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Cheap places to eat in Edinburgh

Six restaurants that prove that great food doesn’t have to mean high prices
Edinburgh is blessed with one of the UK’s biggest student populations. As a percentage of the whole population, it’s second only to Manchester. And wherever you find large swathes of students, you’ll find cheap food. In days gone by, this meant a proliferation of takeaways that ranged from dubious to “only for the truly desperate”, but the youth of today are a pickier bunch, meaning Edinburgh is now home to some of the UK’s best affordable restaurants. Here are a few of our absolute favourite cheap places to eat in Edinburgh.
Los Cardos
Los Cardos isn’t just adored by Edinburgh’s students, it’s also a favourite of Trainspotting scribe Irvine Welsh, who has said previously that he frequents the Mexican street food joint primarily for its haggis burrito. Ever since Los Cardos opened its doors in 2010, it’s been a hugely popular spot, offering excellent tacos, burritos, quesadillas and fajitas inspired by owner Neil Miller’s trip around the west coast of America.

Nile Valley
If you’re in need of something inexpensive, substantial and a bit out of the ordinary, then Nile Valley will hit the spot. It’s located right in the middle of Edinburgh’s main student area, which can make getting a table at lunchtime a bit challenging, but the evenings are a bit quieter. The food is hearty North African and Middle Eastern fare, the atmosphere is warm and unpretentious and the prices are low.

Oink Grassmarket
About halfway down Victoria Street lies this small but perfectly formed love letter to pork. Remember those old cartoons where characters would float along behind an enticing smell? That’ll give you an idea of how good Oink Grassmarket smells. The focus is on one thing, but boy do they do it well: pulled pork sandwiches on rolls as soft as clouds, topped with crackling and your choice of stuffing, haggis, relish or apple sauce. 

The Dogs
The Dogs bears the hallmark of a restaurant with much higher prices. It’s a far cry from the takeaway grab-it-and-go feel of Los Cardos or the well-worn décor of Nile Valley. Instead, The Dogs feels more like someone’s elegantly dishevelled front room, with its high ceilings, dark wood and bright off-white walls. The food is traditional to the core but impossible to fault, especially at such reasonable prices.

Kampung Ali 
Kampung Ali specialises in Malaysian food in such enormous quantities that it borders on intimidating – the ‘big bowls’ section of the menu is something of an understatement. The curry laksa would be too much for most people, but it’s hard to imagine leaving any of it behind. Chef Peter Lee is from a long line of Malaysian chefs, so there’s no doubting the authenticity of the food. Kampung Ali hits that ultimate sweet spot in offering great food and lots of it at unbelievably low prices.

Union of Genius
Soup is a criminally underrated food stuff, generally stuck onto a menu or a supermarket shelf as something of an afterthought. Not so at Union of Genius. Here, soup is celebrated in all its hearty, warming glory, with plenty of attention given to creative combinations and full flavours. You can eat in or take away and there’s an appetising array of cakes and brownies along with great coffee to supplement the soup.
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