Proud locals might point out Kirkgate Market's painted ironwork or its acres of Victorian tiling but, for me, the prettiest sight on the market has to be Kada Bendaha's Café Moor. His unit is decorated with intricate carving, marquetry and North African tapestries, and, more importantly, stacked with bright platters of tabbouleh, vine leaves and vivid, pink pickled turnips. Its Middle Eastern/north African menu runs the gamut from old favourites such as falafel and chicken shawarma wraps, to various bourek and bastilla, a spiced "pie" of raisins, eggs and chicken. Café Moor's pickles are fantastically zingy; its hummus is unusually coarse and grown up. The blindingly fresh baba ganouche is the kind of thing you could eat by the bucketful - its initial sweetness turning into an almost treacly smokiness, with a lingering, lemony-sour edge.
• Snacks and lunches £2-£5.50. Unit B 1904, Kirkgate Market, 34 George Street, 0113 247 0569, cafemoor.co.uk
When it opened 20 years ago, Arts was one of the first continental-style cafe-bars in Leeds. Last summer, the team behind it opened Shears Yard, an open-plan bar-restaurant in a historic workshop that, with its exposed brick, open eaves and stark minimalism, looks a little 1990s itself. Which I quite like. It is a refreshing change from the now ubiquitous distressed Brooklyn dive bar look. The food charts a similarly individual path through modern food. There are burgers, but smart ones (lobster, crayfish and mackerel), while the main dishes mix and match traditional (bubble-and-squeak croquettes) with trendy ingredients and techniques (black garlic emulsion, roast kohlrabi), in interesting ways. It's pretty sophisticated stuff: the two-course set-menu is good value although not exactly a budget price at £14.50.
At lunch, though, you can get a taste for what's going on here, via those burgers, gussied-up sandwiches and some terrific meat and vegetarian tasting boards. I don't know what the caramelised onion chutney was meant for, or if it should have been there at all, but otherwise my fish platter (£8.95) was great. It comprised rustling whitebait and a lemony mayo as thick as gloss paint; a slightly worthy mackerel paté next to a mound of excellent dill-pickled courgettes; and crayfish on dressed leaves. The star of the show, however, was the home-cured sea trout. These thick, Lucozade-orange tranches had the firm, sticky texture of liquorice, with hints of the curing ingredients (tea?) and yet had a bright, saline freshness. It was curiously addictive.
• Sandwiches £4.50-£5.95, lunchtime mains £5.95-£8.95. 11-15 Wharf Street, 0113 244 4144, shearsyard.com
This did not start well. Construction work in Sovereign Place meant El Topo was a pig to find (it is much easier to reach from Neville Street). And then, thanks to a logistical problem, the kitchen only had (yawn!) pulled pork ready for its San Francisco-style burritos. I was ready to write it off, but then I had a bite... and, well, wow. First, that pulled pork was something else: soft as velvet, juicy as hell and full of slow-cooked flavour. This was nothing like that dry, fibrous interloper which you now come across everywhere. More than that, everything (red rice, black beans, vibrant salsa) tasted fresh and cooked to a T, and all the components were in balance. The sour cream and cheese made their presence known, but in a civilised, restrained way. They didn't overwhelm the burrito. All told, it was the best burrito I have eaten in some time. And if you want yours jazzing up with guacamole, hot sauce or jalapenos, El Topo will do it free of charge. Refreshingly, they don't stiff you on the extras.
• Burritos £4.75-£6. 1 Sovereign Place, 0113 815 0166, el-topo.co.uk
At first glance, Laynes looks unremarkable: just another blandly modern coffee shop. Read down its peg-board menu, however (drip-filter, Square Mile beans, 12-hour cold-brewed tea) and you are left in no doubt about the seriousness of this endeavour. That is further borne out by a fastidiously silky flat white that delivered big, full-spectrum coffee flavour (£2.50). Sadly, Laynes was out of breakfast rarebit (no, I don't want granola instead, thanks), but I swung back later for a sandwich and cake. The former, while not huge, was one of those sandwiches that reminds you how good a simple sarnie can be when all its constituent parts - pastrami that delivers a long, peppery heat, serious rye from Leeds Bread Co-op - are A1. For dessert, a piece of salted caramel shortbread was every bit as good as that sentence sounds (£2.40).
• Snack items, soup and sandwichesx £1.50-£4.50. 16 New Station Street, 07828 823189, laynesespresso.co.uk
Outlaws Yacht Club
You could easily overlook Outlaws. It's in the kind of location - bottom of an ugly new apartment block - where you'd expect to find a Starbucks or an estate agent. In fact, this late-night DJ bar and event space is one of Leeds' hippest hangouts, well-known for its discerning music policy, good food and craft beer. The menu is simple but effective: first-rate ingredients are employed in sourdough sandwiches; platters of meats and cheeses offer good things to share and pick at; while outsized scotch eggs and pork pies (not "homemade" as the menu rather misleadingly suggests but, when I query it, bought in from the Greedy Pig and the Little Yorkshire Pie Co) round out the offer. The Grub & Grog Shop, from local producer Made By Jim, pops up each Friday lunchtime offering stews, seasonal salads and affordable hot sandwiches, such as slow-cooked lamb and pickled rhubarb with pea puree and mint dressing on a Leeds Bread Co-Op ciabatta. At the bar, look out for beers from new Leeds brewery Golden Owl, which, on the evidence of its big-hitting pale ale (pint £4.50), is a very promising outfit.
• Sandwiches £4.50, snacks from £2, platters £7.50. 38 New York Street, 0113 234 6998, outlawsyachtclub.com
Tucked away in one of the many Victorian shopping arcades off Briggate, Joe Hepworth's deli-cafe is one of those common-sense operations that make your heart sing. In broad terms, he sources top-notch ingredients and lets them speak for themselves. They are assembled in interesting combinations across a menu of salads, deli platters and upmarket sandwiches (deep-fried halloumi, say, with harissa, red peppers and tzatziki), which this experienced chef then cleverly tweaks, at the periphery. For instance, on a daisy-fresh croissant, smoked salmon of a smooth complexity is dressed with long ribbons of cucumber and blobs of an unusually clean, citrus-spiked creme fraiche. Elsewhere, Hepworth busies himself rustling up panko-crumbed scotch eggs, quiches, slick cakes and hot sandwiches, such as his lunchtime special of fish fingers and homemade tartar sauce. The breakfast menu, which includes eggs Benedict, French toast and pancakes, looks terrific, too. As for Hepworth's fondness for serving everything on slates, we will have to discuss that another time, but the deli - its shelves lined with everything from bacon jam to Yorkshire fudge - would benefit from less gloomy lighting.
• Snack items and sandwiches £1-£3.95, platters £7.25-£8.50. 21 Thorntons Arcade, 07938 960517, hepworthsdeli.co.uk
Ordinarily, you might walk the long way round just to avoid Trinity, a huge, shiny new shopping centre in Leeds city centre. Trinity Kitchen, however - a food court stuffed with chain names but also, crucially, five food trucks, vans and shacks that change on a monthly basis - is a pretty irresistible lure. Those mobile guests are chosen in collaboration with the organiser of the British Street Food Awards, Richard Johnson, which means that London's best (such as Original Fry Up Material; the Cheese Truck, whose grilled sandwiches look incredible; and Big Apple Hotdogs), regularly rub shoulders here with Leeds outfits such as Marvellous Tea Dance , Fish& and Manjit's Kitchen. Many of the northern traders are members of the energetic Northern StrEats association, a key name to look out for locally.
Pemberman's is run by two very friendly lads who knock out tasty, seasonally driven, British rare-breed meat sandwiches, but as a new wave of traders arrive on 25 May, you may well miss them. That next wave includes Mama's Jerk Station, Hackney's Tacochu (specialising in taco-rice boxes, Okinawa's take on Tex-Mex), and the altogether more straightforward Catering Yorkshire. The space itself - part Bangkok street market, part crazed German beer garden - is a riot of noise, bright colours, lights, neon and concrete, and feels rather like a dystopian future where cities have to retreat into huge, hermetically sealed glass pods. But don't let that put you off your lunch.
• Meals around £4-£8. Trinity Leeds, Albion Street, 0113 394 2415, trinityleeds.com
The Greedy Pig
A deceptive one is the Pig, in that it still looks like a pretty drab cafe (with spam baps on the menu and prices to match - full breakfast with tea £4.50), but it is far more ambitious than your typical greasy spoon. On closer inspection that menu - ham hock with homemade piccalilli sandwich, eight-hour cooked pulled pork with the Pig's own spicy barbecue slaw, brisket burger with blue cheese and dry-cured bacon - is pretty trendy. The Pig serves coffee from local micro-roastery North Star and its legendary pork and chorizo scotch eggs are served in hip Leeds bars. What the Pig delivers is sometimes less miraculous than the hype but, nonetheless, a large breakfast bap of decent bacon, properly fried until it had taken on a rusty char, topped with a thick wedge of smooth, quietly spicy black pudding, was £2.40 very well spent. A hot hog roast sandwich of pork belly with apple compote needed a dab of gravy or pan juices to lubricate it properly, but it was also good value at £3.50. I can see why Leeds swears by the Pig.
• Sandwiches and snacks £1.90-£4.50. 58 North Street, 0113 245 3596, facebook.com/pages/The-Greedy-Pig
The Reliance and North Bar
Inexplicably omitted from my original Leeds guide, this longstanding Leeds cafe-bar is well known for two things: superb beer and home-cured charcuterie. The latter is so good you will find it on the menu at super-picky local pig joint Friends of Ham . At night, most main courses break our £10 cut-off but, during the day, you can sample those complex air-dried meats on deli boards, or take your pick from fish finger and meatball sandwiches and a short menu that includes such rib-stickers as homemade black pudding with potato, spinach and poached egg, and Erdinger-battered fish and chips. The Reliance is also a good place to recover over Sunday brunch (£3.25-£7.50). I enjoyed a glass of Saltaire Brewery's South Island Pale (half pint £1.65) then, with more beer in mind, pottered along to North Bar, arguably Leeds' best craft beer bar. Keen to ensure that your stomach is lined, North serves snack boards of charcuterie from the Reliance, alongside toasties and pies from renowned Leeds butcher Wilsons. Prices are keen (£2.50-£5), particularly on Fridays, when you pay £5 for pie, mushy peas and a pint of Prototype, which Kirkstall Brewery developed with, and brews exclusively for, North.
• Daytime dishes £3.95-£9.75. 76-78 North Street, 0113 295 6060, the-reliance.co.uk; 24 New Briggate, 0113 242 4540, northbar.com
Belgrave Music Hall
Variously a bar, canteen and club/gig space with a brilliant, ridiculous rooftop garden, Simon Stevens and Ash Kollakowski's Belgrave Music Hall packs a lot in - not least food. The ground floor includes not one, but two self-service kitchens, occupied by Dough Boys and Patty Smiths. The Boys serve fantastic New York-style pizza slices (from £2) and, before 7pm, these are all half price. My bravura veggie sample, Paul & Linda, with smoked mozzarella, fat caperberries, artichoke and pools of lemony-fresh salsa verde, was, at £1.40, a complete bargain. At the other end of the bar, Patty's serves superlative cheeseburgers from £5 that, dripping with cheese and meat juices (and momentarily steamed under a cloche before serving), are so soft and yielding, so plump and squishy, you could almost slurp them down. The skin-on chips are, likewise, earthy, golden and seriously moreish. On their own, they would make a godlike beer snack. The cost for the two? £6.50. Talking of drink, while the Belgrave's bar is well-stocked with cask and craft ales; and if you are keeping a close eye on the pennies, Amstel is £2.50 a pint on weekday afternoons.
Were all that not enough (did I mention that Laynes also runs a coffee concession here, too?), Fu-Schnickens sells guo bao steamed Taiwanese buns here at weekends and, on the second Saturday of each month, the Belgrave welcomes 10 traders to Street Feast for a three-floor throwdown of music, art, film and fodder. If that kind of thing is your nosebag, also check out Brandon Street Night Market (last Friday of the month, free).
• 1-1a Cross Belgrave Street, 0113 234 6160, belgravemusichall.com