I ate at restaurants which ranged from luxurious to basic, to eating food from the street vendors. As with prices for other items and services, the prices of food at restaurants generally becomes more expensive moving from the south to the north. The exception to this was food in eastern Europe, which was a bit cheaper than the rest of Europe.
Most restaurants charge for every little item. The only thing I don’t think I was charged for was for a glass of tap water (and this is not always the case). Tap water is often the cheapest drink at a restaurant. All the restaurants charged for the bread and some charged for the number of slices that you ate. Did they think that they were going to serve the uneaten slices of bread to other customers? Apparently they did!
By far, I enjoyed the Greek cuisine. The Greek salads when prepared properly are a culinary treat. A typical Greek salad contains red onions, slices of bell pepper, Greek olives, and dried Greek oregano on top of a bed of fresh cucumbers and tomatoes. There is nothing quite like the incredible taste of freshly dried Greek oregano.
Oregeno grows wild on many of the Greek islands. Then all of this is mixed in a dressing of locally grown olive oil and vinegar. Many restaurants in other European countries and around the world try to imitate the Greek salad, but they often do a terrible job.
Food in Greece, Italy, and Eastern Europe was fairly inexpensive, so I found myself eating at nice restaurants and cafes. The Greek cuisine is simple but very tasty. The Italian cuisine is good as well. I found myself eating at numerous Italian street side cafes. These cafes serve tasty yet inexpensive meals. Most offer a wide range of sandwiches, tuna fish dishes and numerous types of pizza and pastas. Some cafes would substitute cabbage instead of lettuce into their sandwiches.
I found many varieties of food, and different cuisine’s in the large cities. One could easily have Chinese for breakfast, Indian for lunch, or Spanish tapas for dinner even if you weren’t in Spain at the time.
Breakfast for me consisted of either a continental breakfast at the hotel or hostel. Usually this was toast, coffee or tea, cereal (either corn flakes or granola) and juice. This type of breakfast is the cheapest and also the most convenient. If I did not have a continental breakfast included from my hotel I would visit a supermarket. While there I would pick up some bread items such as croissants, yogurt, and some fruit.
Lunch usually consisted of eating out of the street side cafes, eating from one of the side walk vendors, or creating my own sandwich out of supermarket bread and meat. If I was in an expensive country, I would purchase my lunch at the super market in the morning, at the same time as I was buying breakfast. I would compliment this with a piece of fruit. I found that the fruit and vegetables in Europe in the summer for the most part were extremely fresh, even those in the big cities. In the less expensive countries I would eat at the street side cafes, or I would get some food from these cafes and eat on the run. Sandwiches were the easiest food to eat in this manner.
I would usually get by fairly cheaply on breakfast and lunch. My dinners tended to be more expensive as I would always eat at a restaurant. Dinner prices ranged from 15- to 35 euro per person. For the most part this included a soup or salad and the main entree. I did not tip at any of the restaurants. The travelers that I talked said that they also did not tip. It wasn’t a common practice in Europe for budget travelers to have any money left over for tipping.
McDonald’s restaurants are well distributed throughout Europe – in the big cities as well as in the smaller towns. I admit to have eaten here several times during the trip. If you want a familiar flavor and familiar food then McDonalds is pretty much the same world wide. Some subtle differences that I noticed was that the grain size of the salt differed between restaurants. I like a small salt size grain because then more surface area is exposed on the salt for maximum flavor. Most of the drink sizes were smaller then they are in the states. If you want ketchup or salt you will have to pay for each packet. The cheapest McDonalds I ate at was in Prague and I paid about 5 euro for a Number One Happy Meal. I had my most expensive McDonalds meal in Lucerne Switzerland. It was 12 euro for the Happy Meal Number One. Most of the McDonalds restaurants consisted of two floors – an upstairs and a downstairs. I used their bathroom on several occasions in a pinch. The bathrooms were always located upstairs.
Additional fast food restaurants are KFC and Dairy Queen – although they are much less common than the ubiquitous McDonalds.
Rather then soley relying on online ratings for restaurants, a good place to ask for recommendations about restaurants is at your hotel. Talk to fellow travelers in the lobby for recommendations. If people do not give you a specific restaurant location ask them for an area of town that is known for restaurants and good food.
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