A busker's guide to the best cheap places for food and drink at the Edinburgh Festival

Busker Andy Gregory picks out his favourite places to grab a bite to eat or enjoy a cheap pint during this year's Edinburgh Festival Fringe.

Published 14th Aug 2017
Updated 20 th Sep 2023

With summer upon us and the Fringe in full flow, it’s time to share some tips on where to eat and drink in Edinburgh without taking a hammer to the piggy bank.

Having spent many years singing on the city’s cobbled streets, a knowledge of good value nourishment has been essential. My busker’s guide from 2016 is still worth a look too.

The Mosque Kitchen

(31-33 Nicolson Square, Edinburgh EH8 9BX)


You'll be spoiled for choice - and it's great value. Picture: TSPL

Starting out life as the Mosque’s actual kitchen, managers decided to open their doors to all faiths following the 9/11 attacks in a move that has garnered praise around the globe.

Situated just two minutes away from both George Square and the Pleasance, the Mosque Kitchen is a one-stop shop for affordable, authentic food. Portions are generous, with lots of vegetarian options on offer.

With an ever-changing menu, return visits are guaranteed and gluttony is inevitable.

Nile Valley Cafe

(6 Chapel St, Edinburgh EH8 9AY)


Picture: Trip Advisor Traveller

Serving up Sudanese cuisine to ravenous students and south-siders for 20 years, Nile Valley Cafe offers some of the best wraps in the city.

Indulge in lesser-spotted dishes such as baba ganoush or enjoy top-notch falafel washed down with fair-trade coffee.

Unassuming decor provides a pleasantly effortless atmosphere, which allows the food to take precedence but unsurprisingly, renders Nile Valley an unsuitable venue for a fancy soirée.

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However, if glamour is not a prerequisite, the rentable downstairs area, affordable food and BYOB minus corkage fee are all excellent ingredients for a successful event.

Pig in a Poke

(95 Rose St, Edinburgh EH2 3DT)

Picture: Pig in a Poke Facebook

Found in the busker’s paradise (now brought to you under 30 decibels - bravo, Edinburgh Council) of Rose Street, Pig in a Poke is great for a fast, indulgent meal.

The gently roasting porcine in the window makes it hard to miss as you meander between groups of pub crawlers and lost shoppers.

Edinburgh is a city with it’s proverbial finger glued firmly to the pulse of modern food trends and it could be argued that the roast hog had his day several years ago.

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It’s testament to their no-fuss, heartfelt ethos that Pig in a Poke have managed to carve out a place for themselves in the hearts and bellies of locals.


(7-8 Queensferry St, Edinburgh EH2 4PA)

Dreamt up by the team behind The Social Bite, this foray into gourmet dining has been an astounding success.

Profits still go to charities that help the homeless and you have the option to pay a meal forward for someone less fortunate.

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Bask in the homely, yet minimal decor (think Scandinavian meets downtown Manhattan) and enjoy the exotic and inventive menu crafted by their award-winning chefs.

It may be slightly more pricey than the others on this list, however you can trust that your money is being put to good use.

The Hebrides

(17 Market St, Edinburgh EH1 1DE)


Picture: The Hebrides Facebook

Alongside Sandy Bell’s, The Royal Oak and Captain’s Bar, this is one of the pubs with a true folk heart to be found in Auld Reekie.

Its proximity to Waverly Station can mean that the bar is packed come five o’clock, creating an entertaining mix of sharp-witted regulars, commuters and excitable visitors.

Live music every night only adds to the atmosphere. By day, it is a haven for local bagpipers, buskers and general ‘folkies’, with a quiet reputation for employing future musical stars such as Andy Chung.

The Lioness of Leith

(21-25 Duke St, Edinburgh EH6 6HH)

Picture: Lioness of Leith Facebook

For a taste of urban chic and some mouth-watering cocktails, venture down to the Lioness of Leith, found at the foot of Leith Walk.

Bold, colourful art hangs from the walls and the bar itself is no less aesthetically pleasing - stocked with a strong variety of local and imported craft beers and spirits, served with panache.

If you’re feeling peckish, the mains are affordable.

You’ll notice that the Lioness exudes a not-so-quiet confidence in every aspect of its trade, making this bar one of the coolest cats in the capital. If you’re heading back into town, be sure to stop off for a jar or two in Boda Bar and the Brass Monkey.


(7 Spittal Street, Edinburgh EH3 9DY)

Picture: Footlights Facebook

While it may have a little less character than the other venues in this guide, Footlights is nonetheless a gem in its own right.

A jack of all trades, it might be the most pleasant bar in Edinburgh to watch sports. It often features live music and there’s a decent range of craft beers, served by ever-friendly staff.

If you wish to brave the summer night, sit outside for a refreshingly different view of Edinburgh Castle, with the noise of the Grassmarket drifting over the ‘Pink Triangle’.

Also nearby is Henry’s Cellar Bar, which caters to all of your late-night needs. Henry’s regularly showcase some of the best local musical talent, from acoustic to house/techno.

Bennets Bar

(8 Leven Street, Edinburgh EH3 9LG)


Picture: Bennet's Bar Facebook

As an old adage might go, ‘hipster bars, Scottish winters and monarchs come and go, but Bennets bar remains the same’ - since 1839, in fact.

The remnants of its history are hidden in plain sight - Bennets’ ‘jug bar’ design was once the take-away section, normally frequented by women and children, while the men across the partition drank without ‘distraction’.

These days, the pub serves mostly locals and theatre-goers on their way to next door’s equally historic King’s Theatre.

Incidentally, if all goes to plan, the King’s is due a major change to the tune of £25 million. So be sure to sample the fine atmosphere and food at Bennets before the work is underway.

Andy Gregory is a musician and freelance journalist who grew up busking in Edinburgh. Alongside graduating in music at Leeds University, busking has taken him all over Europe and Asia, while he writes his debut album under the moniker Primitive Streak.
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