If you are travelling to Tirana, chances are you are the kind of long-term adventurer who has visited many places before and knows how to do it on a budget (because, let’s be real, no one is choosing Albania as the first country to visit in the world). Many will choose self-catering options, but it should be noted that if you are travelling alone or as a pair, it can often be cheaper to eat out, not to mention a great way of exploring local cuisine.
Here are my top 5 recommendations for the more budget conscious folk out there.
This place mixes a typical fast food place offering ‘sufllaqe’ (typically pita bread filled with chicken or pork with french fries, onion, cucumber, tomato and lettuce, accompanied by yoghurt sauce, mayonnaise, ketchup and mustard) with traditional Albanian recipes like Mum cooks at home. The menu is extensive and there are often daily specials. Try the “speca të mbushura” (stuffed peppers)! The place is always bustling and is super popular with locals – a clear sign that it’s a good establishment! Expect to pay around €1-2 per person.
Run by a friendly Albanian family, this little grill house makes the best chicken wings in Tirana thanks to their delicious, homemade honey mustard sauce. The menu features other typical Albanian food such as ‘qoftë’ (meatballs), ‘suxhuk’ (a famous sausage from Kosovo), ‘mëlçi’ (liver), ‘salcë kosi’ (yoghurt sauce) and fresh cut potato fries (‘patate të skqurua’). It’s great for couples and groups thanks to the typical Albanain style of eating out, which involves lots of small plates set in the middle of the table to be shared. Wine, beer and raki also super cheap here. Expect to pay around €3 per person including drinks.
Tirana is like a “Little Italy” when it comes to food.
Many Albanians have spent a lot of time in Italy and there is a large Italian influence in the cuisine, with many Albanians making Italian food authentically (some may even say better!). Eating Italian food in Albania is certainly much more economical than doing so in Italy! This pasta restaurant really surprised me because it is just such incredibly good food at incredibly good value! Everything is made fresh in house and the menu is extensive. I ordered a pasta with crab meat (expecting fake meat) and the plate literally had an entire crab on it – for just 350 lekë (€3).
Keeping to the Italian theme, this little pizza stand by the Pyramid of Tirana is an absolute institution. They actually call themselves a pastisserie and do offer sweets and ice cream, but it’s certainly the pizza that has made them famous. You have a choice of vegetarian, ham or beef, all laid on thick and super cheesy. A whopping big slice is only 100 lekë, too, so you can enjoy a slice for lunch for less than a Euro.
My number one choice is where I most frequently take my foreign guests to experience Albanian cuisine. The menu is extensive and, although heavily focussed on carnivores, does offer a lot for vegetarians too. They have demonstrated that they are excellent in catering to any dietary requirements and the staff are super friendly; always upbeat despite being SO busy! Food and drink is cheap, you can have a literal feast and drink yourself silly for less than €5 per person easily. The bigger the group, the better value you will get from the place. I highly recommend the ‘pleskavica me djath’ – a hamburger style meat patty stuffed with cheese. Delish!
So remember this list next time you want to enjoy an excellent meal, be it alone or with a group of friends! Let me know what you think of these restaurants in the comments, as well as any further suggestions you have!