Those words (in the title) were the exact words I googled when I was planning my trip to Cape Town in August (2016). It’s probably a ‘ritual’ for most budget travelers – searching for budget places to eat to keep your wallet’s weight and of course, to plan on a travel budget. Otherwise how are you gonna know how much you should spend on food? I guess you can surely argue about why not just buy stuff from local groceries and cook?
Well, I don’t prefer that option because traveling is also about trying out the local cuisine. As a foodie, I love to try not only the local cuisine, but also international food at local restaurants to compare with food from other places 😉 . My google search for budget eating in Cape Town did help me a bit. But there were other places/cuisine in Cape Town which I wanted to try. And I did get to try most of the places which were on my ‘list’. Which is why I’m writing this here to help you guide your way through the food heaven in Cape Town. And yes, most of them are good for your wallet. I’m pretty sure at the end of this post, you will be starving – for which I apologize in advance 😀
Let’s start with the most important meal of the day. I’m sure you would want to start your day with a good breakfast to have the energy for your trips and sightseeing. If you are staying somewhere in and around Long Street, you can easily find budget breakfast places. I recommend R Caffé at 138 Long St.
R caffé serves lunch, dinner, and snack as well. But their ‘Rise & Shine’ budget breakfast system is the reason you would want to start your day here. Price range for the breakfast item with a choice of coffee can start as little as R 32 (€ 2) and maximum R 55 (€ 3,70)! Pretty great deal right? I myself had an omelette sandwich with a cappuccino for R 32.
I just checked their menu now and it seems they unfortunately increased the price a bit. But no worries, the price range I mentioned is the ‘updated version’. Though keep in mind two things! The budget breakfast is available from 6:30 to 8:00 AM daily and expect to pay an extra R 3.5 for ‘service charge’.
Another place you can try budget breakfast is at the restaurant located at first floor of Urban Chic Boutique Hotel, which is also located at Long Street (# 172). I had the most amazing bran flakes there! Together with a green tea, it cost me about R 45 (€ 3). Both of the breakfast places serve typical international (or continental) breakfast, so there is definitely something for everyone.
The Great Gatsby? Nope, not really. Let me just begin by saying, if you go to Cape Town and come back without trying this deliciousness, your trip to Cape Town was probably useless 😉
So what is a Gatsby? Well, it is a humongous subway-like sandwich which is a quite popular, filling, and budget meal. It is the South African answer to Döner Kebab (here in Europe) – meaning many fast food and takeaway places usually serve them. Although it is more of a Western Cape specialty.
A Gatsby is usually stuffed with different fillings like chicken/steak/curry/sausage/eggs (whichever you like) as well as chips. Btw, chips is what South Africans call (french) fries – just FYI. What you see on the picture was actually the ‘half size’ portion… a full Gatsby can get as long as your arm and can be shared among four people! It is seriously delicious but you should really try it with only an empty stomach and perhaps, with some time on your hand 😉
Depending on your choice and taste, a Gatsby can cost between R 60 – R 80 (€ 4 – € 5,50). I paid R 85 with a choice of drink. I’d recommend to try Gatsby at Mariam’s Kitchen located at 97 St Georges Mall in city center. It is only a stone’s throw from St George’s Cathedral, Groote Kerk, and Green Market Square!
Cape Malay Food
When visiting Cape Town’s colorful Cape Malay neighborhood of Bo-Kaap, it would be worth to try the traditional cuisine. There are two restaurants in the Bo-Kaap area specializing in mouthwatering Cape Malay cuisine. Bo-Kaap Kombuis is located at 7 August St and Biesmillah is located at 2 Wale St. The latter is located closer to the streets and areas of Bo-Kaap which tourists usually visit. Although not exactly falling under the category of ‘budget eating’, these places are still quite cheap compared to Western European standards.
As a native of Bangladesh, the Cape Malay cuisine was very familiar to me. Due to lot of similarities between the dishes, I felt quite like at home! It is worth mentioning that Cape Malay cuisine has a South Asian influence. Expect to pay on average about R 130 (€ 8,50) with a choice of drink. The price range is somewhere between R 100 (€ 6,50) and R 160 (€ 11). I had a ‘Mutton Breyani’ with a Falooda for a drink. For those who are unfamiliar with Falooda, it is a cold dessert made from mixing rose syrup, ice cream, basil seeds, tapioca pearls, jelly pieces with milk. Might sound a bit weird, but I definitely recommend trying this. And the Falooda I had here was probably the best one ever in my life!
Although slightly further up the hill, you can also try Cape Malay food at Bo-Kaap Kombuis. Apparently the view of Table Mountain and the city from there is supposed to be great! It’s definitely on my to-do-list next time in Cape Town.
As much as trying the Cape Malay cuisine is important while in Cape Town, the Indian food there definitely another cuisine you can’t miss! Historically and ethnically, Indians make up a significant part of South African population and culture. And yes, the Indian food there is definitely different than what you would be familiar with in Europe for example. What’s more is that for quite a cheap price, you get HUGE portions! I’m totally not exaggerating.
I tried Indian food twice in two different places:
Eastern Food Bazaar, 96 Long Market Street
Food Inn India, 156 Long Street
Besides Indian cuisine, both of these places serve Chinese, Turkish, and Arabic specialties as well. But there is a significant feature of these restaurants which I should mention. They are not a la carte restaurants but more like a buffet. But you don’t get to take the food by yourself from the trays. You should first order what you would like and pay, upon which you receive a slip that you must present to the person serving you the food. When your food is ready, your number will be called to fetch your tray. Pretty convenient eh? 😉
My lunch at Eastern Food Bazaar consisted of 3 Samoosas, Chicken Biryani, and a drink which amounted to only R 66 (€ 4,50)! You can expect to pay similar or even less depending on your order. Btw, Gatsbys are also found in such places.
At Food Inn India, I had a dinner called ‘Lamb Thali’ (Lamb dish) but on the side, I also chose couple of Samoosas, a drink and a dessert. All came to about just R 100 (€ 6,80)! Especially if you see below how the meal looked, you’d think it’s definitely worth the money! The Lamb dish consists of several different lamb curries served with rice, bread (tandoori roti), and salad.
It’s a personal ‘ritual’ of mine to try good burgers wherever I visit in the world and Cape Town was no exception! As a big fan of burgers, I had to try some of the recommended places in Cape Town and I found two favorites – The Burger Shop at 168 Long Street and Gibson’s Gourmet Burgers & Ribs at # 157 of V&A Waterfront Mall.
The location of Burger Shop was pretty convenient – right opposite the Longstreet Backpackers where I stayed! For a double-patty burger with chips, I payed only R 60 (€ 4) and trust me when I say this, the burger tasted like out of this world! The patty was grilled in a special South African style (can’t remember the name anymore now unfortunately) and I guess that’s what made it heavenly.
If you go to Gibson’s at V&A Waterfront, you should definitely try the 3-sliders option! Might seem/sound small for a burger size, but that will really fill you up for just R 99 (€ 6,80)! You can choose the three burgers in three different variations – classic, cheese, and guacamole for example (comes with fries). With a drink, it totaled R 120 (€ 8) for me.
Okay I’m pretty sure many of you tried (or know of) Nando’s. Specializing in peri-peri chicken of Portuguese/Mozambican theme, this international casual dining chain actually originated in South Africa. Thus it was my first time when I tried Nando’s in Cape Town. Not only the food is awesome here, but it is also a great place for any budget travelers. A meal with a drink can cost you anywhere between R 60 (€ 4) to R 100 (€ 6,80). You can find Nando’s at Long Street or further down the road at 42 Kloof Street.
Okay so what about more South African dishes? You might be wondering at this point. And this is where I will say, if you want to have a taste of South Africa (pun intended), the restaurant called Mama Africa at 178 Long Street is your best bet! It is one of the best and popular restaurants in town and which is why I have to admit that it is not your usual budget eatery. But it would be a wise move to keep some cash in handy just to try this place, because it’s an experience you need to have in Cape Town!
Let’s have a virtual visit shall we?
Their website states, “if you haven’t been to Mama Africa, you haven’t been to Cape Town” – truer words have never been spoken. It’s not just the food which makes this locale great, but the overall ambiance and vibe. This is the reason why the restaurant is completely full every night, so make sure to make a reservation at least a day earlier.
I read somewhere before that Karoo Lamb is a must-try when visiting South Africa. I love lamb and fortunately, Mama Africa had just what I was hoping to try! But the restaurant is also known for some of their strange and unusual dishes like Crocodile, Ostrich, Kudu, and Warthog meat… interesting no?!
If you are already wondering about the average budget, it would be somewhere between R 200 (€ 14) to R 300 (€ 21) at least… Mama Africa doesn’t publish the menu prices on its website, but fortunately I was able to get some snaps for you 😉
That should be helpful for your budgeting plans I suppose. You might have already noticed that there is indeed, live music performance. This was perhaps my favorite thing about this place. I love listening to traditional African music whenever possible and this was exactly what this awesome restaurant offered. I went with some Dutch friends I’ve met at the hostel and we really had a great time there! I’ve been also looking forward to trying the Malva Pudding so we placed our orders.
It actually took about 2 hours until our actual dinner was served! I guess it was because of too many guests being served by only 3 or 4 waiters/waitresses. But the wait was worth it. During this time you can enjoy your drinks and some complimentary bread and butter. Most of all, you can enjoy the beautiful live music!
It was actually one of the best dinners I’ve had at a restaurant. Oh I should mention that with each menu item you can choose either rice or traditional South African sides. I would definitely recommend you to try the Malva Pudding – a warm dessert to be eaten with sundae to have a hot-cold flavor! And next time, I would definitely love (and hope) to try Bobotie – another traditional South African delicacy!
I really hope that you enjoyed this foodie post. Looking at these pictures, it really makes me want to go to Cape Town again. Of course it doesn’t mean that these are the only places you can or have to try because Cape Town literally has hundreds of budget places to eat from. Hopefully next time I plan to try out even more places and write about them on my blog. And I really wouldn’t blame you if you are feeling hungry at this point because I am! So…gotta go eat something now!