Best Cheap Eats: 18 Restaurants in Bern for Foodies on a Budget
If you think falafel isn’t worth getting excited about, you’ve definitely never been to Pittaria. Famous citywide, these deep-fried chickpea balls are what keep the restaurant’s large and growing fan base coming back for exotic flavors that can’t be beat. Luckily, Bern has two locations. One is at Falkenplatz (Falcon Square) on Länggasse and the other is in the inner courtyard of the Kulturzentrum PROGR (cultural center). Two spots that are sure to get lovers of savory Middle-Eastern cuisine salivating. The falafel balls are served with fried halloumi cheese made from cow, sheep and goat’s milk wrapped in a warm pita or on a plate with colorful salads. The chutney made by Pittaria’s founder Sami Daher enjoys true cult status. Its recipe is a well-guarded secret, with a flavor that is the perfect combination of sweet and spicy. Traditional meat dishes such as shish kebab, chicken and fish are also on the menu – with everything prepared fresh daily.
Rice, Rice Baby. At Rice Up!, located in the train station’s food corner, those tiny white grains are more than just a nutritious staple. Whether you’re just about to board your train or need fortification for a shopping spree, the menu items at Rice Up! provide an excellent, healthy source of energy. Speaking of menu items, you can select jasmine or red rice, rice noodles or leaf lettuce as the first layer in your bowl. Then you top it off with meat, poultry, tofu and vegetables of your choice. The tasty sauces and extras add a special zest to your meal. Our tip: The sweet-and-sour tamarind vinaigrette and the spice blend of coriander, mint and cipolotti are heavenly! If you prefer to have your ingredients chosen for you, you can order one of the four “signature bowls”. And the icing on the grain of rice: All of the cutlery and dishes are made of completely renewable resources, contain no plastic and are biodegradable.
“Fresh from yesterday” is the innovative concept that has helped the Äss-Bar gain an enthusiastic base of regular customers within a very short time. The principle is as simple as it is plausible. Bread, sandwiches, pastries and cookies made the previous day are sold at reduced prices – all of the baked goods are perfectly edible and come from local bakeries and pastry shops. With this concept, the Äss-Bar team is making an effective and appealing effort to combat food waste, since a shocking one-third of all Swiss food unfortunately ends up in the garbage. Any items the partners of the Äss-Bar can’t sell are delivered the next day to the small basement shop on Marktgasse in the Old Town. This means that the assortment is different every day, and you’ll always find a sweet surprise or two waiting for you when you visit here. Those who are looking for something lighter – or want to buy some vegetables to cook up for supper – should pop into the “Gmüesgarte” right next door. It serves healthy soups, salads and smoothies, and anyone who doesn’t mind the fact that the zucchini might be a bit crooked or the carrots somewhat bigger than usual should take the opportunity to load up their basket with veggies to take home.
Sous le Pont
From concerts and theater performances to a legendary flea market, the Kulturzentrum Reitschule (cultural center) at Schützenmatte is a popular event location. A visit is also more than worth your while for the culinary highlights awaiting you. The Sous le Pont restaurant offers fresh, regional and mostly organic cuisine made from fairtrade ingredients – and the affordable prices are also more than fair, with the delicious appetizer soups costing just a few francs. Different main courses are served each day, with vegetarian/vegan options always available along with hearty pasta dishes. Known as “Souli” to regulars, it hosts specialty themed evenings every Wednesday, where you can discover the Mediterranean cuisine of the Pays d’Oc, Japanese dishes or traditional Basque recipes. On the first Sunday of the month, Sous le Pont puts on a delectable vegan brunch from 10:00 a.m. until late afternoon.
Sous Le Pont
Da Rina und Da Nino
From a gastronomical perspective, the Eigerplatz (Eiger Square) exudes a healthy portion of Italianità with its two Italian eateries: Da Rina and Da Nino. Located just a short distance from one other, both score big with a culinary repertoire that even Nonna would describe as “buonissimo”. Does so much pizza and pasta so close together actually sound like a good idea? Oh, it does indeed, because it really boils down to personal taste, after all, as you decide which pasta is better or which ambiance is cozier. Both restaurants have their own distinct charm and specialties, making them worth the ride on the number 3 streetcar in the direction of “Weissenbühl”. Which of the two ristoranti would we choose? Lots of people consider the pizza dough at Da Nino to be the best far and wide. And fans of the Italian breakfast classic “cornetti con crema” make their way to Da Rina first thing in the morning for its authentic version. Allora, you simply have to visit them both in the end!
More than any other restaurant, Tramway is an established part of Bern’s Breitenrain district. Its cult status is due not only to its austere, uncomplicated charm but also to a recipe that has made it famous all around town. The cordon bleu made from Swiss pork and served with fries can be enjoyed here at an unbeatable price of 28.80 francs. Its size is equally unbeatable – so don’t forget to bring your appetite along! Anyone who eats at Tramway should plan an after-dinner stroll to let their food settle, since the other dishes such as breaded schnitzel, hamburgers and open-faced grilled cheese sandwiches have very generous portions as well. Tramway’s cheese fondue is also substantial. The tasty house specialty is available in summer and winter for less than 20 francs per person.
Zeughausgasse is where Bern seems closest to the canton of Valais. The Lötschberg AOC restaurant is located here, and wine lovers can savor the best vintages from the neighboring canton and all over Switzerland. And of course, the menu has to feature authentic raclette and fondue cheese dishes. The decor is not just traditionally rustic; it also incorporates an urbane, modern interpretation of chalet style, attracting an eclectic mix of visitors from tourists to homesick Valais natives. Don’t forget to try the “Mönchsalat” (Monk’s Salad) with Tête de Moine cheese, boiled potatoes, caramelized sunflower seeds and a fabulous house sunflower-oil vinaigrette that you may be able to recreate at home but will definitely never attain that genuine “Lötschbergy” taste. Many of the cheese and sausage products with their AOP and IGP seals of approval that are served here can also be purchased directly from the restaurant. Our tip for sleepyheads: You can brunch here until 4:00 p.m. on Saturdays and Sundays.
There are so many burger joints around these days, but The Butcher on Aarbergergasse is a true paradise for everyone who cares about great ingredients, freshness and careful food prep. Would you like a classic burger made with 100% Swiss beef, medium rare? How about a pulled pork, goat-cheese or beet-hemp burger? Or perhaps you’d prefer one of the current hottest vegetarian options made from green jackfruit? It’s never easy to choose, but it means that everyone is taken care of, including those who would like a gluten-free bun or maybe the “FKK” bare-bones version that features all of the juicy inside bits without a bottom or top bun. There are also a variety of salads, hand-cut fries and Swiss craft beers on the menu. Warning: High potential for addiction! If you still have room for dessert, you can order a refreshing milkshake made from Swiss Alpine ice cream.
Restaurant Grosse Schanze
You won’t find a cheaper panoramic view anywhere. At Restaurant Grosse Schanze with its spacious glass cube design, guests can revel in a one-of-a-kind view over the city’s rooftops and all the way to the Alps – while enjoying excellent food at an affordable price. Lunch dishes start at 14.90 francs and are ideal for both vegetarians and meat-lovers. You can go ahead and serve yourself from the different food stations and choose your favorite spot to sit. In summer, the large terrace is the place to be and transforms into a relaxed sunning area in the afternoon. Anyone who likes to indulge in an extended afternoon tea will be pleased as punch by the large pot of tea and surprise selection of goodies for 19.60 francs. As soon as the after-work crowd arrives, the restaurant turns into a bustling meeting place for cocktails, while at sunset the view actually looks like it has been photoshopped.
Restaurant Grosse Schanze
Eat out at a snackbar? At Falafingo in the Lorraine district, this means a lot more than grabbing a candy bar or a bag of salted peanuts. Since spring 2018, gastronomy newbies Emrah Tüysüz and Marion Ingold have been creating delectable Anatolian dishes here from börek to baklava while treating guests to traditional Turkish coffee and warmhearted hospitality. The daily menu rotates regularly, and brunch is available all week long from 9:00 a.m. until 5:00 p.m. (except Fridays, their day off) for 25 francs. The usual snack-bar fare forms a type of framework around this cozy spot on Quartierstrasse. You could easily spend the entire day here, sipping on your cup of tea (with free refills!) and watching the neighborhood activity.
Crêperie La Chouette
La Chouette is the perfect name for a perfect hangout for night owls. You can drop in at any time all night long on Saturdays and indulge in crêpe orgies until 6 a.m. However, the small, chic restaurant located on Bollwerk is also popular during the day among lovers of authentic French crêpe culture, so it always pays to reserve a table beforehand. Sweet classics with cinnamon-sugar or maple syrup are served up alongside modern creations with honey and ginger or vegan chocolate spread. Among the savory options, the seasonal specials always create a furor, with the “Mexicaine” featuring ground beef a definite hit among Chouette “repeat offenders”. The vegan crêpe with lentil curry and leaf spinach is worth more than just one tempting bite. La classe!
Looking for Kurdish hospitality in the middle of the Länggass district? The owner of Ali Baba always has a smile on his face (and it's truly contagious!), and he serves delicacies like those you read about in The Arabian Nights. From creamy hummus and spicy cevapcici to golden-brown baked spinach börek, Ali Baba offers a buffet lunch with everything we love about Middle Eastern cuisine! Good news for veggies and vegans: There are also many vegan and vegetarian options on the menu. In the evening, the buffet is transformed into a meze bar with just as much variety. And the drinks menu measures up to the same standards. Raki and fragrant tea in little curved cups are served with the small starter dishes. Raki – alongside tea and coffee – is also a Turkish national drink, but it definitely has a higher ABV than the others... It is distilled from grapes or raisins, and anise is added to give it that typical flavour, then everything is distilled a second time. Et voilà, the clear brandy is ready to be consumed.
Visit to the Ali Baba website
From the Kleine and Grosse Schanze to the terrace outside the Parliament Building and the Marzili pool, Bern is full of beautiful spots where you can enjoy a take-away lunch outdoors. These places beat the rest of the field with very attractively priced menus.
Situated on Brunngasse, this little gem is hidden in a former garage and will more than satisfy everyone who can’t get enough of authentic Chinese food. Perhaps “hidden” isn’t exactly the right word, because Tong Fong is a well-known destination for fans and connoisseurs alike who want to pick up mouth-watering wok dishes for lunch. There is only seating for very few diners, but the splendid Münsterplattform (Minster terrace) is right around the corner, and the sweet-and-sour chicken or spicy noodles with vegetables can be savored on a park bench or on the lush grass with a grand view of the Matte district, the Aare river and the Alps.
Hier und Jetzt
This restaurant’s name says it all. Translated as “Here and Now”, it’s a peaceful place to come and switch off, which is why its motto “Unhurried take-away” fits it perfectly. Many patrons like to take their time and eat their lunch on the spot at the small restaurant near Bubenbergplatz (Bubenberg Square), just a stone’s throw away from the train station. Of course, everything is also available as take-away. The dishes are vegetarian or vegan and are prepared fresh daily using seasonal ingredients (often organic). Wheat and spelt pasta with different sauces are part of the menu along with a creative selection of soups, salads and sandwiches. Our tip: Try the homemade mango lassi – and it tastes even better with a delicious little ginger-chocolate tart on the side.
Take-Away Hier und Jetzt
Whether you choose the extensive buffet or typical à la carte dishes, a visit to Soriya on Rathausgasse is the place to find a diverse array of sweet-sour-savory-spicy Asian cuisine. Everything is prepared fresh and with authentic Asian spices and herbs. Aficionados are particularly effusive in their praise of the duck with orange sauce – some even swear it’s the best in the whole city. The selection of appetizers and salads at Soriya also leaves nothing to be desired, ranging from dim sum and gyoza to luscious Thai papaya salad (som-tam). Those with a spicy tooth will love the hot version of it.
This small restaurant on Rathausgasse is simple and unadorned, but guests don’t come to Lo Stuzzichino for the decor. The star of this show is the pasta, e basta! You can order it to go as well. From the dough and fillings to the sauces, everything is “fatto in casa”, i.e. homemade, which is just how it should be for a dyed-in-tomato-sauce Italian restaurant. The “fiocchi di pera”, a divine pasta dish with pear and cheese filling, are legendary. There are a few meat dishes on the menu, and of course you can’t forget the restaurant’s namesake stuzzichini: a variety of delicacies perfect for snacking on. But in the end, there’s always room for pasta.
See Lo Stuzzichino on Tripadvisor
Way to India
The way to India leads through Bern and makes a stop on the corner between Bärenplatz (Bear’s Square) and Marktgasse. When the Way to India opened over 20 years ago, it was the first Indian restaurant in Bern. Today, it is still THE place to go for classic dishes from different regions of India and is also popular for take-aways. The lunch buffet includes no fewer than 14 Indian salads (vegetarian and vegan) as well as different curry dishes with lentils, vegetables, meat and fish, and the mango cream is a must for dessert. If you would rather eat right at the restaurant, every tenth reservation of the day receives a free main dish!
Way to India
And last but not least: 3dosha in the Breitenrain district is devoted to Ayurveda, a holistic-oriented method of traditional Indian medicine. The services on offer in this family-operated business are also holistic. A massage clinic and nutritional consultation are just as much a part of 3dosha as the popular and well-known vegetarian restaurant. At midday and in the evening guests are captivated by the intense aromas as soon as they start serving themselves at the buffet. One thing is certain. 3dosha is not just a gastronomy concept but rather a lifestyle that includes healthy, balanced and fresh cuisine enhanced with beneficial herbs and spices. Our tip: Rose or ginger water is the perfect accompanying beverage.
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