Belfast’s food scene has been booming in recent years which is no wonder given the amazing local produce which is at its doorstep. So much so that two of its restaurants, OX and Deanes Eipic were awarded the coveted Michelin Star status in 2016.
However, you don’t need to flash the cash in order to have a tasty meal in Belfast – far from it! Some of the city’s local favourites range from budget pub grub to hipster cheap eats. In no particular order, here is our top 10 selection…
1. Maggie Mays
A firm favourite of many who hunt the student area around Queen’s University, Maggie Mays has two cafes, one by Stranmillis and one in Botanic. The cute little cafe offers a large menu with staple home-cooked favourites that any Belfast mum would have served up for her kids – Cowboy Suppers (sausage, beans and chip), beef stew, fry-ups, and so forth.
The menu has an extensive all-day breakfast option, burgers and mains, and not to forget amazing desserts and legendary milkshakes. What’s even more awesome about this place is that the most expensive item on the menu is a Sirloin Steak for £13.99!
2. The Morning Star
Famed for its in-house butcher and emphasis on using local produce, The Morning Star which was established in 1810, is a cosy Victorian pub that is hidden down Pottingers Entry in the centre of the city. The upstairs à la carte restaurant serves some prime steak dishes along with decently priced mains menu serving pub-grub favourites such as Smoked Haddock, Slow Roasted Pork Belly and Stuffed Roast Beef Brisket. However, it is the downstairs lunch buffet that makes this place a hidden gem as a cheap eat.
Between 11:30-5pm you can take a plate for just £5.95 per person and fill it up with the roast meat, veg and salad selection. The catch is that this buffet is not an all-you-can-eat as you’re only allowed to fill-up once; however, for the price and quality of the food, you can’t really complain!
No Belfast cheap eat list would be complete without Boojum. A Mexican Burrito Bar that was first established in 2007 and has grown to have multiple locations around the city, and is also a firm favourite among locals.
The concept is that you choose what you would like (burrito/tacos/fajita/salad), choose a filling (vegetarian or meat options) and add some salsa, cream cheese, and so forth. Whatever you choose, it won’t cost you more than £8 to have a taste of real Mexican street food in Belfast.
The Yardbird is a rotisserie chicken restaurant above the Dirty Onion Pub in the trendy Cathedral Quarter. The restaurant is both an affordable lunch and dinner spot with a major focus on chicken and rib options. For a bargain lunch (12-5pm), we would suggest the 1/4 of chicken and side meal deal for just £5.
For an evening meal for 2, the Beer ‘N’ Bird deal offers a whole roast chicken with two sides and two Yardbird Pale Ales to share for just £22, while the Hatch 22 deal includes the same but replaces the beer with a carafe of wine. Whilst munching on your tasty chicken legs in the rustic ambience of the Yardbird, you can discuss with your significant other one of life’s most puzzling questions – what came first, the chicken or the egg?
One of the most popular places to eat in Victoria Square, COSMOS is an all-you-can-eat buffet restaurant that includes a fusion of world flavours. You can sample everything here from continental European cuisine, Asian delicacies and curries, as well as carvery roasts. In addition to the buffet of delicious dishes, you have a varied and colourful selection of desserts to choose from.
There are also individually themed kitchens where chefs can whip you something up fresh. Prices vary according to the day and time, weekday lunch (Monday-Wednesday 12-3pm, Thursday-Friday 12-4pm) costs £7.99 per person, whilst on Saturday it is £9.99 and Sunday £14.99 per person. Dinner setting (5-11pm) costs between £13.99-£15-99 per person. Our tip would be to go with the soft drinks option as you can get unlimited refills.
6. The Parlour
Set in a beautiful Victorian house, this 1930s themed quirky bar is a favourite amongst Belfast millennials. Not only does the Parlour offer some serious drink deals on its bottled beers and spirits, it does serve up some seriously affordable and authentic Italian fair.
From Monday-Thursday you can get a special deal on their stone-oven baked pizzas. For example, Monday, Wednesday and Thursday pizza deals are £12 including a cocktail jug, 3 beers or a carafe of wine. On Tuesday you can get Buy-One-Get-One-Free on their pizzas, which range from £5.50-8.50 which is great value. This is a great place to come with a group of friends to sip on affordable beverages and to share some tasty food.
7. Whites Tavern
Dating from the 1600s, Whites Tavern has a long history in Belfast, operating initially as a tavern to becoming a Wine and Spirits merchant in the 1800s. Today it is one of the oldest pubs in the city which offers that authentic traditional pub charm. The food menu at Whites offers some traditional Irish dishes, such as Irish Stew, Seafood Chowder and Steak and Guinness Pie, as well as standard pub-grub favourites that price range from £7.50-12.95.
During the Summer months, Whites also hosts its ‘Courtyard Cinema’ which is based outside the pub in the courtyard. Entry is free and you also get free popcorn and chicken wings. Meanwhile, its sister bar Vandal does a deal for these events where for just £10 you can get a pizza, a milkshake and popcorn. It’s a great, quirky and affordable way to spend the evening, if only weather holds up!
8. Long’s Fish & Chips
Don’t let the outside appearance of this establishment deter you from checking it out, its appearance is merely a reflection on the turbulent social history of Belfast. Long’s Fish & Chips is probably one of the most famous in the city for it’s traditional fish and chips using the freshest fish and Maris Piper potatoes. A Fish Supper from the oldest Belfast chippy will only cost you £7 and if you’re a tourist in town, eating here will truly be a local experience.
Lavery’s is nothing less than a Belfast institution, it was originally purchased by the Lavery brothers in 1918 and continues to be the oldest family-owned bar in Belfast. Hosting a multitude of rooms, including a pool room of 18 tables, Lavery’s unique chilled atmosphere along with its competitive food and drinks prices is what has kept it a favourite amongst locals for years.
In addition to rotating drink offers, the food menu offers a various selection of lite-bites to hearty burgers at affordable prices. If you’re a fan of seafood, they offer a kilo of Irish Mussels for just £10.95 which can be cooked in either cream, garlic and white wine or bacon and cider. Its sister pubs, The Pavilion and Woodworkers offer their own unique experience but with the same competitive pricing.
In the heart of the Shaftesbury Square, Benedicts is first and foremost a hotel; however, its downstairs bar and restaurant provides consumers and guests a range of affordable drinks and food options. Every night between 4-10pm you can take advantage of the bar’s Happy Hour where cocktails cost £3.50 which isn’t bad at all!
For food, its Beat the Clock menu where the majority of the meals costs £7 before 7pm is very good value. The Carvery Lunch menu offers diners a choice of soup and mains for £6.95, whilst the Sunday Lunch Menu offers three courses for £16.95 per person. Its Evening Set Menu from 5pm also offers diners three courses for £22 and our suggestion would be to try the Salt ‘n’ Chilli Chicken for starters, Rump of Lamb for mains, and Sticky-Toffee Pudding for dessert.
Facing the Europa Hotel, Robinson’s Victorian grandeur makes this place a delight to come and visit. Its food menu offers a various range of lite-bites and hearty mains that range from £4-£13 whilst its 10oz Sirloin and Ribeye Steaks will set you back £19.
James Street South Bar & Grill
One of the more classier restaurants in Belfast, James Street South can be up there in terms of pricing; however, they do offer an affordable lunch menu where you can have Braised Beef with Colcannon for £10.50. They also offer a Pre-Theatre Menu between 5-6.30pm where two courses cost £18.50 and three courses cost £21.50 where you can choose from a selection of dishes.
One of the trendiest eateries around the Cathedral Quarter, this bar-stool restaurant offers some flair and quality flavours to its dishes. It can be pricey; however, Hadskis does have a special lunch menu where you can sample some of the cuisine for just £6.50 between 12-4pm.