Discerning diners are increasingly hungry for quality meals – but you don’t have to break the bank to enjoy a top-notch slice of gastronomy. Having scoured the city for the finest budget bites on offer, local food blogger Anna Tully presents her guide to the best cheap eats in Manchester.
The Manchester foodie world rejoiced when Mumma Schnitzel brought their twice-fried Panko breaded chicken thighs to the North West. This street food joint, usually housed next to the Spinningfields Lawns, perfectly demonstrates how good something simple can taste when all the ingredients are expertly handpicked by passionate owners.
The breaded chicken schnitzel sits on a brioche bun with mayo, sweet chilli sauce and butterhead lettuce; burgers are £5 – there’s Halloumi for the veggies – and monthly specials are usually priced at £7.
Hardman Square, Spinningfields, M3 3HG (website)
Located slap bang in the middle of Rusholme’s Curry Mile, Jaffa is a real melting pot, not only of nationalities but of ages too. The after-school rush sees teenagers pile in ordering pizzas and fatayer (a kind of Arabic calzone, stuffed with cheese and spicy meats), while evenings are a time when families gather, sharing the delicious lamb or chicken shawarmas, accompanied by plentiful mezzes.
There’s daily specials too – think lamb with okra or stuffed chicken with rice, usually around £5.50. Put it like this: if you spend a tenner in this place, you’ll have enough food for your next two meals too!
185 Wilmslow Rd, M14 5AP (0161 225 0800)
It’s best to bear in mind that this joint really is a takeaway – whichever of the three outlets you visit – but Kool Runnings is well known for serving up tasty Jerk in the city of Manchester. It’s cheap too: £3.50 for a large portion of chicken, though you’ll need to order a side to make it a meal. Go for rice & peas (£2.50) if you want to keep it traditional.
If you’re something of a novice when it comes to Jamaican cuisine, the Ackee & Saltfish is a must try, as is the curry goat with fried dumplings. Take a starter of beef patties and you’ve got yourself a zinging – albeit carb-heavy – meal. There’s deals if there’s a few of you to feed – but whatever you order, you’re unlikely to spend more than £6-7 per person.
5A Wilbraham Road, Chorlton, M14 6JS /532 Stockport Rd, M12 /Chorlton Rd, M15 4JG
Head over to the trendy suburb of Chorlton – filled with excellent specialist foodie shops, pubs and cafes – and you’ll find a small but perfectly formed bar by the name of Pi. You may have guessed it, but they do, indeed, specialise in those delicious pastry-encased gravies that the North is well known for.
While they’re not made on the premises, the pies come courtesy of the now well-established Pieminister and are served up with sides of your choice (peas, mash, gravy). Expect to pay around £8 for the works. The bar also has an excellent beer menu, so you may find that bill creeping up a little if you partake in a snifter of one of their specialities.
99 Manchester Rd, M21 9GA (website)
Dogs N Dough
[Photo: Manchester Foodies]
Bringing a hint of New York cool to Manchester’s city centre side streets, Dogs & Dough opened in 2013, bringing with it loaded hot dogs and crazy pizzas. It’s a slick-looking basement bar, all dark mahogany, booth-style seating and table service – so it might not be the first place you’d think of to chow down on some cheap eats.
Yet the most expensive pizza is £10 (and that comes with a topping of bacon cheese burger with fries – er, we’ll let you know what we make of that one!) and their dogs start at just £4.50. Don’t miss their 5pm-8pm happy hour for thriftily-priced, expertly-mixed cocktails.
Bow Lane (off Cross Street), M2 4JW (0161 834 3996, website)
An unassuming basement restaurant, hidden behind the bustle of Deansgate, Koreana is a family-run establishment specialising in Korean cuisine. For those to whom Korean cuisine is a relative unknown, expect marinated & barbecued meats, fermented cabbage (kimchi – it tastes better than it sounds!) and rice bowls.
Lunchtime deals offer a selection of dishes to take away for less than a fiver, and there’s also set deals if you’d prefer to sit in. Evenings offer a more expensive a la carte menu, as well as a 2 course set menu for £10.90, showcasing the most popular dishes.
40a King St W, Deansgate, M3 2WY (0161 832 4330, website)
Before we start, let’s get one thing straight: this place is all about the food. The décor looks like a bog-standard takeaway and you order and collect your food at the counter. But as long as you’re happy to keep your coat on in the winter, this place serves up some of the biggest portions and tastiest rice you’ll find in the city.
The winning dish here is the Qabili Pulao, an Afghan pilaf dish, consisting of perfectly-seasoned rice, littered with caramelised carrots, gems of raisins and tender pieces of lamb. At under £6, don’t expect tons of meat for your money – but it will be enough to keep you going for the next five or six hours, with salad on the side. The roasted or grilled chicken is also worth trying – and their large, thin blackened naans are my favourite in the city. Offerings are thin on the ground for non-meat eaters.
22 Wilmslow Road, Rusholme, M14 5TQ (0161 257 3337)
Caffeine & Co
This mini-coffee shop chain sprung up in Manchester just a couple of years ago, and is already making a name for itself; the attention to detail is present in everything from their flat whites to the bread accompanying their one-pot wonders. There’s a small sandwich menu with fancy options like crab rarebit – as well as more familiar cheese toasties – and the hot dishes change on a daily basis.
There are Italian treats like chicken stew with olive tapenade, or posh, filling soups like tomato & fennel with olive polenta dumplings. Expect to pay £3 – £3.50 for sandwiches and around £6 for their hot dishes. There are two locations in the city centre (though its St James Square location is little more than a match box) and another in Longford Park in the ‘burbs.
St James Square, M2 6WH / Quay House, Hardman Square, M3 3JE /Longford Park Bungalow, Stretford, M32 8DA
While street food might be having an ‘it’ moment, it’s nice to see the decades-old falafel ain’t been forgotten. Even better, it’s a herbivore’s dream (everything on site is 100% vegan) that’s tasty enough to sway even the most carnivorous into worshipping the humble chickpea.
Wraps are around £3 and are stuffed to the brim with salad of your choosing – it’s hard to resist, er, everything, making for a rather messy sandwich, filled with hummus, tahini, potatoes and pickles. There’s a salad bar if you’re gluten free but still want to indulge – not to mention their awesome range of freshly made smoothies and juices.
3 Newton Street, M1 1HW/10 Mayfair Court, Wilmslow Road, M14 5TP (website)
A relative newcomer to the Manchester food scene, Viet Shack has brought a touch of style to the Arndale Shopping Centre’s Food Market (not to be confused with the food court – where you’ll find your usual chain suspects). Choose from the lemongrass chicken burger (I recommend a drizzle of chilli and lime sauce!), pork banh-mi or one of their barbecue meats with rice.
With most dishes priced at £3 and nothing more than £6, you’ll find it hard to part with a tenner here.
Arndale Market, 49 High Street, M3 3AH (twitter)
Whilst the War and Peace-esque menu might appear off-putting at first, ignore 95% of it and stop only once you spot the words: “Barbecue Rice Dishes”. You’ll have already seen your meal as you passed the restaurant’s windows, the roasted meats hang like curtains, ensuring only vegetarians with strong stomachs pass the threshold.
Choose from chicken, pork or duck – or, for just £7.50, combine all three. The meats are piled high atop a bed of white rice and Chinese greens. Sink a pot of green tea and you won’t need to eat ‘til lunch tomorrow.
59 Faulkner St, Manchester M1 4FF (0161 236 7189)
With 12 sites around the UK now, Manchester’s Chennai Dosa is a little out of the way, situated in the suburb of Stretford (a short drive from the Trafford Centre and Man United’s home ground). While the never-ending menu is the stuff of Ramsay’s nightmares, the variety means there’s plenty for veggies and meat-eaters alike to choose from.
Everything is incredibly cheap: expect to pay under £5 for a curry, with dosas around the £3 mark. It may not be the best Indian food in the city, but it’s hard to feel mugged when a meal for two leaves you with change from a £20 note.
Unit 119 Chester Rd, Stretford, Manchester M32 9BH (0161 865 7777, website)
Best cheap eats on our Manchester map:
More Manchester guides:
• 10 of the best shops in Manchester
• 10 of the best bars in Manchester
• 14 of the best restaurants in Manchester for any budget
• 10 things to do for free in Manchester
• The knowledge: Fashion Rambler’s guide to Manchester