Manchester's budget food scene means you can get some spectacular pizzas, Thai curries and burritos that won't break the bank
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Most tourists would ignore rundown Oldham Road, but foodies should root out Vnam, a colourful little Vietnamese cafe-restaurant where the beef pho or the bun thit nuong BBQ pork noodles boast multiple dimensions of arresting, fresh flavours. BYO alcohol. Mains from £7.50.
Love or loathe its loud ‘n’ lairy, in yer face attitood, there is no denying that Almost Famous is Manchester’s foremost exponent of Frazzle-dusted fries, hot ‘pho-king’ wings and other gut-busting ‘dude food’. Its sloppy, delicious ‘triple nom’ burger with cheese, pulled pork, coleslaw and various sauces, is, on many levels, a guilty pleasure. Burger meals from £10.50.
Street food has been a bit stop-start in Manchester, but this experiment in Spinningfields, showcasing top mobilers in a cluster of indoor units, is a tasty innovation. There is a neat urban garden for alfresco dining on sunny days and, in Chaat Cart’s dosa and dhals, Nasi Lemak’s zingy Malaysian dishes and Dim Sum Su’s sticky pork belly bao buns, food that will gladden the heart whatever the weather. Meals from around £5.
With its utilitarian decor and its perfunctory website, this Japanese restaurant is modest almost to a fault – for its food is definitely worth shouting about. Regulars swear by the peerlessly crisp, fried karaage chicken with ponzu dipping sauce and the plump gyoza and donburi sashimi bowls, in which jewel-like raw seafood decorates a mound of sushi rice. Mains from £7.50.
This café, in a Thai supermarket in Chinatown, serves authentic street food in which the four elements of Thai cuisine – spiciness, sourness, saltiness and sweetness – are handled with real skill. Flavours sing in the kow moo dang (roast BBQ pork), a stellar tom yam soup and the dried shrimp-seasoned green papaya salad, som tam. Dishes from £6.
Variously a gin bar, gig venue, club space and kitchen, there is a lot going on at this Whitworth Street railway arch. It’s a great spot for a (potentially late) breakfast – its eggs Benedict is a lifesaver. In the evening, mains such as its half chargrilled chicken with aïoli, or its slow-roasted pork belly ciabatta offer affordable, reliably tasty fuel for the night ahead. Mains from £8.
Rudy's cleave to time-honoured Neapolitan values: 24-hour-proved doughs; imported clay oven; light, puffy charred bases. Although it's on the edge of the city centre, in Ancoats, you can expect queues at peak times. With its sweet, sea-salt-scattered San Marzano sauce, the buffalo mozzarella pizza is a go-to, but specials such as potato & rosemary with Tuscan sausage keep things interesting. Rudy's serves fantastic local Cloudwater and Runaway craft beers too. Pizzas from £4.80.
Britain loves a burrito, but Pancho’s owner Enrique Martinez goes beyond this Tex-Mex invention. The menu includes topped enchiladas, tostadas and flautas which, in their use of, say, cactus as an ingredient or the vividness of Pancho’s habanero salsa, owe a large debt to his mother’s tried ‘n’ trusted Mexican family recipes. Dishes from £5.30.
Manchester’s craft beer scene is booming (Google ‘Piccadilly Beer Mile’), which has triggered a wave of ad hoc, in-brewery food ‘n’ booze events. This is the new monthly at Runaway Brewery.
Competition is increasingly fierce, with the equally geeky Grindsmiths (grindsmith.com) and Idle Hands (idlehandscoffee.com) coming close, but NTP still edges it as Manchester’s best coffee spot. Flat white, pour-over, cold-brew? NTP has got you covered.
Manchester’s Northern Quarter isn’t short of hip bars that serve casual food and classy craft beers. Yet, Common remains a significant cut above. Its salt beef hash and the Korean fried chicken with kimchi and hot gochujang sauce hit the mark, while its Reuben (Emmental, salt beef, sauerkraut) is one of Manchester best burgers. Mains from £6.
The reinvention of Altrincham’s market hall has put this suburb on the foodie map. Don’t miss the exceptional sourdough wood-red pizzas at Honest Crust, Tender Cow’s creative salads and steaks, Sam Joseph’s next-level ice cream or the A1 craft beers at the Jack in the Box bar. Meals from £6.50.
Bizarrely, there are precious few traditional pubs in Manchester that serve gutsy northern grub. Opened in 1872, Sam’s is a treasured exception. The homemade corned beef hash with bacon, poached egg and brown sauce is a classic. Elsewhere, the menu runs the Lancastrian gamut from steak ‘n’ kidney pudding to a fish and mushy pea barm. Mains from £12.
This neighbourhood favourite in suburban Sale is definitely worth a detour – particularly if you have kids in tow. It is very family-friendly (check the kids’ drawings pinned-up on the kitchen pass) and it serves - from braised pigs’ cheeks with chilli and ginger shallots to a Lancashire cheese ‘n’ onion pie - consistently well-executed dishes. Mains from £11.50.
This bright ‘n’ breezy Northern Quarter canteen (co-owned by DJ/ tea enthusiast, Mr. Scruff) serves much more than eggs Florentine and it’s a hugely popular weekend brunch spot for young families. Having negotiated the Bugaboos, you can enjoy sourdough toast topped with smoky beans or duck egg, avocado and exotic mushrooms. Breakfast dishes from £4.
The ascent of Altrincham’s Market House is beginning to attract like-minded restaurants to the immediate area, not least this cerebral southern Italian joint. The menu and wine list are short, but rustic dishes such as orrechiette pasta with bitter wild broccoli, garlic, chilli, anchovies and pecorino, are long on interesting flavours. Mains from £12.
Is there anywhere we've missed? Let us know where you love to eat in the comments below...