Cheap Family Eats: The Istanbul Edition

Thrifty Travel Mama | A Family Adventure in Turkey - Cheap Eats in Istanbul for Families with Kids! What to Order and Where to Eat in Instanbul on a Budget! #familytravelThis post appears as part of our Turkish Family Travel Adventure series, chronicling a fun fall fling in the city of Istanbul.

There’s something for everyone in Istanbul – sights, sounds, smells, sweets and savories. The trick is finding your flavor… and on your budget.

Whenever possible, we shop at local groceries or markets and prepare most of our own meals. It saves money, and I don’t have to stress about which restaurant to choose. Too many good choices lead to an incredible amount of stress to pick the “right one.”

In Istanbul, neither an apartment nor a kitchen were in the cards for us. That’s just as well, though, because I only saw a few very small markets in Sultanahmet. We would’ve been out of luck had we relied on our culinary efforts alone to sustain us.

Maybe you’re also headed to Istanbul and your head is spinning at all the options. You might also secretly be wondering if your kids will boycott any and all attempts to experience local cuisine, lobbying intently for dinner at the familiar golden arches.

Have no fear! Here’s a quick guide to what our family bought and bit into while in Istanbul. And yes, there’s even a review of Turkish McDonalds!Thrifty Travel Mama | A Family Adventure in Turkey - Cheap Eats in Istanbul for Families with Kids! What to Order and Where to Eat in Instanbul on a Budget! #familytravel

What to Order

In Sultanahmet, you’ll be hard-pressed to find a restaurant gem without a guidebook or online reviews. Restaurants are a dime a dozen, and every last one of them has hired a hawker to welcome you, “my friend,” to eat at their establishment for “a very special price.”

However, you’ll also likely be frustrated in your attempts to decipher addresses and locate that particular Lokanta that garnered gangbuster reviews on Yelp.

So when you’ve had enough of everyone offering you “the best food in Istanbul,” when your feet are aching from all the miles you logged in the Grand Bazaar, and your kids won’t stop the are-we-to-the-restaurant-yet mantra, just pick a place and order one of these simple dishes.

  • Lahmacun — Similar to a pizza, Lahmacun is flatbread topped with a combination of meat, onions, and spices and then baked. It’s often served with fresh vegetables like tomatoes, lettuce, or parsley. You can eat it like a pizza, fold it like a taco, or roll it up.
  • Kebaps — Kebap is similar to what you might already make on your BBQ at home: skewered, grilled meat. Lamb and beef are more common but chicken is also possible.
  • Döner – You may have seen these gigantic cylinders of meat rotating on a vertical spit at various places around the world (I first saw one in Russia). The meat is shaved and usually deposited in a portion of flatbread and then topped with vegetables and/or sauce. If you’ve been to Germany, you probably already know (and possibly love) Döner.
  • Köfte — A main dish resembling meatballs, Köfte are often made from ground lamb mixed with breadcrumbs and spices. The Köfte are usually grilled and sometimes served with other grilled vegetables.
  • For more well-known Turkish dishes with descriptions, I recommend checking out Witt Istanbul’s list.

Our Favorite Finds

Most hotels in Istanbul include breakfast in the nightly rate, and ours was no exception. Turkish breakfast turned out to be quite an adjustment for us since no one was really keen on olives and tomatoes for the first meal of the day. Read up on typical morning fare you can expect while in Turkey here.

For lunch and dinner, we just roamed. We did our best to find the recommended restaurants I had scribbled on my map. But, sometimes we failed, and I just picked what seemed both affordable and the least likely to give us food poisoning.Thrifty Travel Mama | A Family Adventure in Turkey - Cheap Eats in Istanbul for Families with Kids! What to Order and Where to Eat in Instanbul on a Budget! #familytravel

Most guides tell you not to eat street food in Istanbul. You don’t want to spend your time in Turkey getting to know the toilet.

One notable exception, however, is the fresh-squeezed juice. You MUST try the pomegranate. Each cup is pressed to order, and the flavor explodes – tart yet sweet – on your tongue. Expert tip: Start with the smallest size possible. The nectar is very strong, and you’ll want to try it before committing to a larger size.

Beans & rice is one of our staple meals at home. When I found out that there’s a Turkish version, I knew I had to try it. Surprise, surprise – we loved the Middle Eastern twist!

The best places to sample Kurufasulye (Turkish beans and rice) are near the Sulemaniye Mosque. We chose Ali Baba on the corner because it had stellar reviews, but other restaurants on that row serve similar dishes.

The beans are cooked in a spiced tomato sauce and the rice is more of a pilaf. We also sampled the couscous which was equally as flavorful. Thrifty Travel Mama | A Family Adventure in Turkey - Cheap Eats in Istanbul for Families with Kids! What to Order and Where to Eat in Instanbul on a Budget! #familytravel

As you walk across the Galata Bridge, you’ll see scores of amateurs and professionals doing their best to snag a decent day’s catch. It’s true that Turkish people love meat, but with its close proximity to the sea, fish is always available in Istanbul. Thrifty Travel Mama | A Family Adventure in Turkey - Cheap Eats in Istanbul for Families with Kids! What to Order and Where to Eat in Instanbul on a Budget! #familytravel

However, if you’re a bit on the fence about fish like I am, you can tread lightly and make a sampler dinner by ordering a fish sandwich to go from Furreyya Galata Balikcisi and supplementing with delicious falafel from Kikero Falafel across the street. We rounded out our meal by picking up drinks at a small market and walked back down toward the Karaköy tram station.

With food growing cold and tummies rumbling, we ended up making a picnic – right in the middle of the road. It was fabulous to be in the eye of the traffic hurricane while munching on moist fish and crispy falafel.Thrifty Travel Mama | A Family Adventure in Turkey - Cheap Eats in Istanbul for Families with Kids! What to Order and Where to Eat in Instanbul on a Budget! #familytravel

You may have heard of the legendary Turkish coffee – stiff and gritty like the streets of Istanbul. Maybe grounds with your brew isn’t your thing, though, and you want something a bit more like your morning Joe at home.

Enter Kahve Dünyası. This western-style coffee shop serves carefully crafted caffeine as well as CHOCOLATE SPOONS. Seriously. I highly recommend sharing a treat here after a long (morning/afternoon/day) of haggling at the Grand Bazaar.Thrifty Travel Mama | A Family Adventure in Turkey - Cheap Eats in Istanbul for Families with Kids! What to Order and Where to Eat in Instanbul on a Budget! #familytravel

Typically, our diet leans heavily on the healthy side of the scale. Living in Germany forced me to make nearly everything from scratch and to appreciate simplicity of flavor and ingredients. So, it may come as a shock to you that Doc Sci and I have tried McDonalds in nearly every country we have visited. Yep, shameful but true.

Despite this reality, I never set out to taste-test Turkish McDonalds. Unfortunately, once my kids saw the big M, it was all over.

I find it funny that they ask for McDonalds and even consider it their favorite restaurant since I can count on one hand the times in their lives when we’ve eaten there. But, everyone has their breaking point. Four hours in the Grand Bazaar was theirs. If I wanted to bring home some lanterns, I was going to have to give up something in return. And so the if-you-don’t-whine-and-let-me-bargain-in-peace-I’ll-buy-you-gross-McDonalds-for-dinner plan was hatched.

Verdict? It’s pretty nasty as far as McDonalds goes. I’ve definitely had better Big Macs. But, they loved it, and I got my lanterns and no one threw up. That’s a win in my book.

Thrifty Travel Mama | A Family Adventure in Turkey - Cheap Eats in Istanbul for Families with Kids! What to Order and Where to Eat in Instanbul on a Budget! #familytravel

Honorable Mention

  • Dondurmasi Ice Cream – This is one part entertainment, one part humor, one part ice cream thickened with mastic, among other things. There’s a shop with a show near the corner of Divan Yolu Cd. and Babı-Ali Cd. on the tram line. You can catch a preview of what’s in store for you here. The conniving cream peddler wasn’t at his post when we walked by, so we bought ice cream at the grocery store just north on Babı-Ali Cd. When we returned to Divan Yolu Cd., the show had begun. We ate our ice cream at a safe distance from the slick man and his stick.
  • For more restaurants gleaned from friends and guides, you are welcome to view my Google map here. I have not personally tried everything on the map, so I can’t guarantee every spot is open and of good quality. However, I always welcome a place to begin and a fall-back list in case I run out of time to complete my own research before traveling.

What’s your favorite Turkish food? If you were in Istanbul right now, what would you most look forward to tasting? Do you have any family- and/or budget-friendly restaurant recommendations to share? Signature Thrifty Travel Mama

Expats Move Home: What America Does Better

Thrifty Travel Mama | Expats Move Home: What I Like Better in AmericaNow that I’ve revealed all the things I miss about living in Deutschland, it’s time to confess that our time in Germany was not all natural beauty, biergartens, and brezeln.

In no particular order (because that just takes too much brain power which is currently being commandeered by small people), here’s what we think America does better.

German Kitchens

Let’s be honest: many German kitchens are miserably small. Do a quick Google image search for “German kitchen,” and you’ll be inundated with images of sleek, spacious cooking spaces.

People, this is not reality. I’ve never seen a kitchen like that outside of IKEA. Most German kitchens look like this (1, 2, 3). Typically, they are housed in a separate room, completely closed off from the rest of the living space, often with a door like the one to your bedroom.

German kitchens often feel like just another closet with the added bonus of running water. They’re small, cramped, and usually pieced together – a product of moving your entire kitchen with you when you change apartments. I do NOT miss my Barbie dream house kitchen with exactly 18” of counter space. Nope, not one bit.

Okay, a tiny part of me would love to have a sliding door on mine (you know, to bake and consume an entire batch of chocolate cupcakes without the three hungry little monsters noticing). But, the remaining 99% of me loves my open American kitchen with loads of counter space.

Thrifty Travel Mama | Expats Move Home: What I Like Better in America

A typical European-sized fridge.

Customer Service

Because of that whole thrifty thing, I have to REALLY like or need a product in order to spend money on it. Being picky means I rarely know if I like a certain something without seeing or trying it at home. Often, I end up schlepping the item back to the store for a refund.

In Germany, returning items was never simple, and it was often difficult or impossible outside of Amazon or big chain stores. Returning items in the US is a breeze, usually without any questions asked beyond, “Do you have your receipt?”. I love the American attitude that the customer is important, and it sure is nice that companies in the US work to earn and keep your business.

Restaurants

We don’t eat out very often for several reasons, but it’s mainly because cooking at home has become our habit.

In Freiburg, we only ate in a handful of restaurants because the food was usually bland AND expensive. We became accustomed to cooking from scratch all.the.time.

After Charlie was born, I longed for the ease of take-out or even a drive-thru that was not McDonalds or Burger King. No such luck.

Even though we still don’t frequent restaurants, we now have options. I don’t have to go searching for the one lone taco truck that serves the only decent food in town; I can just pull up reviews of local joints on my phone. Mexican, Indian, Persian, Korean – they’re all within reach, delicious, and often affordable.

Thrifty Travel Mama | Expats Move Home: What I Like Better in America

All Chipotle, all the time!

Oh, and while we’re at it…. let’s give an honorable mention to FREE REFILLS. Outside of Ikea, this just does not happen in Europe.

Feeling Like an Outsider

It’s one thing to be an outsider; it’s another to feel like one. I never expected to be German or to feel German, and I was okay with that.

But, what I never could have imagined was that my kids would be treated as outsiders, not once receiving a birthday or play-date invitation from fellow kindergarten pals in four years.

Ouch.

I didn’t like that my son’s educational prospects were grim just because he wasn’t a native speaker. And, it wasn’t particularly enjoyable to be stared out whenever I spoke English in public with my kids.

Though I still don’t feel quite at home in America, it’s not as hard to assimilate here. Making friends is simpler; birthday party invitations are easier to come by. I might always be a triangle, but cracking the social code is more manageable in the motherland.

Noteworthy

Leaving a piece of your heart in another part of the world is just plain hard. Striving to see the good in where you are – right here and now – is vital to keeping your head above the depressing waters. There is good in every place if we only take the time to look hard enough for it.

If you’ve repatriated, what do you NOT miss about your host country? If you live in America, what do you love about living here?

Signature Thrifty Travel MamaImage source

 

 

Cheap (Family) Eats: Edinburgh Edition

Thrifty Travel Mama | Cheap Restaurants for Families in EdinburghOne of the biggest ways we save money as a traveling family is to stay in a vacation rental and prepare our own meals. A cheap dinner out for a family of 5 can easily be 50 euros, or more if you happen to be in an expensive city like Paris. In Italy, we ate out only twice during our two-week vacation because the prices were high as were the stakes in betting on the quality of the food.

But in Edinburgh, we ate out every day.. for lunch AND dinner. We couldn’t believe the affordability of budget restaurants, the generous portions, nor the variety of mouthwatering dishes.

Now, when I think Scottish food, the first thing that comes to mind is haggis (you, too?). I’m not an adventurous eater, and I often walk on the vegetarian side, so clearly the sheep stomach specialty wasn’t going to be an option. But, I was thrilled to find that not only does Edinburgh have plenty of ethnic food options, but they have some seriously spicy burritos!

Below are a few of our family’s favorite cheap eats in Edinburgh plus a list of restaurants we didn’t have time to visit. You can find more suggestions for kid-friendly restaurants and things to do on my Scotland with Kids Pinterest board.

Our Favorite (Family) Budget Restaurants in Edinburgh

Thrifty Travel Mama | Cheap Restaurants for Families in Edinburgh

Baseball bat burritos at Illegal Jack’s.

Illegal Jack’s. Oh. my. Illegal Jack’s has a reputation for seriously good burritos and even better service. It did not disappoint. It’s not the best Mexican I’ve ever had, but you’d be hard pressed to find anything better for the price in Europe. We ordered two burritos and the beef chili nachos for the five of us to share. The burritos were mysteriously missing lettuce (?). The chicken can’t compare to the tender, marinated strips from Chipotle, but the beans, salsa, and guacamole had a little Mexican party goin’ on inside my mouth. Our favorite, however, was the flaming pile of beef chili nachos smothered in white cheddar cheese. Whoa, Nelly. Add to that free wifi, free refills, and high chairs – I’m already wishing we could’ve gone back for seconds.. and thirds.

Thrifty Travel Mama | Cheap Restaurants for Families in Edinburgh

Nachos!

Wannaburger. Burgers, fries, onion rings, Dr. Pepper, pancakes, MILKSHAKES! I only had to browse the menu (and the prices!) for a few seconds before I knew Wannaburger would be one of our favorite meals in Edinburgh. I wouldn’t list hamburgers on a list of favorite foods, but when we eat them, it reminds us of home and of great American institutions like In-N-Out and Five Guys. The portions are small, in line with the prices (kids meals are TINY). The black bean burger was not what I expected, but in a good way. The kids loved the chicken goujons, but the burgers were the best (pass on the hot dogs). After the blandness of German food, Doc Sci and I fully appreciated the heat that the cajun fries delivered. But, really, the absolute best thing on the menu at Wannaburger is the chocolate milk shake with peanut butter. Dear me, I might have to go recreate that in my kitchen post haste!Thrifty Travel Mama | Cheap Restaurants for Families in Edinburgh

 

Thrifty Travel Mama | Cheap Restaurants for Families in Edinburgh

The best peanut butter shake EVER. If we would’ve known, we wouldn’t have ordered the kids’ size…

The Tailend Restaurant And Fish Bar. While I wouldn’t consider us serious fish & chips fans, we always make a point of indulging in a local chippy whenever we’re in the UK. The Tailend is rumored to be the best fish fry in Edinburgh, and their “to go” prices are a steal. For example, the haddock fish supper comes in at £6 for takeaway; the same fish special sells for nearly double in the restaurant.

Yocoko Noodle Bar. I remember reading somewhere that the service at Yocoko leaned toward the snotty side, so I planned accordingly. In reality, the restaurant was just busy, and the waiters were simply doing their job. Don’t expect warm service, but don’t be put off by their demeanor. This is a student hang-out, after all. One thing that was rather annoying, though, was that one could choose either chopsticks OR a fork, but not both. My husband and I prefer to eat with chopsticks, but the kids haven’t learned yet. It was a bit stressful to arrange for the kids to get forks. But, when our gigantic bowl of udon noodles arrived, I embraced the awkwardness and took the opportunity to slurp my soup. The fried noodles are nothing to write home about; go for the udon instead. The kids went nuts for edamame and fully enjoyed drinking weak-but-free green tea from tiny cups.

Los Cardos. A total Chipotle knock-off (seriously, look at their website), Los Cardos only has one advantage over Illegal Jack’s.. they deliver! I didn’t think it would work since I don’t have a UK phone number, but I somehow was able to set up a dinner delivery for our last evening in Edinburgh. The food arrived on time, hot & fresh. Unfortunately, without salsa, these burritos have no claim to fame. Again, the lettuce was absent (?!), and the rice and beans bordered on bland. But once we heaped the delicious black bean & corn salsa on top, and scooped up the salsa verde with or tortilla chips, we didn’t care. Even Los Cardos on a bad day is better than most German attempts at Mexican food.

Thrifty Travel Mama | Cheap Restaurants for Families in Edinburgh

Burrito from Los Cardos. Just add salsa.

More Cheap Eats

  • The Baked Potato Shop.  Jacket potatoes with your choice of hot or cold filling. Vegetarian and vegan options.
  • Red Box Noodle Bar.  Fast and filling, veggie or carnivore, eat in or takeaway, choose your own Asian noodle box adventure.
  • Viva Mexico. Touted as Edinburgh’s “original and most authentic Mexican restaurant,” I’ve heard rumors of lunch specials for £6, Fajitas for £9, and dinner entrees for £12-15.
  • Black Medicine Coffee Co. Not a restaurant, but a friend who lived there for a year promises this is the best coffee she has ever tasted.
  • Mums Great Comfort Food. If mushy peas or bangers & mash are your thing, I’m told this is the place to indulge.
  • The Holyrood 9A. The burgers are a big pricier here (£9), but they have SWEET potato fries! Red Squirrel is another handmade burger joint with sweet potato fries. Seriously, we need a burger & sweet potato food truck in my city..
  • Union of Genius. Soup Bar – 6 soups daily with a sampler option. Served with artisan bread. Great for warming up on a grey, Scottish day.
  • Mother India. Daily specials and take-away menu items under £6 as well as many (Indian!) tapas dishes under £4. I’m rather disappointed we didn’t have time for this one.

Thrifty Travel Mama | Cheap Restaurants for Families in EdinburghPrices are current at the time of writing. As always, double check restaurant information and current prices before visiting.

Would you have gone for the haggis instead of the habanero? What kind of budget restaurants do you look for when visiting a new city?Signature-Marigold

Cheap (Family) Eats: Paris Edition

Thrifty Travel Mama | Cheap (Family) Eats: Paris EditionParis might be a gorgeous gal, but she’s an absolute shrew when it comes to penny-pinching travelers.

We lucked out on accommodation; a friend of a friend lent us her place for the week. But food was a different story. While we could save money by cooking dinner at the apartment, logistics made lunch out a necessity.

As I briefly mentioned in my post on the French version of Chipotle, 9 euros for one burrito was actually reasonable in Paris! If you want a burger (which hopefully is only the starving expat crowd), be prepared to pay even more. We stumbled upon FrogBurger in the Latin Quarter and couldn’t believe it… 11 euros for a skinny burger?! At least they have some comical brews.

Thrifty Travel Mama | Cheap (Family) Eats: Paris Edition

FrogBurger prices!

Thrifty Travel Mama | Cheap (Family) Eats: Paris Edition

FrogBurger beers.

I combed Pinterest, scoured the Rick Steves city guide, and searched high and low in the blog world for the best budget eats in Paris. Below are a few of our favorites plus a list of restaurants we didn’t have time to visit and a few splurges.

Our Favorite (Family) Budget Restaurants in Paris

Thrifty Travel Mama | Cheap (Family) Eats: Paris Edition

Chez H’anna Falafel with a gigantic grilled eggplant on top.

Chez H’anna. Delicious, fresh falafel for under 6 euros. I could’ve eaten one of these every day! If you want to have a falafel tasting, do not waste your time at Chez Marianne around the corner. See L’As Du Fallafel below which is just down the street from H’anna.

Thrifty Travel Mama | Cheap (Family) Eats: Paris Edition

You never know what you’re going to find at Churrasqueira Galo!

Churrasqueira Galo. A short walk from the Sacré Cœur in Montmarte, this unassuming Portuguese chicken joint serves up gigantic platters for 9 euros. All five of us stuffed ourselves full of rotisserie chicken, salad, rice, and fries. We ordered two platters and barely finished the food. Even David Lebovitz recommends this place.

Thrifty Travel Mama | Cheap (Family) Eats: Paris Edition

My dark chocolate crepe at Chez Nicos.

Chez Nicos. One of the cheapest crêperies we found, and one of the best. The dark chocolate crêpe was stuffed with nearly a whole bar of chocolate! Doc Sci and T-Rex devoured the specialty – Nutella with an entire sliced banana.

Thrifty Travel Mama | Tips for Exploring Paris by Bike for Families with Kids

Eiffel Tower pizza picnic from Pizza la Gourmandise.

Pizza la Gourmandise. Not anything near true Italian pizza, but the pies were a steal compared to most pizzerias in town. We ordered ours to go and ate in the shadow of the Eiffel Tower.

More Cheap Eats

  • L’As Du Fallafel. We ate at Chez H’anna instead, but this one is Lenny Kravitz’s favorite. Beware the queue! Mi Va Mi is across the street to add yet another option to the falafel question.
  • Gusto Italia. Pizza place (takeaway or dine-in) near the Eiffel Tower, slightly more expensive than Pizza le Gourmande. Two locations across the street from each other at 199 and 218 Rue de Grenelle.
  • La Charlotte de l’Isle. A cute and quirky tea room serving loose leaf and hot chocolate. We arrived just as the last customers were seated and the cozy dining room was completely full. Boo.
  • Breizh Cafe. Apparently, they serve the best salted caramel crepes and affordable savory galettes, but we visited on Monday when they were closed!
  • Berko. Another closed-on-Monday strike out, I must’ve been on a salted caramel kick when making trip notes because this cafe has the coveted flavor in meal-replacing cheesecake form.
  • La Crêperie Bretonne. Each crepe costs approximately €7 (as of September 2013), and the Ratatouille galette comes highly recommended.
  • Krishna Bhavan. Indian specialties, suitable for vegetarians and cheapskates.
  • Le Royal. Located on the infamous Rue de Grenelle. Carte highlights: 5 euro omelets, 9 euro plats, 14 euro menus.
  • Apparemment Café. After heavy French food and fried falafel, a create-your-own salad shop would be nice for a change.
  • Smooth In The City. Another stop for those in search of healthier fare. Fresh fruit smoothies and menus available.

Places to Splurge for a Special Treat

Thrifty Travel Mama | Cheap (Family) Eats: Paris Edition

  • Angelina. At nearly 8 euros for a hot chocolate, this cafe is not cheap (nor easy to get into if you visit the location near the Louvre). Sneak into the Angelina tucked into a corner at Galeries Lafayette instead. Sure, the service is snobby, but savoring the liquid chocolate and fluffy cream is (nearly) priceless.
  • Berthillon Ice Cream. Lines were out the door here, even in winter!
  • Pierre Hermé or Ladurée Macarons. These cookies are obnoxiously expensive, but you shouldn’t leave Paris without trying at least one. Bet you can’t guess what flavor I’d recommend… (salted caramel!)

Thrifty Travel Mama | Cheap (Family) Eats: Paris EditionBon appétit! Did I highlight or pass over any of your favorites? Let me know in the comments below!Signature-Marigold

Marvel: German Taco Truck

Thrifty Travel Mama | Marvel: German Taco Truck!Maybe this post isn’t of serious interest to those who live in, say, San Jose where the beans and rice flow freely.  But for the salsa-starved crowd in Europe, today’s news is downright thrilling.

We finally have an authentic, affordable source of Mexican food in our little German city!

I couldn’t be more excited.  Well, actually, I think Doc Sci has me beat.  The man has decided we need to add a line item in our budget for burritos.  No joke.

So, what’s the big deal?Thrifty Travel Mama | Marvel: German Taco Truck!

Well, an American expat (Geoff) and his wife have set up The Holy Taco Shack in a truck where they serve authentic tacos, burritos, and quesadillas… emphasis on authentic.  If I wasn’t so cold, I would’ve done a little happy dance when I saw ingredients like tomatillos, cilantro, carnitas, cheddar cheese, and homemade corn tortillas on the menu.

Patrons can pick from three meals: tacos, quesadillas, or a burrito.  The fillings include shredded chipotle chicken, carnitas (pork), and a vegetarian option.  Dishes are topped with one of three salsas – mild salsa verde, Chili de Arbol salsa, and pico de gallo – and finished with a healthy dose of cheddar cheese, onions, and shredded lettuce.

Hungry yet?Thrifty Travel Mama | Marvel: German Taco Truck!

We ordered two taco plates, one with pork and one with chicken.  I don’t normally eat pork, but I thought the carnitas had great flavor.  And the handmade corn tortillas?  Wholy guacamole!  I can’t remember the last time I tasted masa harina.Thrifty Travel Mama | Marvel: German Taco Truck!

However, I must say that the burrito was our favorite.  The gigantic portion almost puts Chipotle to shame.  The flour tortilla was loaded with seasoned rice and creamy refried beans followed by an avalanche of chipotle chicken, pico, and cheese.  I’ve never had Mexican food in our German city so delish outside of my own kitchen.

I was recently thinking how the presence of a decent Mexican joint might change my decision about whether or not to stay in Germany.  I’m completely excited that the aforementioned Chipotle has decided to expand into Europe (more on that in a future post).  But, I have to say, I never dreamed I’d be making regular trips to a taco truck for a fix.  If my husband has his way, that will be our new reality.

Of course, we’ll need to make a few more visits… you know, for quality control purposes of course.  And next time, we’re springing for the quesadillas!  Who’s with me?

For locations and hours, check out The Holy Taco Shack website, or like them on Facebook.  At the time of writing, burritos cost 5 euros, quesadillas are 4 euros, and tacos are also 4 euros for 3.  I was not asked or paid to write this post – I just really, REALLY like the food.  And you will too.  So go!Signature-Marigold

Do Vegas Up Family-Style: 5 Kid-Friendly Activities

My memories of visiting Las Vegas as a child are of endless subdivisions and eternal buffets.  The Strip then wasn’t what it is today, and the best thing we found to do was play arcade games inside Circus Circus. 

But, boy things have changed!  As today’s guest writer Kendra Thornton points out, Las Vegas may surprise you as a family-friendly (and budget!) destination. 

Do Vegas Up Family-Style

Believe it or not, Las Vegas is one of the family-friendliest places to travel in the United States. While you may associate Vegas with the more adult-themed activities that have led to its negative reputation, it is important to know that much of this is just hype.

Las Vegas may be marketed toward those who will spend freely as they imbibe in libations; however, this can easily work toward your advantage.

Businesses frequently make it cheap to travel to and stay in Las Vegas because they know that most adults will spend big money once they hit the casinos and clubs. This makes it easy for you to utilize cheap travel packages to take your kids on less-expensive and family-friendly cultural activities that I have included on this list of my favorite Vegas hot-spots.

1. Chill at Serendipity

If you have never had frozen hot chocolate, then you are in for a treat. In the rest of the country, everyone else may be warming up to a mug of hot cocoa. However, drinking it cold Las Vegas style will be a thrill for your kids. At Serendipity 3, the fun is just beginning when you walk in and are greeted by funky décor and an exciting menu. Enjoy your frozen hot chocolate as you plan your next grand adventure.

2. Thrill at Adventuredome

Inside Circus Circus you’ll find the Adventuredome, a five-acre theme park that is sure to dazzle your kids. Here, roller coaster enthusiasts from all over the world come to find their thrills. Enjoy world-famous rides such as the world’s only indoor roller coaster with a double loop and corkscrew. Then, have fun rock climbing. Those who are less adventurous will also love the arcade.

3. Lounge on a Hoover Dam Houseboat

Even if your kids have seen it all, they still have not yet had the thrill of enjoying a stay on a houseboat. A houseboat on Lake Mead can be rented for a single night or several days. In addition to being an event to be remembered, this can also be less expensive than traditional hotel stays. On a Hoover Dam houseboat, you have lodging and entertainment covered. Then, you can take in the view while enjoying the nature-side of Las Vegas vacations.

4. Experiment with Indoor Skydiving

It may or may not be your kids’ dream to jump out of a plane. Here your kids can try it out in the safety of an indoor space. This thrill is achieved by using a wind tunnel to mimic the effects of an actual skydiving experience. As a parent, you can enjoy giving your kids a great thrill while making sure safety is a priority. As an added bonus, this is even less expensive than the real thing.

5. Experience a Venetian Winter

If you would have never thought Las Vegas could be a winter wonderland, then be prepared to be surprised. At the Venetian, the halls will be decked for the season this winter. Here, you can enjoy an ice skating rink. Then, listen as real-life carolers sing holiday melodies as they roam the halls. Every night, they serve spiced cider so you can sip and enjoy the sights while visiting with your family.

This year, experience an unbelievable vacation full of holiday surprises in the amazing city of Las Vegas. Although they may say that what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas, your family will be too delighted with their adventures to keep them a secret. Whether you explore the Hoover Dam or dine on a divine frozen hot chocolate, every moment will be savored. By exploring the other side of Vegas, your family will always remember their time in this amazing city as one of their fondest memories.

Kendra Thornton is the former Director of Communications at Orbitz. She lives in Chicago with her 3 wonderful children and loves sharing travel stories and advice from her extensive experience traveling the world.  Follow her on Twitter here.

What other bloggers are saying about family-friendly Vegas:

Would you take your kids to Vegas?  Which one of these activities would your family enjoy the most? Signature-Marigold

Berchtesgaden With Kids: The Eagle’s Nest (Kehlsteinhaus)

Thrifty Travel Mama | Berchtesgaden with Kids - The Eagle's NestWe took advantage of a long, holiday weekend to go somewhere that’s been on my bucket list for many, many years – Berchtesgaden National Park.  This area of Germany is nothing short of incredible, and such beauty deserves to be seen first hand.

Well, if it’s so amazing, why did we wait so long to visit?  For starters, it’s clear on the other side of the country, and there’s no easy way to get from A to B by car or by train.  Also, because it’s almost a six hour drive one way to Berchtesgaden, we really should stay a minimum of two nights to make the trip worthwhile.  On any given weekend, we usually don’t have that kind of time (or money) to spare.

But, I know I would’ve regretted it deeply had we moved on from Germany before exploring this gorgeous outdoor playground of sorts.  So, I said a quick prayer and jumped into hotel research.

I couldn’t believe my good fortune when I discovered the Hölbinger Alm holiday apartments.  You can read my full review on TripAdvisor (just look for the shoes!).  Though the property ended up being a tad further from Berchtesgaden than I would’ve preferred, the two-bedroom apartment was an excellent value at only 60 euros/night.

Sunrise at the Hoelbinger Alm.

Sunrise at the Hoelbinger Alm.

With accommodation booked, I tackled another formidable task – whittling down my “must-see” list into a realistic, don’t-go-crazy-trying-to-see-everything-with-three-kids-in-three-days itinerary.

Sheesh.

We chose only one attraction per day – The Eagle’s Nest, Lake Königssee, and the Almbachklamm gorge.  I’ll cover Hitler’s lair today, and the other two natural beauties will star in their own subsequent posts.

If you’re not already familiar with the Eagle’s Nest, check out this clip from the HBO Mini-Series Band of Brothers as a quick introduction.

The Eagle's Nest as seen from the Hintereck bus station and parking area.

The Eagle’s Nest as seen from the Hintereck bus station and parking area.

The Kehlsteinhaus, as it’s known in German, was built on a sliver of rock high in the Obersalzberg mountain area.  The purpose of the house was to entertain and impress visiting dignitaries, and it was presented to Hitler on the occasion of his 50th birthday.  The building is now a not-for-profit restaurant (more history with an obviously negative bias here).

Today, the only way to access the Eagle’s Nest is via bus.  The road leading up to the house is so steep and dangerous that only trained drivers are allowed to ferry passengers on it.  You can read more about this engineering marvel and how the road is safely maintained here.Thrifty Travel Mama | Berchtesgaden with Kids - The Eagle's NestThrifty Travel Mama | Berchtesgaden with Kids - The Eagle's NestThrifty Travel Mama | Berchtesgaden with Kids - The Eagle's NestOnce the bus reaches the top of the mountain, it’s time to ride up that exquisite brass elevator you’ve likely seen in movies.  Wait times for the lift can be ridiculous, but the only other option is a steep (though paved) trail.

If we would’ve known that we’d be making our way to the elevator inch by inch, I think we would’ve tried to make it up the trail.  However, I still think it was worth it to ride in the brass box at least once just to say we’ve done it.

To get to the elevator, you walk through this creepy, dimly lit tunnel.

To get to the elevator, you walk through this creepy, dimly lit tunnel.

The brass elevator.

The brass elevator.

If you can handle heights, you’ll be rewarded with an absolutely stunning landscape from the terrace of the Eagle’s Nest.  On a clear day (check the weather first!), you can easily get an eyeful of the Berchtesgaden area (including the Königssee) as well as Salzburg and its surroundings. No wonder this place was built to impress!

Why hello there, gorgeous.

Why hello there, gorgeous.

And g'day to you, Koenigsee.

And g’day to you, Koenigsee.

Unless you’re into serious hiking, the only thing to do on top of the world is drink – beer, coffee, views, etc.  Prices at the cafe were high, but not insane.  We brought our lunch, so I can’t comment on the quality of the food or friendliness of the staff.  Visitors are served on the patio; eating inside the dining room is by reservation only.

A sign on the restaurant door admonishes visitors not to pop into the dining room because it disturbs the other guests.  But, since we happened to be hanging out at the end of the day and the grounds were nearly deserted, we decided to, well, um, not follow directions.

I hate to break the news to you, but the interior is rather unimpressive.  Snap a photo of the marble fireplace (a gift from Mussolini), and move on.

The dining room.

The dining room.

The fireplace.

The fireplace.  You can see how the marble was chipped by soldiers taking souvenirs.

It’s possible to walk a little further up on the rocks behind to the Kehlsteinhaus for even more magnificent views.  However, use extreme caution with children as some of the footing is quite slippery.

This kid is always climbing on something.

This kid is always climbing on something.

Let's just say this is the LAST trip I'll take without proper German footwear.  Boots are already on order!

Let’s just say this is the LAST trip I’ll take without proper German footwear. Boots are already on order!

Both Doc Sci and I were quite surprised that almost every other person we encountered was American.  English conversations swarmed around us, and it became clear that this is an attraction marketed to tourists from across the pond.  The Germans that visited the Eagle’s Nest were there for the hiking, not the house or its history.

Speaking of history, I wish we would’ve had more time to visit the Obersalzberg Documentation Center which is chock full of interesting tidbits about the area’s infamous residents and offers patrons the possibility of exploring the secret bunkers.  Ooooo…

But, realistically, I don’t think we could’ve had a successful go at the exhibits with our young boys.  I hope to return when they’re older and actually care more about the story of the world than the adventures of Thomas the Train.

Between the view and the intrigue, the Eagle’s Nest was definitely a bucket list item that lived up to its hype.  The irony that our visit occurred on German Unity Day was not lost on me.  For history buffs, hikers, and everyone in between, I highly recommend the Kehlsteinhaus.Thrifty Travel Mama | Berchtesgaden with Kids - The Eagle's NestA few practical tips for your visit:

  • Getting to the Eagle’s Nest must be done in two parts.  First, you must get to the Hintereck parking area at Obersalzberg either by car or by bus.
  • If you arrive by car, keep in mind that parking can be difficult later in the day.  Get in early or be prepared to walk a ways if lots are full.  Keep your eyes peeled for the German name (Kehlsteinhaus) because you won’t see any signs for “The Eagle’s Nest” until you’re at the parking lot itself.  Parking costs 3 euros/day.
  • The second piece of the journey is taken on special buses that leave from the Hintereck station.  Purchase tickets, and board the bus that corresponds with the number on your ticket.  Unfortunately, you won’t know how full your bus is and you could be stuck going uphill, riding backwards (ugh).
  • Admission to the house itself is technically free; however, you cannot reach it without a valid bus ticket (or a few hours of strenuous hiking).
  • The recommended length of stay is 2 hours, but we opted for 2 1/2hrs.  If you plan to eat a meal in the restaurant, I’d suggest a minimum of 3 hours.
  • The house was nearly deserted at 4pm, so you could go later in the day, pop up for the view, and get back down on the last bus of the day (450pm) since the elevator lines would be nonexistent.
  • No matter how long you stay, you’ll need to decide in advance because it’s highly recommended to make a reservation for your return bus time once you reach the top.  Select a time, and get your ticket stamped before proceeding to the elevator.
  • Bathrooms are located at the base of the elevator and in the house itself.  I noticed  changing tables in the Hintereck bus station restrooms.
  • You could take a pram up on the bus, but there’s really no place to push it once you reach the top.  Use a baby carrier instead.
  • The souvenir shops are all super lame and overpriced.  ‘Nuff said.

Signature-Marigold

Savoring the World’s Best Gelato in San Gimignano

Thrifty Travel Mama | Savoring the World's Best Gelato in San GimignanoMost travelers visit San Gimignano to see the stone skyscrapers of “Medieval Manhattan.”  But little did we know that some mouthwatering eats can be found in this infamous tourist trap.  And at budget prices, to boot!

Let’s mix things up and start with dessert first, shall we?  Forget the biscotti and tiramisu, delicious as they are, and head straight for the gelato.  Sampling the various flavors and comparing the different shops is something the whole family will want in on no matter where you go in Italy.  However, in San Gimignano, you only need to make one stop – Gelateria Dondoli.

Thrifty Travel Mama | Savoring the World's Best Gelato in San GimignanoThe multitude of flavors in this ice cream parlor will boggle your mind (see them here, here, and here), and the line out the door will make you wonder if the whole shebang is even worth it.  Have some faith my friend, you’re about to taste the best gelato in Italy!

I must admit, our unadventurous souls shied away from the most creative flavor combinations like raspberry with rosemary or gorgonzola with walnut.  However, I couldn’t resist a spoonful of the champagne – unbelievable!  Other favorites: espresso, cinnamon, mango, and wild berry yoghurt.  But, who cares what we liked – keep sampling until you find the one, or twenty, that you dig.

And, to put the cherry on top, this incredible ice cream shop is one of the cheapest in all of Tuscany.  Apparently all the Gelato World Champion fame hasn’t gone to their heads.  The title has, however, made the neighboring gelateria green with envy.  Don’t be fooled by their sign touting “the world’s best gelato.”  In this case it’s best to argue semantics and to keep your eyes peeled for the crucial word champion.

Thrifty Travel Mama | Savoring the World's Best Gelato in San GimignanoUnfortunately, no “world minestrone championship” exists.  But if it did, it would be a bore since Trattoria Chiribiri is the clear winner.  Progresso ruined my opinion of minestrone for years; but one big bowl from Chiribiri has me stalking websites for a similar recipe.

Soup not your thing?  No worries.  Order the beef in Chianti or the gnocchi with cream sauce instead, and insist that the waiter bring you an extra loaf of bread.  You’ll be sending the plates back to the kitchen cleaner than a whistle, trust me.  Trattoria Chiribiri served us the BEST restaurant meal of our Tuscan vacation (second only by Trattoria da Leo in Lucca), and for under 35 euros no less.

For more on Trattoria Chiribiri, check out my review on TripAdvisor (look for the shoes!) or the recommendation in Frommer’s.  You can also browse their website, but I should warn you that the food photography is atrocious and does not reflect the quality and flavor of the dishes.Thrifty Travel Mama | Savoring the World's Best Gelato in San Gimignano

Thrifty Travel Mama | Savoring the World's Best Gelato in San GimignanoSince I have your attention, I may as well share a few notes on San Gimignano itself.

In this village, everyone’s a tourist.  You’d be hard-pressed to find a single soul without a backpack or camera.  While this is annoying in some respects (no “authentic” Italy here), in other ways it’s a relief.  For once, it’s easy to blend in.  Just strap on a DSLR, add a fanny pack for flair, socks with sandals if you can stomach the look, and you’ll fit right in.  Really.

Most sandal and shutter-stocked sightseers head straight for the towers.  We weren’t keen on sharing a small staircase with fragrant strangers, so we opted to view the village and countryside from the Rocca.  In addition to being extremely budget friendly (read: free), those with sturdy legs will get the best view of the stone high rises from here.  For east side scenery, follow the signs to Punto Panoramico.Thrifty Travel Mama | Savoring the World's Best Gelato in San GimignanoThrifty Travel Mama | Savoring the World's Best Gelato in San GimignanoThrifty Travel Mama | Savoring the World's Best Gelato in San GimignanoTo ditch the crowds, follow the path outside the walls counterclockwise starting at the Porta delle Fonti.  You’ll be treated to Tuscan views peeking through the olive-laden trees.

Spend the afternoon checking out churches or gagging at the grotesque in the Museo della Tortura.  Whatever you do, you’re bound to have a pleasant stay in this famous city.  Despite its overpriced tourist heart, San Gimignano still offers budget gems to travelers who know where to look.

Thrifty Travel Mama | Savoring the World's Best Gelato in San GimignanoPractical tips for visiting San Gimignano:

  • Toilets – All public potties are pay-to-pee, fifty cents a pop.  Drink responsibly, and use the bathrooms in restaurants you patronize.
  • Prams – Many streets are incredibly steep (a central theme in Tuscany..).  You’ll see the Italians using strollers, but save yourself the struggle and stick with a backpack carrier.
  • Prices – If it’s souvenirs you’re after, don’t buy them in San Gimignano.  Other Tuscan hill towns are cheaper.  For instance, a package of pici noodles costs 1,98 euro in the grocery store.  An identical bag in Pienza sells for 2,50… or 3,50 in San Gimignano.
  • Timing – For day trippers, try to make the extra effort to arrive very early or stay late.  The empty streets and perfect lighting will make for beautiful photos.
  • Playgrounds – We found two areas for the kiddos.  The first is near the Rocca.  Head to the south side, and you’ll see a set of steps leading to it further down the hill.  The other is on the east side of Via Folgore da San Gimignano.  It’s behind a gate, but visible from the street.
  • Parking – You can save a bit by parking down the hill at lot P1 (1 euro/hr).  We left the car in P2 (2 euro/hr), but it was worth it not to have to hike up the hill in the hot sun or wait for the park-and-ride bus.

This post is part of Our Tuscan Family Adventure: Two Weeks of History, Culture, Food, and Fun in Italy series.  Click on the link to view our bucket list and recaps of each excursion!Signature-Marigold

Cycling the Walls of Lovely Lucca – with Kids

Thrifty Travel Mama - Cycling the Walls of Lucca with KidsLucca is, in a word, lovely.

Everything about the place took me by surprise.  Not only is  the architecture just downright pretty and slightly unique, but the town is so…. relaxed.  No one is in a hurry.  No crowds, no jostling, no chaotic queuing.

Not to dis Florence or anything, but Lucca is a breath of fresh air compared to its more famous neighbor.

When working on our itinerary, I squeezed Lucca in between two packed day trips (Florence and the Cinque Terre).  It was meant to be a sort of low-key, half-day filler, really.  But we were so charmed, we found it hard to leave.Thrifty Travel Mama - Cycling the Walls of Lucca with Kids

Though graceful in the streets, Lucca is most known for its massive, ancient walls.  Four kilometers in circumference, the surface of the walls are wide enough to accommodate two lanes of vehicles.  In fact, auto races were held on the walls in previous years.

Today, residents and visitors alike walk, jog, run, and cycle the walls.  I didn’t want to buck the trend – so we rented bikes and joined in!

The walls of Lucca from outside the city.

The walls of Lucca from outside the city.

The wide, wide walls.

The wide, wide walls.

Our bikes were from Cicli Bizzarri on the north side of town.  Rates were 3 euros per hour for adult and children’s bikes; tandems, trailers, and Surrey bikes cost more.  We opted for two bikes with children’s seats, and a kids mountain bike for T-Rex.  I wanted to rent a Surrey, but Doc Sci wasn’t keen.  Since it was expensive (I think 12 or 15 euros per hour), I acquiesced.

Though he cycles to school each day, T-Rex does not have gears on his bike.  The kid has not stopped talking about his “gear bike” since!  

I rented this bike with a baby seat on the front.  Big Foot liked being where he could see the action, but it was difficult to get used to extra weight on the front.  And the little stinker kept putting his hand over the bell whenever I rang it.

I rented this bike with a baby seat on the front. Big Foot liked being where he could see the action, but it was difficult to get used to extra weight on the front. And the little stinker kept putting his hand over the bell whenever I rang it.

Once airborne, we couldn’t believe the extraordinary views from above of this darling city.  Boutiques, churches, backyards, fountains, flowers – everything exuded a quiet elegance.  The boys enjoyed counting the playgrounds (two down below and three on the walls themselves).

One complete circle on the path takes around 20-25 minutes if you don’t stop.  We started clockwise, and then had another go in the opposite direction.  Since the walls are so wide, I never worried about T-Rex taking a tumble.  Of course, he rode near the middle of the path… just in case.

Here we go!

Here we go!

One of the playgrounds we saw.

One of the playgrounds we saw from above.

These houses backed right up to the walls.

These houses backed right up to the walls.

Even the ice cream is on wheels in Lucca!

Even the ice cream is on wheels in Lucca!

Before we returned our bikes, we decided to dip into the city below.  Unfortunately, we found ourselves befuddled by the ancient alleys and lack of street signs several times, but (truth be told) that happens even when we’re walking!  Even so, our legs were happy to be pedaling rather than pounding the pavement for hours as we had done in Florence the previous day.

If you happen to cycle in the city itself, be forewarned that pedestrians here don’t know the first thing about sharing paths with bikes.  I might’ve gone a little overboard ding-a-ling-ing the bell…

After taking a wrong turn, we found Spiderman!

After taking a wrong turn, we found Spiderman!

For lunch, we chose the Trattoria da Leo as recommended by our trusty guide book.  Again, it didn’t disappoint.  With incredible food and reasonable prices, it’s no surprise that snagging an al fresco table at lunch time can be a real challenge.  Reserve in advance, if possible.

In a sheer stroke of luck, we ordered two knockout dishes – Minestra di Farro Lucchese and Rigatoni something-or-other with eggplant.  I don’t even like eggplant, and Doc Sci and I had a thumb war over the last noodle.  I’m still hunting for a recipe to replicate the harmonious flavor of that soup!  Even picky Big Foot scarfed down everything we put in front of him.  After mopping up every last dribble of sauce, we were out the door for less than 30 euros.  Yes!

Trattoria da Leo

Trattoria da Leo

To crown our culinary experience, we sought out some gelato.  The organic flavors at De’ Coltelli hit the spot.  A few euros later, we savored intense blueberry and lightly sweetened yogurt.  Should you be the adventurous type, De’ Coltelli also whips up fish gelato.  Say, what?!

Delicious organic gelato.

Delicious organic gelato.

We passed a boutique called Isola on the way back to the car.  I popped in and found myself unable leave without a darling necklace.  Whenever I wear it, I’ll think of the soup, the scenery, and the sigh of relief I felt in lovely Lucca.

One more darling church with a handful (instead of hundreds) of people.

I couldn’t resist – here’s one more simply elegant church with a handful (instead of hundreds) of people.

Practical tips for Lucca:
  • For free parking, navigate to the Piazzale Don Franco Baroni near Via delle Tagliate.  It’s about a five minute walk to the walls (and Cicli Bizzarri) from there.
  • The city is mostly flat and many ramps lead up to the walls so this is one of the few good places in Tuscany to bring a pram.
  • Free bathrooms can be found at the Tourist Information office sandwiched in between Cicli Bizzarri and another bicycle shop.

This post is part of Our Tuscan Family Adventure: Two Weeks of History, Culture, Food, and Fun in Italy series.  Click on the link to view our bucket list and recaps of each excursion!

Signature-Marigold

Budget Restaurants in Brugge

As I mentioned in my Brugge, Belgium – With Kids! post, eating out here will bust your budget.  In fact, restaurant meals in BeNeLux cost a lot more than we are used to paying here in Germany.

I scoured Pinterest, Yelp, TripAdvisor, and other corners of the web in hopes of compiling a respectable list of lunch and dinner options.  Unfortunately, the best research doesn’t always translate into a good dining experience.

I personally have the worst luck when it comes to choosing a restaurant which is why I prefer to stick to simple, inexpensive food, or make something from the local grocery store in our vacation rental.  I’ll be sharing some of my travel dinner recipes soon, but for now – budget restaurants in Brugge.

Manna & Co.

Manna & Co.

Manna & Co.  This restaurant was described as being a refreshing place to grab a quick and light lunch.  After all the fries and waffles we’d been eating, I really looked forward to a salad chock full of fresh vegetables.  Regrettably, my salad was served with a side of attitude.

The woman in charge clearly communicated her disdain for the little mouths in our party.  Portions were subjective and tangibly stingy, especially for the make-your-own salad.  When we drank some tea out of our thermos, she scolded us and insisted it was “not possible” for us to partake of our own beverage inside.  This only goes to show that just because a restaurant has high chairs, it doesn’t mean it’s kid-friendly!

Regardless of our poor experience, Manna & Co was obviously a local favorite.  Police officers came in for “the usual” and seating became scarce once the clock struck 12.  Katelijnestraat 46

Quick

Quick

Quick.  Our family has a somewhat twisted tradition of trying the McDonalds ripoffs in every country (Lotteria in South Korea, for instance).  Quick is the Flemish imitation.  Burgers and salads are acceptable; fries are atrocious by Belgian standards.  Kids meals (Magic Box) even come with a strawberry yogurt for dessert.  Come for the cheap food, stay for the market square view.  Markt 14

Chez Vincent

Chez Vincent

Chez Vincent.  Located on the east side of St. Salvator cathedral, Chez Vincent is a great place to grab a cone full of Belgian frites and some grilled snacks (we tried the shrimp on a stick).  Not as good as Fritland, but still delicious and inexpensive.  Sint-Salvatorskerkhof 1

Brasserie Medard.  So close to the Markt, you won’t believe your good fortune when the heaping plates of 4 euro spaghetti Bolognese arrive.
Of all the restaurants on the list, I looked forward to Brasserie Medard the most.  As my awful luck would have it, the restaurant staff didn’t feel like working the evening of our visit.  No reason, just a “kitchen temporarily closed” sign on the door.  Two female students who just happened to speak Dutch and also have their eyes fixed on the spaghetti prize confirmed what we suspected.  The telly was more interesting than the customers.  Sint-Amandsstraat 18
Republiek.  Billed as a funky student hangout, I found the prices a little bit above my post-doc budget.  Not the most kid-friendly, but an extensive menu and generous opening hours make up for it.  Sint-Jakobsstraat 36

Grand Cafe de Passage.  A little bit off the beaten path, this restaurant serves mains costing no more than 10 euro.  Dweersstraat 26

De Halve Maan Brewery

De Halve Maan Brewery

De Halve Maan Brewery.  Take a tour of the brewery (7 euros including a beer), or stop in for a beer and a snack in the tavern.  Walplein 26

Ribs 'n Beer

Ribs ‘n Beer

Ribs ‘n Beer.  At 18 euros just for the ribs, the only redeeming factor is these bones are all you can eat.  Dinner only.  Ezelstraat 50

If you know me, you’re wondering what in the heck I’m doing with a list that doesn’t include one single Mexican option.  Sorry – I couldn’t find ANY!  But, no worries, we still stuffed our faces with beans & rice and chips & salsa back at the holiday home.  For an excellent Amsterdam option, check out my Los Pilones post here.

Any Brugge budget restaurants I missed?  Leave a comment or review below.

Want to know where the best fries in Belgium are?  Check out my snapshots of Brussels and Antwerpen, and then decide for yourself!Signature-Marigold