Everyone has heard about Haggis, but Glasgow is not just about this ubiquitous Scottish meal. Haggis has been outlawed in the US since 1971, so most people when visiting Glasgow, immediately head to a pub and order it. But the Glasgow food scene is much more than that and we recommend going on a tasting tour of the best restaurants in Glasgow. As Scotland’s biggest city with over half a million residents in the city center and another 2 million residing just outside it, Glasgow is without a doubt a city of fun. The city rests on the west bank of the River Clyde and has historically been one of the UK’s more important economic hubs outside of London. The area has been a host to various communities for ages since the River Clyde has been a hub for fishing. The area was first established as a part of Roman Britannia, and by the 6th century, Glasgow became an important religious center established by Saint Mungo wherein he built a church where the present Glasgow Cathedral currently stands. By the 1700s, the city grew exponentially, and with that came plenty of wealth where finally by the Victorian age a lot of the aesthetics associated with the city came to prominence.
While the city experienced a bit of an economic decline in the 60s to the 80s, the city has since grown and expanded with various ethnic communities settling here and immigrating here, bringing their culinary traditions with them. In fact, Glasgow was named the “curry capital of Britain” and while there is plenty of that, Glasgow does not shy away from dishes with big flavor. If you’re looking to grab a bite in Glasgow then definitely check out these amazing places to eat and drink.
The Ubiquitous Chip
Colloquially known by locals as “The Chip”, The Ubiquitous Chip is regularly heralded as Glasgow’s finest restaurant. The place was opened by Ronnie Clydesdale in 1971 and is still owned and operated by the same family serving some of the city’s finest fare. But what makes The Chip the legendary place that’s been keeping up open for over 40 years? For one thing, the place is pretty big with several floors dedicated to different things. So not only does The Ubiquitous Chip serve some amazing food but it is also home to some of the city’s coolest bars. The Big Pub upstairs is a casual spot for some pints and conversation, while the ground floor and terrace dining area allow guests to dine amongst fountains, ponds, and greenery. The Corner has a selection of award-winning wines, while the Wee Whisky Bar has the most whiskies in Scotland per square foot.
The menu itself consists of classic Scottish fare influenced by the country itself. But that doesn’t mean it’s all fish and chips or haggis. Decadent plates such as Tweed Valley Lamb, Argyll Venison, and Isle of Gigha halibut will make you question everything you know about Scottish Haut cuisine.
Known as Scotland’s biggest bar and restaurant, this place is an interesting indoor location in the heart of the city and located directly under Glasgow Central Station. The arched brick walls and ceilings make you feel like you’re dining in some sort of secret underground bunker while the large tables and communal spaces enable tons of friendly conversation over a few pints and plates. The food hall has its own microbrewery and guests can even order food and drinks to their table from the restaurant’s app or website straight to your table.
The Shish Mahal
According to legend the first known recipe for meat in a spicy sauce with naan bread appears on a cuneiform text from ancient Babylon dating to 1700 B.C.E. Although The Shish Mahal hasn’t been in Glasgow for that long, the restaurant is a Glasgow icon for more reasons than one. The founder Ali Ahmed Aslam known by locals as simply “Mr. Ali ” came to Glasgow in the 1960s and brought with him the flavors of India. The restaurant was a novelty at the time with waiters wearing dinner jackets and dishes with flavors most Glaswegians would not have ever been familiar with at the time.
The concept of “Indian Food” is vast. India is large and food from the north doesn’t resemble the same in the south. The food found around the Himalayas doesn’t resemble the dishes of the fiery Madras plains but one thing that a lot of westerners regard as a quintessential “Indian” dish – the Chicken Tikka Masala was invented right here at The Shish Mahal in Glasgow. From Indian restaurants in New York to Sydney, it would almost seem odd to go to an Indian restaurant and not see Chicken Tikka Masala on the menu, but it was actually here in the 60s that the dish was invented. The story goes that Mr. Ali invented the dish after a customer came in and complained about the dryness of his chicken. The chef then took some tomato soup, added some spices and the rest is history. A campaign for legal recognition of the dish’s origin is in the works by a Glasgow MP.
While The Shish Mahal is home to the Chicken Tikka Masala, there are absolutely other amazing dishes to try here, after all, there’s a reason it’s been open for over 50 years. Try a tasting menu or stop in for lunch and check out the special.
What began as a low-key food stall in a London street market grew to be one of the most popular Korean hot spots around. The original location took off in 2011 and by 2015 Kimchi Cult opened their first brick and mortar store in Glasgow’s West End. For over a decade Kimchi Cult has introduced delicious Korean-inspired dishes with unique food options, decent prices, and bold flavors.
Of course, with a name like Kimchi Cult, you can bet that their kimchi is homemade and fantastic using a special jeonju regional recipe passed down through the generations. Kimchi is the inspiration behind a lot of the food here such as kimchi burgers, kimchi cheese fries, among other specialties like gochujang fried chicken and or soy garlic tofu.
The Howlin’ Wolf
Taking a page from venues that are more commonly found in places like Austin or Nashville, The Howlin’ Wolf is a blues bar with a little American twist. This is the type of place you go for a night out with some friends. The bar offers live music seven nights a week with a heavy focus on blues and jazz, but the music isn’t the only thing on offer here. The bar serves a wide variety of local whiskies as well as American bourbons and whisky cocktails while the food service is some of the more eclectic with options such as haggis pizza, saucy wings, and cheesy nachos. The kitchen closes at 2 am so if you’re coming in from elsewhere and need a snack or you’ve spent the whole vibing to the live music and need something to soak up the alcohol, you won’t be left to hunger in the wee hours of the morning.
Ox and Finch
Opened in 2014 by chef Jonathan MacDonald (who was the head chef for the McLaren F1 team) Ox and Finch brings a load of Glaswegian casual atmosphere with high dining and small plate-centric dishes. Nearby Argyll street is a hot spot for the food scene in Glasgow and because Ox and Finch is on Sauchiehall Street but gets just as much business, you know they’re onto something special. In fact, if you plan on dining out here, you might want to book in advance. Behind the olive green facade in an interior with stripped brick walls, black leather booths, stone pillars, and floor to ceiling shelves stocked with wine.
The food here is a cross between Mediterranean-meets-Scotland flair which makes for some interesting dishes. Plates like harissa mackerel, ribeye carpaccio with peaches and pine nuts, and courgette and feta fritters make Ox and Finch a unique choice to eat out. The appeal here is small shareable plates forgoing the usual appetizer-entree-dessert method for a more tapas-style activity. Despite the elevated flair of some of the dishes, leaving full and satisfied shouldn’t set you back more than 20£ per person.
In the city’s West End in the grand and opulent building built for a bank comes the favorite, Paesano. The lavish and carefully maintained art deco-style restaurant is almost a direct juxtaposition to the rest of the restaurant but that is by no means a bad thing. When you walk in you’ll notice the Italian marble pillars, the high vaulted ceiling, and dark timber accents which add a touch of class.
The place is noisy, it’s popular with students because it’s cheap, and despite what the art-deco elements of the building will have you believe it is not elegant. The house white-wine is served in a water glass but all of that doesn’t matter because Paesano has some of the best pizza in the city. There’s a no-booking policy but there’s a bar with standing room while you wait for your table. Finally, once you get your seat, you’ll have a full view of the open kitchen along with its 500-degree C wood-burning oven which bakes pizzas in a matter of seconds. The crust is fluffy yet chewy and its charred edges are thanks to the 48-hour sourdough-style fermentation process while the sauce is bold with its tomato flavor and fresh basil aromas. The service is quick, not always attentive, but with pies at under 10£, you can’t go wrong.
Founded way back in 1979 on Albion Street, the spot that was here before belonged to a cheesemonger. Café Gandolfi soon became a trendsetter in the area and time when the city was a little down on its luck and the concept of a “hipster café” wouldn’t enter the popular lexicon for another 30 some odd years. Today Café Gandolfi remains as the original hot spot with other offshoots opening up under the Gandolfi name (Bar Gandolfi, Gandolfi Fish, and Gandolfi Fish to go, in case you were wondering.)
With its rustic interior, pinewood chairs and tables, and whitewashed walls the place offers a homey feeling and the food is filling and comforting. Café Gandolfi is most popular during the breakfast and lunch hours and offers plates that are quintessential in Scotland such as Hebridean eggs or smoked salmon and scrambled eggs. But if you prefer something more filling than the brioche french toast with walnuts and maple syrup and candied banana won’t disappoint. While breakfast is popular you won’t be amiss for visiting during lunch or dinner hours with plates like smoked haddock risotto, or a filling and cheesy lasagna.
Our Final Word
Glasgow is the home of many people and cultures. It is one of the largest economic hubs in the country and the UK and as such, it is an absolute gem when it comes to food. Amazing affordable options with palates and tastes that not only span the country of Scotland and its bounties but international flair is present around every corner. There is definitely no shortage of fantastic places to eat in Glasgow. And if you must, head to the pub and try Haggis, but just don’t stop there on your food tour.
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