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Suggestions for a real restaurant dining experience in Zurich on a budget

A comment asked for some good ideas for low-cost dining out in Zurich. I gave it some thought and racked my brains for restaurants which serve you food at a proper table for a sit-down meal. I’ve ruled out any place which is takeout only, simply for the fact that dining implies spending time and sitting down. Another thing to keep in mind, that we’re aiming for a full meal with an appetizer, a main course and two drinks. We’re disqualifying any ordering a glass of tap water and dunking some bread in olive oil approaches even though I’d be interested to see how some places react. While there are a lot of cheap places, quality should also count and I’m ony listing places which I have tried and liked. The general rule of thumb remains, if you’re on a budget, go eat at restaurants for lunch where most places will have a set menu for less than 30 CHF.

Here you can get a decent sit-down meal as described for less than 50 CHF:

  • Hot Pasta / Hot Pasta Due – to be fair I’ve been back to both places and if you get a good sauce it’s pretty good, cheap and still a proper sit-down restaurant.


  • Johanniter Liver has a bad name in the us, I love it and at 13.90 for a portion with Roeschti you really can’t be that picky. Nice side effect you can get it until 3 am in the morning.
  • Restaurant Markthalle at the Viadukt. I really like the busy vibe and if you don’t aim for the prime big cuts of meat, value for money is great here.
  • Zeughauskeller – Salad, decent Sausage and a good potato salad, two beers for less than 40 CHF – plus a fantastic atmosphere
  • Miracle – I haven’t been here, but food is said to be fantastic and so are prices.
  • Ah Hua II is well known, a bit too crowded for my taste, but cheap and good food – I prefer the Viet Thai.
  • Viet Thai from the outside looks a bit seedy, but great soups and cheap.
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Scent of Bamboo, Bhf Altstetten, Zurich

Wor Tip


Noodles Scent of Bamboo

I was thrown out of a restaurant of the Suan Long chain a couple of years back, frankly speaking not something which I’ve been regretting a lot. So when I was near the Bahnhof Altstetten I headed for lunch to a place called Scent of Bamboo. Only after checking the website, did I learn it was part of the Suan Long empire. I ordered some Wor Tip to start, which is a fried dumpling. They warned me that there was going to be a small wait which I was fine with. The served dish didn’t quite live up to par, while it smelt nicely, taste was ok, but the dough / skin of the dumpling was lacking a proper sear and had no crunch. Next were my noodles a la Scent of Bamboo. They were silky with a creamy sauce with vegetables and meat. I would have liked some more heat and saltiness to the noodles, while the creamyness of the coconut milk was nice, the overall dish was on the stale side. Quite frankly I don’t understand the concept of running a restaurant with chinese/thai food just next to a Peking Garden Cheap Chinese place. Your only chance is to blow your diners away with spectatular food. Average prices:

Rechnung

Restaurant Roter Stein, Herrligstrasse, Zurich

Minestrone

Rindsspiess mit Pommes frites und Gemüse

Sometimes things are too weird to be true. I once witnessed how the slimy owner of the renowned Restaurant Portal 1212.ch tried to convince a russian female bar owner of the great marketing potential of his website. Apparently the owner of the Restaurant Roter Stein bought into it as well. We had lunch at this place and I liked the vibe, very classic Swiss Beiz which was accented by nearly all male patrons stopping by for lunch. First a small bowl of a very tasty minestrone was served. There was a smidge of cream in the soup and the pasta was overcooked, but tastewise it was convincing. Main course was a skewer with beef cubes and peppers, three different vegetables and french fries. Tasty, nicely cooked vegetables (spinach, kohlrabi and fennel) and with an additional touch of salt, the fries were good as well. A little gem for lunch if you’re in the area – and maybe even dinner in the Sääli at the back. Cheap:

Rechnung (18.50 Menu)

Zum goldenen Fass, Zwinglistrasse, Zurich

Tapas

Mistkratzerli mit Pommes frites

The Zueritipp and assorted friends of mine spoke favourably of the Restaurant zum goldenen Fass. With a group of friends we sat down for dinner. When we ordered two plates of Tapas as an appetizer, the lady told us that we would be okay with just one (42 CHF) she was right and it was fair to point that out. We enjoyed the chicken skewers and shrimp, the albondigas lacked a bit of fire and taste, and the two octopus variants where somewhat unconvincing due to flavor and texture. We were excited to get our main course which was a smaller chicken with french fries. The best known spanish chicken place is Emilio near the Stauffacher and apparently this place here poached one of their chefs. The chicken was nice, moist and clearly tasted of butter and garlic. The french fries however were a sorry mess. Soggy, strips of potatos swimming in oil were found on our plate – when pointed out she apologized and said this isn’t the way it should be. Anyway – the place cheap (the chicken was 25 CHF) and I believe if you stick to the right dishes from the Tapas menu, the Paella or the chicken with a different side order, you’ll do great. It’s good to know that there are still places in Zurich with prices which won’t send you to poverty. The glass of Limoncello is nice for female patrons, we needed some Carajillos to get the taste out of our mouths.

Sankt Meinrad, Stauffacherstrasse, Zurich

Zueriseeegli mit Basilikummayo


Fenchelsuppe


Tatare vom Kalbskopf

Quiche

Penne mit Schabziger und Spinat

Toggenburger Schweinsfilet mit Risotto

Chaes

Mango und Mango Creme brulee

I wanted to go to a french bistro and landed on this page. Sankt Meinrad had changed concepts and owners in close succession and for the first time after the overhyped predecessors – Gault Millau likes places frequented by old people – a new crew is running the show. One of my favourite places in Switzerland is the bon vivant and the new Sankt Meinrad has a similar approach. Your only choice is four or seven courses, nothing else. The amuse bouche was a european perch with basil mayo. Love the sauce. Fennel soup was average, more interesting was the calf head tatare. It tasted like “Schwarten- magen”, but again showed a bit of male reproductive organ (aka balls) in serving such a dish. The quiche – which was up next – was a perfect example of simple, precise and no-frills cuisine. It was a very perky and fresh dish, clearly displaying the leek and a surprising light quality, normally not found in pastries. My favourite dish was the next one. What chef has the balls to serve Penne a la Schabziger? Schabziger is a cheese made in Glarus, reeks like a mixture of garlic, unwashed feet and fennel and it is often cherished by mid-aged swiss men for its alledged fertility enhancement. Next course was a Toggenburger pork filet with risotto, frankly one of the textural best risottos I ever had. There was a slight tang to the dish and the bite of the rice was spot on. I don’t like the mascarpone infused smeary mess this normally becomes and this one had clear texture. Some cheese followed and at the end a mango based dessert. A pretty exciting place to open up in Kreis 4 – financial details below – and by the way – while Zurichtipp is still figuring out expense reports, your favourite and most relevant food critic has already delivered 🙂

Rechnung

Restaurant Drei Stuben, Beckenhofstrasse, Zurich

Gefülltes Raviolo mit Jus und Gemüse

Lammrack mit Ravioli und Gemüse

So one of the places I was very pleasantly surprised is under new management – the Drei Stuben is run by a trendy young man, who has had previous successes at other places. Now while I cringe when the popular media calls someone a trendy restaurateur, you all know that I shy no risk in bringing you the latest information first hand. I do however have to concede a defeat to the Zueritipp – even though it’s been a couple of weeks I’ve dined here, they beat me to the scoop. Together with two extremly attractive male friends of mine we head over for dinner. The place pops. I like the interior with the light wood and the red/white table cloths, it feels cozy. Since I’m not that interested in the designer’s handicraft but more into the food we run through the menu. It’s rather classic conservative with one or more rather odd asian-influenced dishes such as Coconut-Curry soup with Cevapcici. Talking about confusing messages – but who knows – maybe it’s aiming to please Thai-Serbian couples as well as other patrons. But what am I to rant about one weird dish on the menu ? The food is simply stunning. I was just as pleasantly surprised as when I ate here the first time under the previous owner. My appetizer was a nice, big and fat raviolo served with some vegetables. Simply great, even the asparagus were spot on, the meat was juicy and was screaming gulp me down. The main course was a rack of lamb (again with ravioli – my amateur odering to blame), which didn’t leave any room for negative comments either. The light was getting to dark, hence I couldn’t take a picture of the bill – in a nutshell – three men, lots of alcohol, great food – 600 CHF (heavy, but not unbearable). I seldomly critique the wait staff, but this guy here needs a shot of friendliness injected up his ass. No smile, defiant and about as much fun to talk to as a east german border guard. However as the president of the Comittee for Friendship between Germans and Swiss, I shall not say where the gentlemen was from.