The 16 Best Places to Eat in Edinburgh
People visit Edinburgh for all sorts of reasons, from the rich history and stunning architecture, to the possibility of meeting Ronnie Corbett... probably. Then, of course, there's the food: this city has some of the most fabulous restaurants in all of Scotland, serving everything from pulled pork pizza to haggis spring rolls. Seriously.
The sheer number of choices can be a bit paralyzing, which is why we've cut the faff and delivered a list of the 16 greatest restaurants for every occasion/craving.
Best haggis: <a href="http://www.thrillist.com/venues/whiski-rooms-eh1-2lp" target="_blank">Whiski Rooms
You can't have a list of places to eat in the capital without including this Scottish delicacy. If you're not in the mood for the standard haggis, neeps, and tatties (haggis, turnip, and potatoes), Whiski Rooms also has an offering of haggis spring rolls with plum sauce, which is a great introduction to a dish many are afraid to try. Vegetarians needn't worry either, as veggie haggis is also available alongside more than 300 whiskies (which staff will be happy to suggest to pair with your meal).
Best bar food: <a href="http://www.thrillist.com/venues/treacle-eh1-3ju" target="_blank">Treacle
Treacle's a bar food haven -- always bustling during lunch and dinner, and with an excellent cocktail menu to boot. From typical bar favorites like steak pie or nachos, to the slightly less typical superfood salad or banh mi, there will be something to please everyone on this eclectic menu. The surroundings are as varied as the food, from comfy sofas and exposed brick to dinner tables and a cartoon monkey, and there's usually some sort of 80s classic playing on the screen.
Best Sunday lunch: <a href="http://www.thrillist.com/venues/kyloe-restaurant-grill-eh1-2ae" target="_blank">Kyloe Restaurant & Grill
Kyloe won best Roast in Britain a couple of years ago, and the beef-lover vibes here are clear; seats are cowhide, there are cartoon cows all over the walls, and you can't miss the painted cow on the sidewalk. The Sunday lunch includes a full beef joint carved at your table for 4-5 people (or a beef fillet for 2), alongside all the trimmings: Yorkshire puddings, duck fat potatoes, root vegetables, creamed cabbage and gravy, AND a sharing pudding.
Best steakhouse: <a href="http://www.thrillist.com/venues/chop-house" target="_blank">Leith Chop House
There are many amazing steakhouses in Edinburgh, but Leith Chop House has firmly established a reputation for itself in the short time it's been open. Being located slightly off the beaten track, in the up and coming area of Leith, means prices are incredibly reasonable for the quality you're getting. Plus, in addition to the normal cuts and weights of steak, there are always different market options and fabulous sides -- seriously, the mac and cheese is unreal.
Best vegetarian option: <a href="http://www.thrillist.com/venues/hendersons-vegan-eh2-1dx" target="_blank">Henderson's Vegan
Situated on one of Edinburgh's most vibrant streets, Henderson's is a purely meat-free zone. All of the veggie delights on offer are amazing, even by carnivore standards, but salads are a particular speciality: the Savoy cabbage, apple, and raisin (in yoghurt and mayo dressing) is an absolute must-try. Since opening the restaurant in the '60’s, Henderson's has swelled in popularity and size with the addition of a vegetarian shop upstairs and, most recently, a vegan bistro next door; all come under the Henderson's name, and all are well worth a visit.
Best private dining: <a href="http://www.thrillist.com/venues/timberyard-eh-3-9" target="_blank">Timberyard
This old warehouse's garage door entrance is easy to miss, Several spaces are available, but the private "shed" area with its own wood burner is a perfect intimate group setting for up to 10. Small lunches are available, but it's generally a real feast -- 4 or 6 course lunch or dinner or an 8 course dinner await in the industrial chic space, with the option of paired drinks with each course. Herbs, vegetables, flowers and fruits are grown onsite and used beside locally sourced and foraged products.
Best hot chocolate: <a href="http://www.thrillist.com/venues/marys-milk-bar-eh1-2hs" target="_blank">Mary's Milk Bar
Though it's beautiful in any weather, Edinburgh can get bitterly cold in winter; fortunately, there's the hot chocolate at Mary's Milk Bar. A chocolatier by trade, Mary makes these magnificent by melting her own handmade chocolates into hot milk -- and to top it all off, you can add a scoop of fresh handmade ice cream. Imagine looking up at Edinburgh Castle with a gold, frankincense, and myrrh hot chocolate in your hand; now imagine it's topped with a dollop of fried banana ice cream. Winter be damned!
Best Mexican: <a href="http://www.thrillist.com/venues/el-cartel-eh2-1en" target="_blank">El Cartel
Mexican street food, mezcal, and flavorful frozen margaritas -- these are really the only words you need to know about El Cartel. The small menu's a perfectly formed roster of tacos, antojitos (literally translated as little cravings), and a few sides, with different daily specials to keep you coming back. The soft tacos are handmade, and the house-blend hot sauce will change your life/opinion of house-blend hot sauce. Plus, if Mexican drinks aren't your thing, you can also BYOB (with a small corkage fee) from the shop across the street -- sure, it's walk-ins only at this joint, but don't be afraid to wait. It's worth it.
Best coffee shop with a secret: <a href="http://www.thrillist.com/venues/cairngorm-coffee-co-eh2-1ep" target="_blank">Cairngorm Coffee Co.
Edinburgh is a city with plenty to do during the day, so you'll definitely need a caffeine fix to keep you going when night falls -- but that's not why you're REALLY coming here. More than its fine range of coffees, the true star of the show is Cairngorm's grilled cheese sandwich: it's a three-cheese blend with chili jam spread on fresh sourdough, and it's one of the best worst-kept secrets in the city.
Best pizza: <a href="http://www.thrillist.com/venues/civerinos-eh1-1qw" target="_blank">Civerinos
Located just off The Royal Mile (a mile-long cobbled street from the castle to Holyrood Palace) Civerinos dishes out slices and pies ‘til 1am -- and even later during the Edinburgh Festival. Sure, there's other Italian-style eats on the menu, but pizza is where Civ's shines brightest: the pulled pork and apple pie is a perennial favorite, although there are also vegan, lactose-free, and gluten-free pizzas available that actually taste like the real thing.
Best seafood: <a href="http://www.thrillist.com/venues/mussel-inn-eh2-2nh" target="_blank">Mussel Inn
As the name suggests, fresh mussels are the pride and joy of this informal restaurant. You'll find it just one street back from Princes Street, perfect for a spot of lunch between all that shopping, and there's even some outside seating for the nicer days. As well as the mussels (which you can have either as a half or full kilo), this place also serves a variety of other seafood, meat, and vegetarian dishes -- the tiger prawns on egg noodles are a personal favorite.
Best brunch spot: <a href="http://www.thrillist.com/venues/roseleaf-eh6-6ew" target="_blank">Roseleaf
Quirky cafe by day and lively bar by night, this place has been part of the neighborhood since 2007, and pleases locals and tourists alike by offering a little bit of everything. Treat yourself to some "Pot-Tails" (cocktails served in teapots!) whilst enjoying the "Pearrific": garden peas, pea shoots, goat cheese, and poached eggs on toast. Also, brunch is served 'til 5pm, so there's no need for an early start.
Best date night: <a href="http://www.thrillist.com/venues/aizle-eh8-9qy" target="_blank">Aizle
Aizle is one of the coolest concepts we've come across... provided you're a little open-minded. Instead of a menu, there's simply a list of seasonal ingredients (like rabbit, cucumber, and Amontillado sherry): once you inform your server of any allergies or special dietary requirements, the kitchen will combine all these elements and make you a meal. Advertised as 5 courses for £45, it can feel like even more as you'll often get an amuse bouche or other additions -- plus, paired drinks can also be tacked on for another £30.
Best Asian food: <a href="http://www.thrillist.com/venues/ting-thai-caravan-eh1-2qz" target="_blank">Ting Thai Caravan
This cozy place first opened as a pop-up restaurant during the Edinburgh Festival a few years ago, and (thankfully) it hasn't gone anywhere since. The bench seating means you'll be sitting closer to your fellow diners than you might like, but it also means you can check out their food before you order. The menu's split into rice/noodles, small boxes, curries, soups, and sides, all of which you can watch being made fresh in the open kitchen. Whichever delight you go for, make sure to get a side of sweet potato crispies.
Best meal with a view: <a href="http://www.thrillist.com/venues/tower-restaurant-eh1-1jf" target="_blank">Tower Restaurant
The Tower Restaurant offers excellent views overlooking the stunning Edinburgh Castle and the rooftops of Old Town, and if you're smart (which you are), you'll time your reservation to coincide with the breathtaking sunset. The menu's no slouch either, packed with seasonal, Scottish ingredients and dishes -- like pork rillette and Isle of Mull lobster thermidor -- that make deciding between prix fixe and a la carte a difficult proposition.
Best Scottish tapas: <a href="http://www.thrillist.com/venues/the-bon-vivant-eh2-1dy" target="_blank">The Bon Vivant
Another award-winning venture, this place won "Best Restaurant Bar in the World" at last year's Tales of The Cocktail. The candle-lit bar has a menu that changes on a daily basis, and while you can have your choice of "middles" ( chorizo in cider with bread) or "mains" (sea reared trout), the "bites" section is where you'll get the best of Bon V. Favorites include haggis bon bons, deep-fried brie, and mini venison burgers, and at £2 each, you can try them all and still afford a glass of wine on the side.
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Jane Ferguson is a UK-based writer and a big fan of cocktails, great bars, and wonderful food around the world. Follow her to keep up with her adventures @janefwrites.