EU travel: Restaurant prices in Romania

restaurant prices in romania are lower than other places where tourists travel in the eu

Last night we ate at a nice Indian restaurant – one of the few in Bucharest, Romania. Total bill with tip: a little over $40.

That included a soda and masala tea. But they didn’t serve alcohol. I brought canned beer.

The food was decent. The staff was actually Pakistani. The same meal (dal, biryani, vegetables kadai, naan) in similar surrounds in India would have been half the price – or less.

haveli restaurant menu in romania and the dishes we ordered

We’re still getting used to the European cost of living – although Romania is certainly toward the lower end of EU prices.

Actually, since arriving in Bucharest nearly a month ago, we’ve been cooking in our Airbnb kitchen and picnicking a lot more to contain costs. Before that we ate out for six straight weeks as we bounced from India to UAE to Serbia to Transylvania (Romania).

So what does dinner cost in Romania’s capital city of about 3 million people? What follows is a general summary. Prices shown are from ‘mid-range’ establishments, similar to what we would patronize if we were living at home in Cleveland, Ohio, USA. Indeed, after years of being out of America, we wonder what our favorite old eateries are charging?

Of course, fine dining options are available here at higher prices. We have no experience with those. And food and drink in touristy ‘old town’ Bucharest costs more as well.

Also, my usual disclaimer: my wife, Ellen, does not drink alcohol. I drink only beer (in some moderation). If you require mixed drinks, bottled wine, refills, aperitifs, etc — your restaurant check could easily increase by 100%.

romanian restaurants and menus

The photos and menus shown above are representative of popular ‘al fresco’ dining establishments in central Bucharest. Outdoor, cafe style seating is very common. People take advantage of the warm weather months here – and they like to smoke.

The current exchange rate is .23 Romanian Lei to the US Dollar. (Romania is an EU country, but does not yet use the Euro).

As you can see, most places offer basic meals (burgers, pizzas, chicken/pork, dinner salads) for 35 to 45 lei ( $7.50 to $9.50). Strangely, a soda pop, lemonade, or iced tea often cost $3 to $4 — about the same or more than a beer!

fast food places in romania include taco bell, kfc, mcdonald's, pizza hut

Curious about fast food? Most American chains can be found here – but in far fewer numbers. Some locations do have outdoor seating (and AC inside). The menu boards look exactly like those found in the USA, India, Thailand, UAE, etc.

We rarely patronize US fast food establishments anywhere on the planet. But I did get two lukewarm chalupas for 12.5 lei each ($2.75 each) at Taco Bell at a Bucharest Mall. (We saw the movie “Oppenheimer” at the same mall for $6.60 per person in IMAX format).

As seen in the photos above, various ‘combo meal’ deals can be had for 25 to 30 lei ($5.50 to $6.60). And the places seem popular. There are lines/waits for service. We have no idea what a McDonald’s combo costs in America today.

romanian takeaway bakery storefronts

A cheaper – and very popular – local option in Romania, are the ubiquitous ‘take-away’ bakeries – found on many street corners. As seen above, these small, walk-up counters offer pizza by the slice, small calzones, stuffed soft pretzels and the like for $1 to $2 per item.

Obviously, such is not a meal – and buying 4 or 5 individual pieces of pizza would cost as much as a ‘real restaurant’ pie. But for lunch or a snack, these fresh baked items are easy, cheap, and relatively healthy.

Probably the best overall food meal deal in Bucharest – and around Europe – is the “set lunch” or “menu of the day”. Here in Romania, sit-down restaurants often offer a 3-course, small-plate, lunch special. Some combination of appetizer, soup, salad, meal, desert — usually, for $5 to $10. Sometimes served until 4 or 5pm. An early supper: a great price! We’ve previously enjoyed “meniul zilei” in Spain, Portugal, Italy, and Croatia.

eu travelers will find several different coffee shops in romania

The outdoor summertime cafe culture might be more accurately described as coffee (and cigarette) culture. In fact, we often note that although the tables are occupied – very few people have food. Indeed, in a country where minimum wage is about $4 per hour, $20 or $30 dinners are not realistic for much of the population.

Of course, Starbucks is here – with standard American pricing. But most every restaurant, cafe, and coffee shop has tea and coffee creations at about half the crazy SBUX price.

Since I’m not a coffee (or beer) snob, my favorite is the “5 to Go” chain, found all over Romania. Their slogan is “More coffee less bucks”. A small “Americano” (espresso with water) is only 5 lei ($1.15).

Finally, deserts. Romanians like Italian gelato. Gelato stores and stalls are everywhere. (I wonder what happens in colder seasons)? Gelato isn’t cheap, usually costing 12 to 20 lei ($2.75 to $4.50) depending on size.

Occasionally, you might come across a street side soft-serve ice cream machine with cones for $1.20 to $1.60. McDonald’s cones and sundaes are about the same – and oddly, shakes too.

FYI, THE traditional desert of Romania is ‘papanasi’ — warm sweet rolls with cottage cheese inside, smothered in blueberry or cherry compote… mmmmm. Restaurant price range is $4 to $6.

Bon appetite!

As always, be thankful and generous, happy trails & more beer.

Life is NOW!

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