Refuelling will be important at the Commonwealth Games and not just for the athletes. Updating his 2010 budget eats guide to Glasgow, Tony Naylor chooses 10 places where you can eat well for under £10
Riverhill Coffee Bar
Almost slap bang by Central Station, Riverhill is a tiny, independent coffee and sandwich shop - note: seating is extremely limited - which, in its rigour and imagination, not to mention its use of regional ingredients (coffee from Glasgow roaster Dear Green, hams and sausages from Puddledub), puts its high street rivals to shame. A huge savoury scone, topped with cheese and pickled gherkins, was glorious filth - the kind of the thing Riverhill's near neighbour Gregg's might do, but not half as well. At the other end of the healthy-eating spectrum, a beetroot and mackerel salad was a simple triumph of fresh, true mittel-European flavours. Elsewhere, the choice ran from interesting daily specials, such as lamb kofta, to tasty, fashionable sandwiches, such as a New York deli-style pastrami, or the Smokey Jo - smoked pork, smoked cheese, coleslaw.
• Snack items £1-£2, soups, salads and sandwiches up to £4.50. 24 Gordon Street, 0141-204 4762, riverhillcafe.com/coffee-bar
McCune Smith Cafe
I approached this sharp, modish East End cafe with a degree of caution. It provokes a frothing, evangelical enthusiasm in its regulars, which I have learned, through bitter experience, to dial down. But one bite of my pastrami sandwich and any cynicism evaporated. Takeaway, it cost just £3.80 for a sandwich of the gods. Every element was terrific, from the unusually light, fresh rye bread to the sweet, crunchy (but, of course) homemade red onion coleslaw. Its constituent flavours - the pastrami's hot pepperiness, that creamy, nutty blanket of gouda - were pronounced and well-balanced. This was a sandwich that had been lovingly assembled. A flat white was equally precise, the coffee's roasted, chocolatey notes asserting themselves amid all that expertly textured, velvety milk.
If you are wondering about the cafe's name, Dr James McCune Smith was an abolitionist and the first African American to hold a medical degree, after studying at the University of Glasgow. Sandwiches are named in tribute to other stars of the Scottish Enlightenment, such as Robert Adams and David Hume. The cafe also wittily celebrates Scottish traditional and artisan produce, in its Harris tweed lampshades and shelves lined with deli goods as diverse as Arran oatcakes and Glasgow Mega Death Hot Nuts ("So hot they'll make you cry like a woman. No particular woman.").
• Takeaway, breakfast items, £1.60- £2.50, lunch £2.20-£3.80. 3-5 Duke Street, 0141-548 1114, mccunesmith.co.uk
Babu Bombay Street Kitchen
This small, colourful basement space - decorated with Bollywood posters and imported Indian groceries - is much-loved for its daily curries and specialities such as its dhokla "sandwich", a baked rice and semolina cake from Gujarat. Owners Rachna Deer and Gail Finlayson play irreverently with tradition, serving their curries not just with rice, but also with traditional Scottish morning rolls. Babu's bhurji pau sees one filled with spicy scrambled eggs, for the ultimate Scots-Indian crossover.
Some of this tweaking is very clever indeed. A pot of terrific moong dhal was a warm bear-hug of a dish, as it should be. Rather than overtly spicy, a good dhal offers unfathomable depths of savoury flavour, but in this case lifted by a zingy topping of red onion, lime juice and coriander. The bhel puri (a kind of cold, savoury puffed rice salad) wasn't quite so impressive. It needed more vermicelli-like sev and more of its baked, cracker-like pieces - as well as, perhaps, diced potato, chickpeas or a few nuts even - to liven it up, texturally. Heavy on the puffed rice, it was a little stodgy. Nonetheless, laced with onion, tomato and several chutneys, it was alive with zig-zagging, tongue-wagging flavours: notably lime, chilli and sour, fruity tamarind. I wolfed it down.
• Breakfast, £3.50-£4.50, snacks and meals £2.50-£5.50. 186 West Regent Street, 0141-204 4042, babu-kitchen.com
The Glad Cafe
It is a hike or a bus ride from the city-centre (through some rundown spots few tourists would normally see, which may be itself of interest), or a much shorter walk from Hampden Park, which will host the track and field events during the Commonwealth Games. Either way, the cafe at this Southside arts hub/music venue will reward any detour. A non-profit social enterprise, it has fair prices and high quality. The attention to detail in the coffee training that was going on at the bar on my visit (a member of staff being schooled in the art of the Aeropress), was borne out by a credible, properly dosed flat white (coffee from £1.50). Likewise Glad's rarebit was the real deal: a proper grain mustard and Worcester-spiked paste, on toasted slices of the house Crossmyloaf, a rustic, twangy bread made for the Glad Cafe by West End artisan bakery-cafe Kember & Jones. The kitchen could have been more generous with the rarebit mix itself, but that is a minor criticism.
Elsewhere, the menu evolves through the day, as some interesting breakfast dishes, such as Italian sausage and chorizo hash, give way to sandwiches, salads and gutsy lunch mains. For instance, a daily fried gnocchi dish or a black pudding potato cake with streaky bacon, poached egg and Hollandaise. In the evening, sharing platters of continental meats and/or cheeses are the main attraction. On the morning I visited, the soundtrack veered from melancholy folk to Belle & Sebastian, in a way entirely fitting with the early hour.
• Breakfast, £2.50-£6, lunch, £4.50-£9, sharing plates from £8.95. 1006a Pollokshaws Road, Shawlands, 0141-636 6119, thegladcafe.co.uk
Bread Meats Bread
Right now, Britain can't get enough of gussied-up US junk food, and Glasgow particularly is firmly in the grip of this meaty mania. Pulled pork, ribs and dogs are repeated across the city's menus like a holy trinity, while the title of Glasgow's best burger is hotly contested by outlets such as Meat Hammer (burger meal, eat-in, from £7.95); Buddy's (takeaway burger, from £4); Burger Meats Bun (burger meal, eat-in, £9.50 - £10.50); and the unrelated Bread Meats Bread.
I managed to test the last two. Burger Meats Bun is the creation of two chefs who first met at Fife's renowned Peat Inn. Sensational home-cured smoked bacon or their fondness for Barwheys, a rich, pungent artisan Ayrshire cheese, are evidence of their past in fastidious, Michelin-starred dining. Nonetheless, it didn't quite rock my world. I would happily eat there again but, being picky, I found my brioche bun a mite dry and the burger itself (a surprisingly common issue, this), although expertly chargrilled, didn't deliver a particularly strident beefy flavour. Essentially, it was carried by the sauces and extras, spiced ketchup and the BMB house burger sauce among them.
In comparison, the patty from Bread Meats Bread, a mix of three different cuts from dry-aged Scottish cattle, was a veritable beef-bomb. Loosely packed, beautifully seasoned and juicy as hell, it had sweeter flavours merging seamlessly with the cheese and a mound of outstanding, plump, slow-braised onions. Pickles and a smear of tangy burger sauce provided a well-judged counterpoint, while the bun was like the perfect New Man: tough but sensitive. Throw in a portion of unusually moreish, non-cloying sweet potato fries, and you had the best burger that I have tasted outside of Troll's Pantry in Brighton. With one caveat: I was told my burger would be cooked "medium", but in a small patch at the very centre, it was rare, borderline raw. Despite that (seemingly uncharacteristic) error, this was still a drool-inducing doozy of a burger.
Naturally, given that quality, Bread Meats Bread was buzzing on a Thursday lunchtime, its tables crammed with folk greedily hoovering up burgers, dogs and meaty BBQ sandwiches from enamelled plates, as Radiohead were almost drowned out by the sizzling of the hotplates in the open kitchen. For a real bargain, however, budget travellers should take advantage of the truncated weekday lunchtime takeaway menu (all meals with fries £6 or £7, midday-3pm, Mon-Thu).
• Eat-in meals £4-£12. 104 St Vincent Street, 0141-249 9898, breadmeatsbread.co.uk
In my experience, Sauchiehall Street's reputation for drinking, puking and kebab-related violence is rather overplayed. Certainly, you rarely hear that it is also home to the Glasgow Centre for Contemporary Art, whose fetching atrium (the Georgian facade of an adjoining building dominates one side), is home to ace vegan canteen Saramago. The kitchen concentrates on punchy North African/Mediterranean flavours across a menu of small plates, sandwiches, vivid salads and mains such as a Moroccan chickpea and lentil tagine. A sample bowl of roast onion and rosemary soup was remarkable, delivering several fathoms of sweet, savoury flavour, and innovatively augmented with a few parsnip crisps (the new crouton?). My only quibble would be that the terrific bread, organic and baked in-house that morning, came with a thin vegan "spread" that had me longing for butter. An above-average beer list that, alongside a few US craft imports, majors on William Bros and Sam Smith's beers - including the latter's Yorkshire ale at £2.50-a-pint! - seals the deal on this busy, but laid-back hang-out.
• Light meals, £3.95-£6.50, mains up to £8.50. Set lunch, two course, £9.50 (noon until 1pm). 350 Sauchiehall Street, 0141-352 4920, cca-glasgow.com/saramago-caf
The Hyndland Fox
A spin-off from Peckham's, a small, regional chain of delicatessens, the Hyndland Fox is as adept as that suggests, but less expensive than you might think. Even at night, this West End newbie serves big salads, gourmet sandwiches and a handful of mains, such as coq au vin or pappardelle with artichoke and roast peppers, for under £10. By day, such dishes are joined by jacket potatoes and a full complement of all-day brunch plates. Eggs Benedict, served not with ham but with first-rate, properly crisped, dry-cure bacon, was A1, the hollandaise silky but nicely acidulated. The space itself, like the background music, is a bit MOR, a bit mumsy, a bit Mumford & Sons, but clearly the lure of good food is trumping any concerns about interior design. On a Friday morning it was heaving.
• Breakfast, £3.50-£8, lighter dishes from £6, mains from £8. 43 Clarence Drive, 0141-341 6633, thehyndlandfox.co.uk
One of those new wavers taking proper pride in what it does (frying to order, homemade pies and sauces), Old Salty's is a shade expensive by chip shop standards, but worth every penny. I was a little dubious on arrival. Some rather OTT, almost gothic design flourishes (grand, ancient portraits standing out against its exposed stone walls), had me wondering if this takeaway and restaurant might be all fur coat, no knickers - but not at all. Buttery, super-fresh hake arrived encased in an unusually thin, crisp batter, that held its audible crunch most of the walk back into town. The chips were what you could only describe as proper chip shop chips. Perfectly cooked, profoundly potatoey and with the right mix of bite and almost caramelised chew at their edges. Tartar sauce was a little thin, but packed a tight capery, gherkin punch.
• Fish and chip meals, takeaway, £5.95-£7.95, other meals, from £4.45. 1126 Argyle Street, Finnieston, 0141-357 5677, oldsaltys.co.uk
This handsome basement space, all timbers and tan leather, refuses to define itself. Bar? Restaurant? It is both, fluidly managing those who just want a drink (see its entry in the Glasgow craft beer 10), or those who want a full three-course steak blow-out. Budget travellers can drop in for its pared-back express menu (two courses £10), or take away its sensational street buns, £5 each. Glasgow certainly isn't short of BBQ geeks putting low 'n' slow, smoked meats in brioche buns - Smoak are also doing good things at Pivo Pivo (£5.50-£12) - but Meat Bar's buns bring something truly special to this 24/7 protein party. Grilled chorizo is godlike, right? Stuff it in a properly malleable, durable bun with smoked chicken slathered in its own barbecued cooking juices, tangy pickles, slaw and aioli, and you have a mighty mouthful. In Glasgow, happiness is a warm bun.
• Takeaway buns, £5. 142 West Regent Street, 0141-204 3605, themeatbar.co.uk
The gorgeous stuffed and topped breads, focaccia and pizzas by the entrance, or the trays of roasted vegetables spilling out of the open kitchen, give you a sense of what this Italian is about. Swerving trattoria clichés, it aims to serve fresh, affordable dishes using a mixture of first-rate ingredients and Puglian peasant savvy. The lunch menu, which is available to take away until 9pm (it is too expensive to eat in at night, certainly for the budget traveller), is comprised of smaller, half-portion dishes, to be mixed and matched. A couple could share some sort of bread, a salad and a couple of hot dishes for about £16. A bowl of little, twisted trofie pasta, a Genovese speciality, with a kind of wetter, tomato-less beef skirt bolognese, was very good, its deeply savoury gravy a testament to what can be achieved by the patient cooking of herbs and finely chopped vegetables. As was the case across Glasgow, the service was easygoing and friendly, with the staff enthusing in an informed, genuine way. Far less endearing are the TVs that line this interestingly designed basement space (a mishmash of post-industrial and Amalfi coast influences). Watching Bargain Hunt on numerous screens as I ate all felt a bit Orwellian. Less Naples, more North Korea. Thank god the sound was off.
• Lunch dishes, £3.95-£5.95. 265 Renfrew Street, 0141-611 7270, singl-end.com
• Accommodation in Glasgow was provided by the Arthouse Hotel, one of the ABode Group's townhouse properties (129 Bath Street, Glasgow, G2 2SZ, +44 (0)141 221 6789). Rooms from £79 B&B. Travel between Manchester and Glasgow was provided by First TransPennine Express
Independent coffee and sandwich shop, Riverhill Coffee Bar. Photograph: PR