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The Cousins, Cape Town.
Photograph: The Cousins

The best affordable restaurants in Cape Town

Watching your pennies, pence and cents when you’re out and about? Book a table at one of these eateries

Richard Holmes
Written by
Richard Holmes
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Cape Town is often ranked amongst the world’s most affordable holiday destinations, but it still pays to keep an eye on your spending when dining out. Happily, alongside the city’s no-expense-spared fine dining destinations, you’ll find an array of affordable restaurants to make your budget stretch further. Here’s our pick of where to fill your boots, without emptying your wallet.

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☕️ The best cafés and coffee shops in Cape Town

This article was written by Richard Holmes, a travel writer based in Cape Town. At Time Out, all of our travel guides are written by local writers who know their cities inside out. For more about how we curate, see our editorial guidelines and check out our latest travel guides written by local experts.

Cape Town’s best affordable restaurants

A stylish take on the traditional diner, Clarke’s Bar & Dining Room has become a staple of the Bree Street restaurant strip. That’s largely thanks to the superb beef burgers served on buttery brioche buns  but their soup and grilled cheese sandwich offer at lunch remains one of the best affordable bites in the city. Look out for well-priced breakfast specials before 9am, when you’ll find savvy digital nomads tapping into the free Wi-Fi.

With tables spilling out on to the pavements of leafy Dunkley Square, Maria’s Greek Café is nothing short of magical on a balmy summer’s evening. Happily, you won’t pay the earth to enjoy it either, with a well-priced menu of Mediterranean plates. The starter-sized mezethes are excellent, but the cost can add up quickly, so opt instead for a generous main course. The chicken souvlaki never disappoints.

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Mariam’s Kitchen has been a family business for generations and has grown from the single original location in the city centre to a handful of branches across Cape Town. On the menu, you’ll find toasted sandwiches and curry salomies, but it’s the Gatsby – a foot-long sandwich stuffed with steak, chips and salad – that has made Mariam’s famous. The seating is simple, the portions generous and the prices affordable. Little wonder it’s been a local favourite for more than 30 years.

An Italian restaurant run by three cousins from Emilia-Romagna, Italy? You just know the pasta is going to be good. And at The Cousins it always is. The prices aren’t rock-bottom, but the quality is outstanding, making this one of the best-value Italian restaurants in the city. The menu is extensive, but most people come for the signature pasta plate of herby tagliolini tossed in a wheel of Grana Padano.

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As neighbourhood eateries go, Borruso’s is about as warm and welcoming as it gets. No surprise, then, that it’s packed every night and that you’ll struggle to find a table after 7pm (there are no reservations taken). While the menu stretches to pasta and salads, it’s the thin-based, wood-fired pizzas that locals flock here for. The wine list is unremarkable, so the smart thing is to bring your own, particularly as there’s no corkage fee.

Just a few steps from the beach in Hout Bay you’ll find Dunes Beach Restaurant, a firm local favourite. While many tourists flock to restaurants in the Mariner’s Wharf complex in the harbour nearby (also good, but more expensive), families will love the generous portions and kid-friendly atmosphere at this charming beachfront spot. Expect great fish and chips, wood-fired pizzas and hearty grills. There’s even a sushi bar and a wine list of top-notch local estates, at fair prices.

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For seafood with a sea view, at bargain prices, head for Kalky’s, a no-frills joint in charming Kalk Bay Harbour. Order at the counter, grab a wooden table overlooking False Bay and sit tight until the waiting staff shout your order number. The generous plate of local snoek (a meaty game fish) and chips is always well-priced, with options to upgrade to prawns and seasonal line fish. In summer, Kalky’s also offers perhaps the cheapest crayfish in town.

Eating healthily on the cheap isn’t always easy, but The Poké Co offers hunger-busting bowls of rice and various veg, served with fish, meat or vegan-friendly options – plus healthy breakfasts – at a budget-friendly price. Opt for the local line-caught tuna over imported salmon and you’ll get a better protein bang for your buck (for the gains). This popular local brand has four locations around the city and the Sea Point branch is ideal for grabbing a takeaway to enjoy on the nearby promenade.

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For more than 25 years Arnold’s has been a landmark on Kloof Street, popular with locals and tourists thanks to the generous breakfasts at truly affordable prices; the hearty, two-egg breakfast served with bacon, sausage and toast is a firm – and firmly affordable ­– favourite. You can spend a little more on the eggs Benedict or buttery croissants, if you like, but overall, you won’t find a more cost-balanced spot in which to fuel-up. Breakfast is served all day and there’s an extensive lunch and dinner menu, too.

This popular pavement café on the buzzy Green Point strip dishes up a globetrotting menu that runs from simple baked potatoes to eisbein (pork knuckle) and seafood platters. What ties it all together is the price, with excellent value to be had across the board. Café Extrablatt also serves a well-priced breakfast buffet on weekends, with midweek pizza, burger and Happy Hour specials.

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Got a sushi craving, but not the bank balance to pay for it? Head straight for one of the three Active Sushi locations around Cape Town, which offer a stylish sushi experience at prices that won’t worry your wallet. There’s an extensive à la carte offering that extends to sushi, salads and soups, but the best value is to be found in the all-you-can-eat offer. Don’t be a glutton, though, as diners are charged for any pieces left uneaten.

If you value budget over ambience, then try this canteen-style eatery in the city centre, where noisy kitchens serve up everything from Cape biryanis to Turkish kebabs. If you fancy something different, order a traditional Durban ‘bunny chow’: a half-loaf of white bread filled with a curry of your choice. Unsurprisingly, Eastern Food Bazaar is a hit with hungry office workers, so try and avoid the lunchtime rush. Most people order to go, which is recommended, but there are a handful of tables available.

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