Kate on 01/10/2014
Kay's Bar Edinburgh | Abbott & West Productions

Where to Eat: Edinburgh

The Scottish capital has flown under the radar for too long. It’s renowned throughout Europe for its arts and culture – the Festival, anyone? – but, somehow, Americans keep overlooking it. We’re here to change that.

The ancient city is one of the world’s most picturesque, with its medieval castle towering above and impressive architecture from throughout history lining every street. But you’d be most remiss if you didn’t take full advantage of its food scene, which has rapidly become one of the – if not the, but don’t tell London – best on the island of Britain.

From an abundance of Michelin stars to plenty of talented young upstarts, here are some of our favorite places to eat in Edinburgh.

The Dogs
Hidden away in a pair of upstairs rooms in the Georgian-era New Town, this cozy local gastropub ticks all the boxes: friendly, well-designed, affordable, and – above all – delicious. Ingredients are locally sourced, recipes are classic Scottish and English with a fresh twist, and the beers are top-notch Scottish. It’s sort of like your best friend in Edinburgh’s dining room, and that’s a great thing.

The Ship on the Shore
Did you know that Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald visited Edinburgh? Okay, maybe they didn’t, but this champagne bar and seafood restaurant in the waterfront Leith neighborhood that looks like an atmospheric old pub is actually all 1920s-style charm and jazz-inflected elegance. And super fresh seafood. It’s the perfect destination for a Sunday lunch after a long walk along the Water of Leith.

21212
Enter the Michelin stars. One of Edinburgh’s longtime darlings, Chef Paul Kitching serves exquisite five-course menus of fresh, seasonal Scottish cuisine in a beautifully restored Georgian townhouse on Calton Hill. He usually comes out after to sit down for a chat, so be sure to save some room for conversation…

The Gardener’s Cottage
In a place where it’s so dark and rainy most of the time, it’s a bit surprising to find somewhere that feels so inspired by the outdoors. But inside this converted historic gardener’s cottage (truth in advertising…), long communal tables and all farmers market-inspired seasonal dishes make it one of the cosiest and most enjoyable dining experiences in the city. That and the £30 six-course prix fixe menu – one of the city’s best deals.

Kay’s Bar
If you’re a fine dining enthusiast or trend-setting eater, you aren’t coming to Kay’s Bar for the food. If you want a taste of authentic, old-world Scotland, then you’re definitely there for the food. And the beers and the whisky and the conversation and the atmosphere… It’s handlebar-mustachioed proprietor and Victorian interiors are just half of what makes this the perfect Edinburgh pub. The pies (of the savory variety, naturally) and scotches and ales are the other half. So grab a seat and settle in for a few hours.

The Bon Vivant
So it’s a bit trendy with its aged craft cocktails and French liqueur posters, but the fact is that the Bon Vivant gets it right, so it’s hard to blame it for puffing its feathers a bit. Seasonal, locally sourced ingredients fill classic Scottish dishes with a French flair and the bartenders decked out in suspenders mix a mean negroni. Plus, you do feel like you’ve found possibly the coolest spot in Edinburgh.

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An avid francophile and adventure enthusiast, Kate Thorman is a freelance food, travel, and culture writer based in New York City. She is also the co-founder of Abbott & West and co-host of The Innocents Abroad.