Capital cities can inflate their restaurant prices to the point where budget eating is hard to find. Thankfully, Warsaw maintains a lot of tradition and sense in this regard. This excellent list shows the best cheap restaurants, all well located within the Old Town and city centre area of Poland’s capital. Be aware that as well as being cheap, many of these places are cash only.
A superb Warsaw venue with a historic feel about it is the Bar Mleczny Prasowy, which dates back to 1954. It’s located on the main Marszałkowska Street in a grey building and serves up a delightful range of pierogi in a very typical ‘Milk Bar‘ atmosphere. Inside, the interior is larger than most Milk Bars, as Bar Mleczny Prasowy needs to satisfy the hordes of customers on weekdays, particularly during the 12–2pm peak times. Enjoy one of the cheapest places in central Warsaw to eat with pierogi (dumplings) from 6 złotych (US$1.63), soup from 3 złotych and kompot for 2 złotych.
The Mleczarnia Jerozolimska is one of the oldest restaurants in Warsaw and has an interesting history to it, as it was Poland’s first ever Milk Bar. The restaurant has been closed and re-opened a few times during its history, as well as witnessing a few re-brandings. However, in modern day Warsaw, just round the corner from the city’s upmarket street, Nowy Swiat (New World), sits the traditional Mleczarnia Jerozolimska. It still serves value cutlets, pierogi, salad and kompot. This Milk Bar is perhaps the most historic venue of its kind, yet it serves fresh and cheap tasty meals every day. Not one to miss!
It often comes as a surprise to tourists that just metres from the walls of Warsaw’s Old Town, you can eat a full lunch with a drink for under 10 złotych (US$2.70)! Welcome to the Bar Pod Barbakanem, with its distinctive orange-walled exterior and good Polish food at cheap prices. This place can get busy in summer months, but it is worth it – a really good place to understand what a Milk Bar is all about.
Situated next to a huge church in one of Warsaw’s coolest districts, Praga, the Bar Mleczny Rusałka is a great option for dining close to the Wisła River. Being opposite the church has always meant good business for this Milk Bar. Visitors expect an excellent selection of soups, which includes zupa barszcz (red soup), as well as superb nalesniki (Polish-style crêpes) and great pasta like the makaron ze słonina (sweet pasta). It’s a cheap and easy menu and full of locals. Please note that weekend opening hours are shorter.
The no-frills restaurant chain Kuchnia Za Scianą knows how to cook excellent Polish food, serve it to perfection, keep their customers coming in and maintain low prices. There are over ten locations throughout Warsaw to sample their clever food, cheap meals and relaxed ambience. But for a real bargain in the city centre, the Aleje Jerozolimskie venue is a super choice, as it’s hard to find such cheap and cheerful genuine Polish food on this street without visiting a Milk Bar. The daily menu varies, but there are always delicious Polish soups like zurek and barszcz, main dishes like kotlet schabowy (pork cutlet) and pierogi and a good kompot juice. It is self service and a buffet-style – you pay at the till after choosing your food. Try to avoid it at lunchtime, though, as queues can get long.
Trusted cheap Polish bar chain Pijalnia Wódki i Piwa also has a superb range of value Polish pub food, making it a wonderful way to experience Polish cuisine and Polish drinking culture all in one. There are several locations throughout the country’s capital. Locals will be aware that no matter how empty or closed these venues appear, they are open all day and night, every day of the year except for public and important holidays. Head to the cosy Pijalnia Wódki i Piwa on Nowy Swiat (New World Street) for cheap sausages or herring (Polish-style) from as little as 9 złotych (US$2.60). To accompany your food, vodka, beer and coffee cost as little as 4.50 złotych (US$1.40) each.
Poland is a surprisingly good country for finding tasty and meaty kebabs, and not just good kebabs, but great value kebabs. Kebab King is popular in Warsaw amongst locals and tourists alike, and it also has branches in Istanbul in Turkey. The menu is consistent, and the brand offers an enticing choice of kebabs. From cheese kebabs to fitness kebabs, from vegetarian kebabs to the Turkish iskender, it’s the most popular kebab chain in the city. It also has free Wi-Fi, plenty of seating and serves beer on tap. It is open 24 hours in the central locations, and you can grab a decent kebab from 10 złotych (US$2.70).