One of the better lines from the movie, So I Married An Axe Murderer, is when Mike Myers’ character says, “I think most Scottish cuisine is based on a dare.” While certainly not a universal truth, who could argue that the Deep Fried Mars Bar was not the result of a sober conversation.
But, overall, Scottish food gets a bad rap. Edinburgh is not short on culinary delights. Whether you are looking for a meal on the go at one of the city’s legions of chip shops or baked potato joints, or want to sit down to a civilized dinner of haggis, neeps and tatties, there is both quantity and quality. While Edinburgh’s chip shops fall into the artery-busting category, it is essential to eat at one at least once. They are a traditional way of enjoying every Scot’s God-given right to deep fried foods. Whether it’s fish and chips, a baked potato loaded with fillings, a pastie or a good, old-fashioned sausage roll, the chip shop is a right of passage. The Baked Potato Shop on Cockburn Street and the Tempting Tattie on Jeffrey Street are two favorites serving up loaded baked potatoes and both are just off the Royal Mile. Cottage cheese and chutney is a highly recommended combo. The Clam Shell is one of the Royal Mile’s busiest chip shops. Great for fish and chips and, if you are feeling adventurous, the deep-fried double cheeseburger. Locals all have their favorites and swear there is a difference in quality. The novice palette may not notice the difference but it is still wise to defer to their wisdom in all things chip shop. 148 High Street Edinburgh EH1 1QS And while we are on the topic of questionable Scottish foods, this is all I have to say about haggis. It is lovely and you should try it. Haggis is the cuisine equivalent of the boogieman. Everyone has heard stories but no one really knows the truth. Sure, it is made from some of the less desirable parts of the sheep but who hasn’t enjoyed a hot dog? Hot dogs are actually worse but I’ll leave you to do the research. You can’t really go wrong ordering haggis in Scotland but here are a few restaurants that do a particularly good haggis. Whiski serves good haggis as does the Royal McGregor and both are located on the Royal Mile. And just so you know, traditional haggis is served with neeps and tatties (mashed turnips and mashed potatoes). Usually seen on a menu simply as Haggis, neeps and tatties. 154 High Street Edinburgh, EH1 1QS And speaking of traditional, hitting a Scottish pub is probably high on your list of things to do while visiting Edinburgh. First off, the pubs are great places to grab some hearty pub grub – standard pub fare perfect for the unpredictable Scottish weather. But odds are you aren’t popping in a pub just for the food. Pints and drams are about as Scottish as a kilt-clad bagpiper. And Edinburgh has some of the best traditional pubs in the country. Walking down the Royal Mile you’ll notice some of the classics and they are worth your time. Deacon Brodie’s Tavern, the Jolly Judge and the Ensign Ewart are three good ones located near the Castle. Further down the Mile you’ll want to stop in the World’s End. Located at what used to be the city walls, the World’s End is also infamous for being the last place two women, in 1977, were seen in what has become known as the World’s End murders. It isn’t a very pleasant story but Edinburgh’s gristly history is not only in the distant past. 4 High Street Edinburgh, EH1 1TB The Royal Mile doesn’t have a monopoly on Edinburgh’s best pubs. Far from it. The Grassmarket, underneath the Castle, boasts a slew of great pubs. The Beehive Inn and The White Hart, famous for being one of Robert Burns’ old haunts, are well worth the time. And the cheekily named The Last Drop got its name from a set of gallows that used to be one of the Grassmarket’s main tourist attractions when hanging witches was in fashion. The Last Drop 74-78 Grassmarket, Edinburgh, EH1 2JR If you are looking for a singsong with authentic Edinburghers, nothing beats the Royal Oak on Infirmary St. just off of South Bridge. Within minutes of the Royal Mile, the Royal Oak is home to folk performances both planned and impromptu. Many would say that the impromptu ones are the better of the two. Head to the downstairs bar, grab a pint and get ready to sing. It is a communal activity and may be the one experience you’ll cherish the most, long after you’ve left Auld Reekie. 1 Infirmary Street Edinburgh, EH1 1LT
Top Five Places in Edinburgh to Have a Dram:
The first lesson when drinking the native drink. Call it by the right name. Its whisky, not Scotch. And there is no “e” in whisky either. That’s how you spell the Irish variety. The following list comes from a lifelong Edinburgher. So, this is about as authentic as it gets.
- Bar Albanach – Royal Mile just down from the Castle.
- Whiski – Just off the Mound, near the Royal Mile. Posh but great views.
- Hotel Du Vin – Big on wine but has an outstanding whisky tasting room. A great place for a romantic post-meal tipple.
- Bow Bar – Victoria Street. Small and disciplined.
- Bennets Bar – Beside the King’s Theatre in Tollcross.