Admittedly, Stockholm isn't the cheapest place on earth to wine and dine. For starters, alcohol is heavily taxed. Add that to the fact that one-time meal mainstays -- sausage and boiled potatoes, for example -- no longer take center stage on plates.
And while Stockholm's dining scene has grown increasingly sophisticated in recent years -- thank star chefs like Mathias Dahlgren fort that -- it is possible to eat like royalty while on a budget, as long as you know where (and when) to dine. Here are our five favorite ways to eat on the cheap.
1.) Dinner, in particular, can be cost-prohibitive. Luckily, lunching is a near-pastime in Stockholm, and it's common to nosh elaborately midday. Consequently, most restaurants offer an array of hot selections -- called a dagens lunch or "lunch of the day" -- at a fraction of what the dinner menu would cost. What's more, these feasts typically come with salad, bread, entrée and coffee. We suggest trying a meal at the heated, gravel-floored greenhouse restaurant at Rosendals Trädgård (Rosendalsterrassen 12 D, 11521 Stockholm; tel. 011/46/8/545-812-70; www.rosendalstradgard.se), an organic kitchen and garden. The daily lunch -- candelabra-lit and served amidst the apple orchards -- changes daily but might include toothsome risotto or paella as well as wood-fired, house-made sourdough bread. You also have the option of grabbing little sandwiches on crisp baguettes or a cup of coffee with inexpensive, jam-centered cookies and spiced carrot cake.
Even the restaurants that don't offer dagens have considerably more affordable daytime menus, with most meals capping off at no more than $25 per person -- including at the swankiest of spots. Dahlgren's casual but super-cool Matbaren (Grand Hotel Stockholm, Södra Blaisehomshannen 8, Box 16424, SE-103 27, Stockholm; tel. 011/46/8-679-3584; www.mathiasdahlgren.com), is one example. It serves memorable small plates like salmon tartare commingled with apple, cucumber and horseradish. Diners can eat as much or little as they like, while ordering dishes one at a time to keep costs in check.
2.) If you're looking to keep your bill low, consider taking a design-you-own-meal approach at the Östermalms Saluhall food market (Östermalmstorg, 114 39, Stockholm; www.saluhallen.com). It consists of about two-dozen stalls, cafes, restaurants and wine bars offering ready-made, grab-and-go meals as well as produce, Danish sandwiches and fresh-caught seafood. If you prefer a sit-down affair, do weave your way through to Lisa Elmquist (Nybrogatan 31, tel. 011/46/8-553 404 00) an under-a-tent eatery within dishing up dynamite, dill-accented halibut in red wine sauce with fried shrimp "strudel."
3.) Then again, there's always GOOH! (Norrlandsgatan 15, 11143, Stockholm, tel. 011/46/8-21-08-50; www.gooh.se), a prepared-meals chain with a Stefano Catenacci-designed menu that's worlds away from other fast food joints. Patrons can microwave and enjoy dishes -- like fish fillet in hot ginger sauce with saffron rice -- on site or take them to go.
4.) If you've built up an appetite while sightseeing, consider gorging at a smorgasbord. While not as prevalent in Sweden as they once were, smorgasbords do still exist. One of the most lavish is found daily at The Veranda (Södra Blasieholmshamnen 8; tel. 011/46/8-679-35-86). The massive buffet, meant to be enjoyed in several courses, includes several kinds of pickled herring, smoked reindeer, gravalax and ubiquitous Swedish meatballs with lingonberries. It'll set you back about $425 kronor, but you'll leave so stuffed, you won't require another thing to eat all day (or night).
5.) If you're into nosing around town, the trendy Södermalm district (www.sofo.se) -- called "SoFo" because its positioned south of Folkungagatan -- is worth a visit. Artsy, eclectic and loaded with independent shops, music stores and kitschy vintage boutiques, it's also home to countless affordable cafes and ethnic eateries. Consider grabbing a seat at hopping, minimalist Marie Laveau (Hornsgatan 66, Stockholm: tel. 011/46/8-668 85 00; www.marielaveau.se), where fusion and tweaked Swedish fare mix with deejay beats and sublime sips -- not to mention a fashionable crowd.
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