The best cheap eats in Edinburgh: 21 top-class restaurants as recommended by locals

Eating out on a budget doesn't have to mean lowering your standards. Edinburgh's best cheap eats are a winning combination of street food, fine dining and international cuisines

Updated on • Written By Rosie Conroy

The best cheap eats in Edinburgh: 21 top-class restaurants as recommended by locals

Capital cities aren’t typically known for their cut-price eateries, but luckily the canny Scots aren’t going to be caught out by inflated tourist-trap menus. Here, in Edinburgh, cheap eats can be found on nearly every corner and range from authentic sourdough pizzas through to richly fragrant Thai curries.

While some of the best cheap eats in Edinburgh are found around the Royal Mile or George Square, there are also small, family-run restaurants on the outskirts which offer incredible cooking for a snip of the price of their city centre counterparts. Take Leith, for instance, which is a trendy neighbourhood in its own right, and a bit of an under-the-radar foodie destination. Just a short bus ride out you'll find its sunny shores (don’t you know there’s always Sunshine on Leith?), the perfect place to treat yourself to coffee and pastries from one of the boutique bakeries, or to bag a table at one of the inexpensive local restaurants.

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During The Edinburgh Festival, the best cheap restaurants in Edinburgh get booked up fast, with acts and audiences alike streaming in before and after shows to get their fill of some much-needed fuel. If you’re planning on visiting Scotland’s capital city in August then we’d recommend securing a table early to guarantee yourself a great value, delicious lunch or dinner (or breakfast or brunch come to think of it, we don’t discriminate against mealtimes).

We’re pretty strict about what constitutes a cheap eat, with all meals having to come in under £15. We’ve put in plenty of research to bring you loads of affordable options, starting from just £5, so that you can embrace the Champagne lifestyle you deserve on a good old lemonade budget. To ensure we uncovered all the city's hidden gems, we asked a group of Edinburgh locals for their favourite affordable restaurants that they return to time and time again for something delicious and comforting that doesn't require re-mortgaging a house. 

The Outsider

At lunchtime The Outsider in Edinburgh runs a menu of delicious, seasonally inspired dishes at budget-friendly prices. Served between 11am-5pm, here you’ll find things like carrot, coconut, and yellow split pea soup with crusty bread for just £5.60, while hearty mains come in around the ten-pound mark. Think steamed mussels with basil cream, bacon, pine nuts, Parmesan and fries; or a steaks frites with peppercorn sauce. The split-level space offers castle views from upstairs too, for a seriously atmospheric way to enjoy a bite to eat.
Meals from: Lunch starts from £5.60
Where: 1EE, 15 George IV Bridge, EH1 1EE

Pizza Posto

While it might be casual, that doesn’t mean Pizza Posto doesn’t take its pies seriously. Here you’ll find a range of authentic Neapolitan style pizzas made from slowly fermented, multi-cereal dough which are then baked hot and fast in clay ovens for charred, bubbled crusts. Toppings range from a classic Margherita though to an award-winning combination of tomato, fior di latte, rocket, Parma ham, burrata, basil and extra virgin olive oil. Sides of fries, garlic breads and salads complete things with a few Italian desserts on offer to round things off nicely too.
Meals from: Pizzas start from £6.95
Where: 16 Nicolson Street, EH8 9DH

Holyrood 9A

If you’re on a budget the best thing you can do for yourself, we think, is to set yourself up for the day with one big breakfast. Holyrood 9A might be famous for its cosy pub feel come the evening, but it also does a cracking brekkie. We’re talking sandwiches stuffed with avocado, grilled halloumi and a fried egg or a full Scottish breakfast, complete with black pudding. If you’re passing by later in the day you can expect a bar menu of burgers and buns, like the Smokestack which comes with a 6oz steak patty, haggis, smoked cheddar, whisky and cracked pepper mayo and lettuce, all stuffed into a brioche bun.
Meals from: Burgers start from £10.75
Where: 9a Holyrood Road, EH8 8AE

Paradise Palms

Award-winning vegetarian and vegan food is the order of the day at Paradise Palms, and this fun little oasis in the heart of the city offers a bit of respite from the hussle and bustle outside. This isn’t your typical vegan food though, this is plant-based junk food of the highest order. Think dirty fries, buffalo cauliflower bites and juicy burgers stacked up with salad, pickles and sauces. You can eat really well for under a tenner here, and the additional toppings menu lets you put a bespoke spin on your own burger.
Meals from: Burgers start from £8.50
Where: 41 Lothian Street, EH1 1HB

Mother India

Its affordable, informal Indian dining at the heart of Edinburgh’s old town has kept Mother India at the top of its game for over a decade now. The dining room is always busy with background chatter from happy diners, and staff move busily in between packed tables. Because the menu is a bit of a twist on tapas, small plates here start from around a fiver, and with plenty of fish, meat and veggie options you can easily control how much you spend. The most expensive dish clocks in at £10.45 and is a richly spiced monkfish tikka while a simply dhal won't set you back much more than a fiver. Don’t miss the stuffed dosas and the homemade butter chicken.
Meals from: Tapas curry portions start from £5.75
Where: 3-5 Infirmary Street, EH1 1LT

Baba Edinburgh

Inspired by flavours of the Levant, this relaxed George Street restaurant has a surprisingly affordable menu given its plum location. Younger sibling to the award-winning Ox and Finch in Glasgow, Baba Edinburgh is the perfect place for groups who are happy to order a selection of plates to share. There are snacks, sharing dishes and grills to choose from, all fragrantly flavoured with heady herbs and spices. With no one item going over the £15 mark, you can eat well here from a fiver. Build your own mezze platter with baba ganoush, hummus or labneh, or go for a larger plate like chuck-eye steak with grilled lettuce and chimichurri.
Meals from: Mezze plates start from £4.50
Where: 130 George Street, EH2 4JZ

Harajuku Kitchen

With a clutch of high-end awards under its belt, Harajuku Kitchen is one of Edinburgh’s top restaurants, and the best bit is that dining here won’t break the bank. The pared back dining room has exposed stone walls and scrubbed wooden tables while everything has been given a little lift from Japanese art across the walls. The blackboard displays the day’s specials, but sushi and gyoza are mainstays. Crowd-pleasers include crispy and succulent Japanese fried chicken (£7.95), a plate of chive and pork dumplings (£6.80) and sushi bowls which come with all sorts of interesting toppings. Our favourite things for eating here on a budget are the set menus which include rice, miso soup and your choice of main. For around £13 you’ll leave stuffed and have your pick of things like aubergine katsu curry or chicken teriyaki.
Meals from: A plate of dumplings starts at £5.80
Where: 10 Gillespie Place, EH10 4HS

Civerinos Slice

Paying homage to the New York slice, this is one of Edinburgh’s most popular places for pizza. Whopper pies (we’re talking 14” or 24” here guys, there’s no messing around) and hearty single slices come topped with a range of please-all ingredients. The Hot Hot combines ‘nduja with sliced chillies, garlic and honey hot sauce, while the Return of the Mac comes with an alfredo base, chicken, garlic, macaroni, Parmesan, parsley and pepper. If budget allows, don’t skip the sides – we’re talking mac and cheese bites and saucy steak fries.
Meals from: Big, New York style pizza slices start from £3.95 per pop
Where: 9 Forrest Road, EH1 2QP

Franco Manca

Chewy sourdough bases and carefully chosen topping ingredients are Franco Manca’s calling card, and their Edinburgh site follows the same format as its older siblings down south. The cheapest thiing on the menu is a tomato, garlic, basil, and oregano pizza which comes in at just £5.20. Expect a clean, contemporary dining room with an open kitchen, wooden tables, and retro-style chairs. No main comes in over a tenner, and there’s a small choice of starters and sides too, like top-drawer charcuterie or a simple green salad.
Meals from: Pizzas start from £5.20
Where: Unit E2, The Mint Building, 19-23 S St Andrew Street, EH2 2AU

El Cartel

Promising tacos, tequila and good times, El Cartel has proved so popular in Edinburgh that it now has three sites across the city. The main event – the tacos – come stuffed full of toppings and are arranged in little metal stands for a fun way to share a bit of everything with friends. Veggies and vegans are catered for with plant-based specials, while meat eaters get the pick of everything from crispy confit duck leg through to pork shoulder. Other sharing plates include charred corn on the cob and a salmon ceviche. For around a fiver per plate, this is leagues ahead of making do with a sandwich, and about the same price.
Meals from: Tacos start at £6
Where: 15-16 Teviot Place, EH1 2QZ

Bonnie & Wild

Offering a less formal dining experience, Bonnie & Wild is a food hall specialising in showcasing Scotland’s larder in all its form. Here you’ll find award winning Chinese food made with local ingredients; Scottish seafood cooked up by MasterChef winner Gary Maclean; a sleek pasta bar; and even a luxurious gelato bar. While there are fine dining outlets, most of the spots here offer an affordable way to eat in the capital with Rico’s Pasta Bar – for instance – serving mains from £8.
Meals from: Plates of pasta from £8
Where: 1 Leith Street, EH1 3SS

Nile Valley Café

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Popular with students and food snobs alike, this unassuming little café deals in stellar north African plates. Part of the appeal for those on a budget is the addition of a canned drink and a portion of chips with most options on the menu. We’re talking a fragrant chicken shish, or a veggie wrap packed with falafel, humus, and avocado. There’s the option to add one of three sauces too – peanut butter, spicy or yogurt. From just £8.50 for a meal deal, this is hard to beat as a late night pitstop after an evening on the tiles, or even as curer the morning after the night before. Trust us when we say this isn’t your typical kebab shop.
Meals from: A wrap, chips and a drink from £7.50
Where: 6 Chapel Street, Newington, EH8 9AY

Chez Jules

Consistently the most popular choice when we asked locals for their recommendations, Chez Jules is famous for its plates of fine French food at old-school prices. At lunch you can choose from a one-, two- or three-course menu costing £5.90, £7.90, or £9.90 respectively. Each option comes with salad, bread and butter, pickles, and pate, so even if you plump for just one course, we can almost guarantee you won’t leave hungry. Mains include a steak frites with pepper sauce and a classic coq au vin with mash, while chocolate mousse or panacotta take care of your afternoon sugar in a much classier way than a bar of Cadbury’s.
Meals from: Lunch menus start at £5.90
Where: 109 Hanover Street, EH2 1DJ

Victor Hugo Deli

Fancy a quick takeaway lunch that’s way better than a Boots meal deal? Clocking in at a similar price, Victor Hugo Deli comes to the table with far superior options. We’re talking rye bread sandwiches generously stuffed with pastrami, pickles and cheese or freshly baked baguettes filled with French ham, brie, fresh apple and chutney. Baguettes will set you back £4.95 while the rye bread specials sit at just £5.50 and are an entire meal in themselves. Even a sharing platter for two – which is piled up with charcuterie, cheese, pickes and bread – will only cost you £7.50 each.
Meals from: Sandwiches from £4.95
Where: 104 George Street, Edinburgh EH2 3DF

Mosque Kitchen

No frills dining doesn’t mean low standards of cooking, a rule that is proved by Mosque Kitchen in Edinburgh. While the cutlery might be disposable and the chairs might be plastic, the food is good, and it comes in large portions at rock-bottom prices. From £4.50 you can treat yourself to a generous plate of tarka daal and rice or go all out and pick three curries plus rice for just £7. The service is hit and miss, but sort of part of the charm, and because it’s open until 10pm every evening you get a fun, mixed crowd there for a bite to eat before bedtime.
Meals from: Curry and rice from £4.50
Where: 31-33 Nicolson Square, EH8 9BX

Kim’s Mini Meals

Having been previously recommended by the Michelin Guide, Kim’s Mini Meals is an unassuming Korean restaurant that has built up a loyal following since it opened. This family run spot is headed up by the motherly matriarch and serves the signature sweet, spicy and sour food of Korea. Favourites like bibimbap and bulgogi feature on the menu alongside some lesser-known dishes. Each order of a main dish – which cost £12 – come with a free side and soup for a fully rounded meal that will leave you feeling full (and smug potentially, thanks to all that inside knowledge).
Meals from: Mains – with a free side and soup – set you back £12
Where: 5 Buccleuch St, Newington, EH8 9JN

The Walnut

Okay, this one actually breaks our £15 per meal rule, but we hope you’ll agree that it’s worth the transgression. You see, this Edinburgh restaurant (or more accurately, Leith restaurant) has a BYOB format and serves an incredible set menu of local, seasonal food come lunch and dinner time. Two courses at lunchtime cost £17 and the offer includes canapes and petit four. Starters might be pork terrine with fennel jam and tarragon, while mains could be a braised lamb pie or a fillet of coley with a couscous salad. Pretty fancy, huh?
Meals from: Two course lunch from £17
Where: 9 Croall Place, Leith Walk, EH7 4LT

Razzo

Razzo is the type of place where cutlery is served in old passata cans and is so popular that you can’t actually book, this is a walk-in only joint. Veggie options, white pizzas and traditional toppings are all present and correct, while there’s a regular run of specials too. Our favourite is the salsiccia sausage and broccoli combination which has a perfect balance of sweet and savoury notes and costs just £9. If you’re willing to splash a little extra cash, there is also a pretty tidy line-up of desserts for under a fiver each.
Meals from: Pizzas start at £6
Where: 59 Great Junction Street, EH6 5HX

Bodega

Trendy pink interiors, colourful menus and an open kitchen all add to the appeal of Bodega, a modern taqueria in the heart of Leith which offers a BYO option for wine and fizz. While the main inspiration for the menu naturally comes from Mexico, there are international influences throughout, seen in dishes like the tempura tiger prawn taco with house slaw, sweet chilli and soy dressing, or the chargrilled pork belly one with kimchi, ginger jam and spring onions.
Meals from: Tacos cost from £7
Where: 14-15 Albert Place, EH7 5HN

The Percy

The vibe at this traditional Polish restaurant can be a little ‘interesting’ but the food is hearty and well-made, and crucially the prices are purse friendly. Expect rib-stickers like traditional steamed cheese and potato dumplings or a crunchy potato pancake with beef gulash and sour gherkins. Most mains come in under £8, while the most expensive listing – a steak – is just £13.95.
Meals from: Lots of mains start at £7.95
Where: Easter Road, EH6 8HT

Ting Thai Caravan

There’s something about Thai food that makes it almost addictive. We can’t get enough of those sweet, sour, salty combinations and Ting Thai Caravan bring bucketloads of flavour to each plate they make. With most mains under a tenner, you can expect steaming bowls of beef soup, fragrant massaman curries and big plates of wok-fried noodles. With three sites across the city, there’s never one too far away, and it’s a great place to gather with friends so that you can share a range of things from the different sections of the menu. There’s a no bookings policy, so make sure to turn up early if you want to grab a seat.
Meals from: Pad Thai starts from £8.80
Where: 8-9 Teviot Place, EH1 2QZ

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