a fiver, it’s more than worthwhile.

Photo: Gary Denham

North African favorite Nile Valley Cafe. Photo: Gary Denham

Nile Valley Cafe
6 Chapel Street

Situated right by University of Edinburgh, its influence can be felt in the flyers and posters for student events decorating the walls, as well as the cheap prices of this North African eatery. Think flavorful falafel, kebabs and flat breads with great dips and sauces, perfect for adding some color on a cold Edinburgh day. Charmingly scruffy around the edges, you can enjoy a set lunch at £5.99 or evening meal for £15.50, and make the most of their bring your own booze policy.

A Room in the West End & Teuchters Bar
26 William Street

This place is perfect if you want a Scottish experience—it’s basically a highland bar transplanted to the center of Edinburgh. That means football and rugby on the TVs and an extensive range of whiskys behind the bar. There’s a bar menu—a tempting variety of things served in mugs—or head downstairs to the cozy ‘room’ to enjoy a more formal dining experience. Food is suitably Scottish, with an emphasis on seafood, but many a fond word has also been said about their Banoffee pie. Mains are around £13 each, but you can get a good deal on a set lunch. There’s another branch in the Leith area of the city.

The Dogs cottage pie

Cottage pie with braised red cabbage at The Dogs restaurant. Photo: Edinburgh Blog

The Dogs
110 Hanover Street

The Dogs was set up to provide a good value dining experience. It’s a fun, young and informal atmosphere with mismatched plates and crockery, dark wood tables and hearty mains, using locally sourced food where possible. In the day, you can get mains for under £7, while in the evening around £13 will get you delights such as a generous portion of stuffed pork belly. At busier times in the city, such as Hogmanay or the Edinburgh Festival, you’ll probably need to book ahead.

About the author

Frances Ambler

Frances Ambler has been doing her best to live in London on the cheap since 2003. She works as an editor in one of London’s best – and free – museums, as well as writing for various websites including domesticsluttery.com. An avid second-hand shopper, ten years of "research" culminated in her most recent project: writing for the soon-to-be-published "Rough Guide to Vintage London."

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