The Best Cheap Eats in Edinburgh

The bun cha gio is one delicious option at GōN Vietnamese in Edinburgh
The bun cha gio is one delicious option at GōN Vietnamese in Edinburgh | Courtesy of GōN Vietnamese
Harry Harris

These bars, cafés and restaurants are cooking up the best cheap eats in Edinburgh. Scour this list, and you’ll be guaranteed to get something delicious and still have some change from a tenner.

Despite being one of the most exciting and beautiful cities in Europe, Edinburgh still very much has the feel of a small community, and its food scene is a big part of that. New trends and fashions may have been welcomed into the city, but there are many established, independent businesses that are big local favourites and may not immediately come up on your radar. The best thing is that they’re all pretty cheap. Whether you want an oozing grilled cheese, authentic curry or some traditional Scottish delicacies, this list should be your first port of call.

Mosque Kitchen

Mosque Kitchen opened in Edinburgh after 9/11, when the city’s Muslim community wanted to raise awareness of their faith and quell any lingering anxieties people may have been having about Islam in the wake of the tragedy. It proved so popular with Edinburgh locals that the restaurant has become a firm favourite. Set up canteen style, it has a range of cheap and cheerful curries on offer daily, along with freshly made naans and pilau rice. It’s informal, authentic and delicious, plus it is ideally located for pre-theatre dining.

Located just opposite Appleton Tower on Chapel Street is this small, unassuming restaurant that fires up some of the best wraps in the city. The African Wrap Place is often heaving at lunchtime, quickly putting together falafel wraps with spicy peanut sauce, fuul (a fava bean stew), roasted aubergines and crumbled feta. At no more than £5 a pop, these are among the best value lunches to be found. Meat options are also available, alongside a larger sit-in menu at Nile Valley Cafe next door.

Oink

Oink has been roasting pig since the turn of the millennium, and what began as a small street food hog roast has now bloomed into several Edinburgh sites, each touting deliciously loaded pork rolls. Check out its location on gorgeous Victoria Street, where every day a new roast sits proudly displayed in the window. The menu is small but simple with hog roast sandwiches on soft white baps in small, medium or large sizes. This hot sandwich includes succulent pork, a choice of sage and onion or haggis stuffing and a range of sauces. Make sure you ask for crispy crackling, too.

Snax Cafe

Snax Cafe is a cheap, unpretentious local chain that serves loaded baked potatoes, gut-busting fry-ups and brilliant breakfast rolls. Always packed out, this place is famed during the Fringe when it fills up with comics, actors and anyone else who’s made Edinburgh their home for August (or may have been going a little too heavy the night before). With the breakfast rolls, don’t be afraid to go off-menu. Throw a hash brown in with your haggis. Mix scrambled egg and veggie sausage. Squeeze in a third item if you’re feeling particularly decadent. Here, rules are meant to be broken.

Himalaya Shop/Cafe

This small café and therapy centre on South Clerk Street serves delicious plates of authentic Tibetan food at remarkably reasonable prices, and can lay a strong claim to having the best cup of chai tea in Edinburgh. With soothing music and lingering incense, it is impossible to go in and not immediately feel relaxed. Here, go for the curries; all of them are either vegetarian or vegan and are beautifully, subtly spiced. If you want a selection of options, the generous thali plate mixes curry, chapati, rice, salad and sides.

GōN Vietnamese

Located on Cadzow Place, not far from Meadowbank Shopping Centre, is this authentic Vietnamese café. The menu features pho (noodle soup), bun (noodle salad), gon rolls (rice paper rolls), cha (fried spring rolls), bánh mì (Vietnamese sandwich) and com (rice dishes). Each báhn mì is fresh, spicy and a steal. The rest of the menu is slightly pricier, but nothing will break the bank. It’s still a bit of a hidden gem, but word is bound to get out soon enough.

Piemaker

You can’t come to Edinburgh and not have a macaroni pie. This decadent Scottish-Italian mashup is a hot-water pastry crust filled with gooey macaroni and cheese. It is so legendary that when Gregg’s pulled it from its menu in 2017, Nicola Sturgeon brought up the controversial decision in Parliament. Thankfully, Piemaker has you covered with its offering for just a couple of pounds. There are also some great vegan options for a similar price here – the spinach vergas bake is flaky and satisfying, lightly spiced and flavoured with dill and onion.

Wings

Wings is Edinburgh’s first and only restaurant dedicated to chicken wings. Every bowl comes with six wings, topped with a choice of seasonings and sauces. The venue ranks the spice of its options in ascending order from zero to five. The hottest things on the menu come under the aptly named Sizzler section. Its house hot sauce, Taps Aff, boasts a scorching rating of five at 30,000 Scoville units (a bottle of Tabasco has around 5,000). Don’t ignore the completely spiceless options either. The French Bee honey garlic and the Jamayocain Me Crazy with jerk barbecue-mayo sauce are both incredible without blowing your head off, and the Lemon Pot Noodle rub is also surprisingly delicious. It’s super quick, super affordable and a guaranteed great eat.

Meltmongers

Who doesn’t love a grilled cheese? Meltmongers, at the top of Morningside and right alongside The Meadows, has got them down to a fine art. It’s famous for its mac and cheese melt – thick toasted bread, oozing cheese, gooey macaroni and an optional relish to spice things up. If you’re in any way curious about a pasta sandwich, then just try it. The philly cheesesteak melt is another excellent option, with slow-cooked beef shin and a rich, unctuous dipping sauce.

The High Dive

Civerinos is known for making some of the best pizzas in Edinburgh, and its latest venture is The High Dive – a local pizza-pub on St Leonard’s Street in the Southside. This venue serves Civerinos classic pizzas – but personal size – plus good beer on tap. The grape, ricotta and rosemary option may look odd, but it works perfectly well. Also, don’t sleep on its breakfast pizzas (bacon, mozzarella and barbecue sauce wrapped up in pizza dough and served like a butty). The High Dive offers vegan and vegetarian options, too.

This is an updated version of a story written by Tori Chalmers.

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