Also, some places to avoid (sorry those places) …
As we know, Swedish cuisine is, um, special in its own ways. Nordic cuisine has gone through a bit of a renaissance in the last decade or so. In Scandinavia, there is an emphasis on home-cooked meals and natural and local ingredients. For this reason, many new, upscale restaurants focus on seasonal produce, game, and catch.
The good, emblematic Scandinavian cuisine of the region is not something most students can afford to try on a weekly basis. Upscale restaurants in the university town of Lund itself like Klostergatans Vin & Delikatess and Mat och Destillat are indeed delicious. However, for international students who already struggle with the intimidating Swedish prices, these places are pipe dreams, fantasies.
For this reason, I have consolidated a list of delicious, and relatively affordable places to dine in Lund. There are also some places to avoid that I and many others have sampled, which we cannot endorse. Sorry.
To be frank, aside from IKEA, cheap “authentic” Swedish food is hard to come by. In fact, the frozen aisles are probably the most popular sections of the supermarket, not just for university students, but also adults and the elderly. Who doesn’t like frozen casseroles? (Me.)
This list is rather diverse and does not centre around Scandinavian or Swedish cuisine for that matter. One can make what he or she wants out of this irony that in Sweden, perhaps Swedish food may not be one’s first choice or most economical one to sample.
Address: Lilla Södergatan 7 (south of the main bus terminal)
Aisha from Gambia is a warm light in Lund. She and her husband run Africa Daily Market that functions as both an African diaspora store and also a superb buffet lunch.
The cuisine is West African and features an array of vegetable dishes as well as stewed meats. Like every place in Lund/ Sweden in general, allergies are taken quite seriously. Aisha (or whoever is serving you that day) will undoubtedly ask, ‘har du (några) allegier? [do you have (any) allergies?],’ before piling on generous portions of the day’s selection.
Everything at this buffet is well spiced, and Aisha even makes her own hot sauce. The black-eyed peas, spinach, and stewed chicken are divine, especially with the fried dough balls that accompany the platter she provides. It is self-service on these babies!
In total, a meal for one costs roughly 70 kr or €6.50, 7 USD, or 10 CAD. What a steal!
Coffee and tea is included in the price.
Truly, if the food is not a draw, just go in for Aisha. She is a joy and talkative and open and friendly … something that some people might miss while in Sweden. Come back enough and she’ll remember you for sure!
Also, shop around! They have some great jewelry.
Address: Kyrkogatan 21 (slightly north of the church)
Mui Gong is a Chinese restaurant that although is a little expensive, does have some affordable gems for busy and frugal students.
A family restaurant, it is exemplary and exactly what I enjoy. I have said before that I always enjoy international Chinese cuisine. It is amazing how cuisine adapts to environments and tastes. And, Chinese food was one of the first to go global.
One will find traditional Sichuan dishes (read: spicy!) as well as more westernised takes on classics. It is a relaxed atmosphere that invites everyone who enters and is often patronised by families and couples.
They also have an affordable lunch buffet for those who need to dine and dash (as in quickly, not illegally) in the daytime.
I had a great conversation with the mother who works there after she asked if I was Chinese.
I get this a lot in Chinese restaurants; even in Vancouver, people think I speak Cantonese all the time. When I told her I was Korean, she was elated and told me that she had an old cook who was Korean and was a wonderful employee. Of course, he was! 😉
For cheaper fare, I recommend their ‘Beijing noodles’, or jajangmyeon in Korean (noodles in black bean sauce) (98 kr), or the Dan Dan noodles (98 kr). And, for more spicy and slightly expensive choices, try the Yuxiang eggplant (149 kr) or Dry Pot duck (with bones) (198 kr).
Address: 2B Grönegatan (close to the main square)
Next up on our tour around the culinary world of Lund, we have Mediterranean Restaurant. As one might guess, Mediterranean Restaurant specialises in Mediterranean, specifically Greek, cuisine.
This locale is another family-owned establishment, which is equally popular among residents in Lund. One should call ahead to schedule a reservation because it fills up quickly.
At Mediterranean Restaurant, expect large portions and all the Greek classics! All the mains also come with one’s choice of rice or roasted potatoes. The amounts of food they provide are enough to bring home for seconds; do not be afraid to ask for a box.
I came with my friend, Phoebe – remember her, from Britannia – who is of Greek descent, and she thoroughly enjoyed her veggie moussaka. I have sampled the meat moussaka (165 kr) and can attest, it is quite scrumptious. The calamari are great as well.
Be aware; the prices are a little higher than the other places on this list. Nevertheless, check out their website for more details about discounts and other specials!
For a nice conventional night out or happy hour, nothing can beat Mediterranean Restaurant.
Address: Stora Södergatan 5 (down Main Street, can’t miss it)
The life and soul or Lund. Honestly.
Lundafalafel is a staple and cornerstone of Lund nightlife. Open the latest on the weekend, Lundafalafel serves tasty pitas and kebabs for cheap, cheap prices with an average order coming to around 40 kr.
Also, unlike everywhere in Lund and Sweden in general, Lundafalafel only accepts cash! Bring your kronor, people.
After a night at the nations or in Malmö, Lundafalafel is where to go. Without it, Lund university would not be the same.
Address: Kyrkogatan 21 (slightly north of Mui Gong)
Swedish people (especially busy students) love a good buffet. And, ironically, despite the ambient racism and xenophobia especially toward Kurds, Turks, and Arabs, Scandinavians love Middle Eastern food.
Mezaya is the new answer for many in Lund for a quick bite to eat. A Lebanese buffet, Mezaya opened in early 2019 to a hungry audience. Originally, the price for the all-you-can-eat buffet was 89 kr, but given the popularity, the owners raised the price to 99 kr. It is still a good deal. On Fridays, they even serve a whole leg of lamb with pomegranate rice!
An Algerian-Swedish friend has lamented that the harissa is not authentic (it is not), but overall, Mezaya gets her approval.
Lunch can get pretty crowded, so be prepared to wait and hunt for a table like a professional squatter between 12 PM to 1:30 PM. One can call ahead for a reservation, but I have never done it. Usually, it is possible to find a place, inside or outside!
The meze spread is not the only snack served there … if you catch my drift. In sleek black cook uniforms, with friendly smiles and … beards, I (along with many others) have enjoyed coming here not just for the food.
Enjoy the hummous, baba ghanoush, Arab salad, large window views … and the interior too.
Coffee is also included in the total meal price.
Address: Mårtenstorget 3 (on the intersection of the town food hall)
The closest thing to an upscale yuppie bar, Restaurang VED is a popular tapería and pizzeria in the centre of town.
It gets quite crowded during the evenings, so attempt to come early or just for lunch (with updated summer hours!) Also, one can call and make a reservation. On a beautiful summer, it is a great place to chill out and have a cider, so think ahead.
The food here is best described as … eclectically unadventurous. I do not mean to be, well, mean. But, the menu is what one might expect: roasted duck (105 kr), sage butter gnocchi (100 kr), and scallops (100 kr).
Fancy, I know. However, not very imaginative.
The pizzas are extremely popular here, especially because it is Sweden. Swedes love pizza. It is reliable and just modifiable enough to be fun, but not deviate from the comfortable. The Truffle pizza (145 kr) and Havet pizza (in Swedish, (the) sea) (145 kr) are rather pricey, but look and smell divine.
VED is a cashless restaurant, so bring your cards and nice pants and get ready for some small dishes and cosy vibes.
Address: Bredgatan 28 (close to Lund University)
A secluded and somewhat isolated locale, Govindas is a vegetarian (and vegan) Indian restaurant that is a fan favourite in the town.
Rather cheap, the price of a full meal runs about 50 kr. Unsurprisingly, the line gets long very quickly too, so go at opening around 11 AM. It also closes at 3 PM, which means that it is only really open for a rapid paced lunch.
Govindas is known for its rich vegetable curries and thick tasty daals, and the plentiful portions keep it popular with eco-minded and frugal students.
Another appeal for Govindas is its homey, secret garden-like atmosphere. One enters through its trademark archway into this little magical restaurant with a warm, inviting vibe and botanic background.
To be frank, it is likely the best Indian restaurant in Lund both in ambiance and flavour.
And now, a moment of silence, for our fallen comrade. The Eritrean-Ethiopian restaurant, Mesob has closed. One of my favourite places to dine in Lund, it was a small, traditional restaurant with heavily spiced meats, spongey injera, and quick service.
I came here for my first real meal out with friends, and for me and my Mexican friend, it was perfect and spicy and what we needed. For our Dutch compatriot, it was a little hot for her palate. She was a trooper though.
Hopefully one day it may start up again or something equally wonderful takes it place. It is a shame that it closed, as one will see now … there are a few restaurants I would consider subpar that remain open to the public.
Perhaps Places to Pass On …
As we wrap up, I will also offer some warning about places I would avoid in Lund. It can sometimes be hard to find honest reviews, especially among bloggers. We want to please; who wants to collaborate with a negative individual? However, since I do not often collab with anyone … I have certain freedoms to voice my displeasure too at times. Like, right now:
This place serves perhaps the worst Indian food I have ever had. Ever.
Located in the south of Lund, I was ecstatic that my accommodation was so close. However, after dining there, I never went back.
The curry took awhile, was cold, oily, and bland. The ‘naan’ was actually a flatbread that was also store bought (I could see the creases from the plastic wrap) and also partially frozen. Not good.
Aside from being just plain bad, it was expensive too.
As I payed, I too learned I was not the only disgruntled client. A table inquired about their chai, which prompted the only employee there to inform them that it would take time. Yes, chai, he told the other customers it would take over 30 minutes to complete, much to our collective astonishment.
The restaurant closed temporarily during the winter, but is still operational (surprisingly) today. It is a bit mind blowing how this place stays open at all. This is the sort of restaurant that one can hear the microwave in the back.
The cherry on top of this sad locale is that there are multiple fake reviews that give it glowing praise. Not a good look, not a good cook either.
Another Indian restaurant that does not live up to the expectations I had hoped for is Spice & Curry. Located in a small alleyway next to the Botulfsplatsen bus terminal, it is an affordable restaurant, but overall, not amazing.
Like Govindas, it is a bit secluded. However, as a result of being more in the centre of town, the atmosphere and scenery are less charming in comparison.
They do serve a decent lunch special, but everything else is so just oily and expensive for the quality. I used to recommend it and patronise it often. But, eventually, I had to stop.
You will also have to fight for your minimal student discount … they will be reluctant to give it to you at times.
For me, this restaurant screams, “I do not actually know which demographic I cater to.” Balancing what Swedes can consume with the flavours international students pine for is difficult, but the answer is not over-saturation of oil in some dishes and no flavour in others.
Hopefully, it improves. Try the lunch special if one wants; however, I would not stick around for dinner.
Inferno is one of the only real bars in Lund. The other is Ariman, which functions more as a student bar. Inferno possesses a more mature crowd and has a better beer selection.
For a crisp ale and night out, Inferno is not too expensive. However, I would avoid ordering food here. Many Swedes enjoy it, but the portions are Swedish in the sense they are small for the price. Swedish salaries are quite high, so if one is employed there, it might be alright. However, for most students, it is not affordable whatsoever.
Again, go to Inferno, it has a great atmosphere, cheerful bartenders, and patio seating. Just, remember, it is foremost a bar.
Maybe try Lundafalafel before or after if one wants a bite.
Hummus Bar is another interesting choice to have on this side of the list. The food itself is okay. It is reminiscent of where I used to work in Vancouver at Chickpea. Both are Israeli with the basics that one who is familiar with the national cuisine might expect: hummus plates, fried eggplant etc.
Located by the main train station, Hummus Bar is relatively affordable. When I went there, I tried the shakshuka (my favourite), which unfortunately, they overcooked. The egg was not runny at all, and the bottom was burned. The hummus was the rich consistency that I like, but overall, the experience was eh. Just alright.
Flash forward to a little soirée I was having at my place, when a Swedish friend brought one of his friends from Uppsala who turned out to also be Jewish. We bonded and talked about many diaspora things. It was a Hanukkah party, so he also helped me explain some traditions I was tasked to illuminate my goyische guests about.
His father is Israeli, which by default, makes him Israeli too as a result of lineage laws. During our conversation, he brought up Hummus Bar and asked me about my take on it. I told him essentially what I wrote above. He also was satisfied when he ate there, but not overly pleased by the food there.
Here we go …
However, he did reveal some information about the owner. Both being Israeli, it seemed the owner of Hummus Bar felt comfortable enough to reveal some very … anti-Arab sentiments to my new friend. There is racism in Israel, both structurally and socially, and this man apparently carries some of the typical opinions in this genre about Arabs in particular.
Upon hearing this tale, I was not overly surprised (some of these beliefs are deeply held out of a victimising fear). But, it was decided upon then that I would not be returning there for another meal.
Critics may call this choice anti-semitic, akin to BDS (Boycott, Divestment, and Sanction). Firstly, no. Bring your bad faith arguments somewhere else.
Second, I only really discuss these matters (in person) with a common ground that acknowledges the very really existence of well-funded Hasbara efforts (if you do not know what this is, look it up) and the historical contexts, accounts, language, and descriptions of Zionism from its own supporters including its modern politically motivated revisions.
Also, seeing that I worked for an Israeli-owned business (one where the owners did not openly share how Arabs are inherently violent and dangerous…), I do not think this specific choice to not patronise this restaurant is inherently anti-semitic in anyway.
Mae Yai is another restaurant that one will find close to the train station, but a little south toward town.
It is a Thai restaurant that is not known for its attentive staff. The food is not really that authentic either. The flavours are a bit lacking unfortunately. It is not popular among international students.
On a whim, I ordered pad thai, which somehow, tasted like cheeseburgers. How? How?!
Not very impressive.
Finding consistently good Asian food is more difficult than one might expect in Lund. Most Swedes enjoy the eateries here, but restaurants must tone down spice combinations to better accommodate to locals’ tastes. Nothing is particularly wrong with this choice; it is just adaptations. It is just the food tastes blander after this type of transformation, which is also the truth.
My recommendation is that one simply goes to Lokchan, the local Asian market, and make his or her own food if one does not find exactly what he or she desires in town. If one has trouble making Asian food, my only advice is to make more Asian friends who can cook.
One woman who lived on my floor would make such good smelling food daily. I was too nervous to ask about her creations (and to be honest, I too was content with my own dishes), but it does not hurt to be friendly in residence. Especially in Sweden, in the cold winter, it pays to make friends, go out and eat, and cook together. Fika is important, even if it is not always in a traditional sense.
Glida in på en räkmacka [Swedish: ‘Glide in on a shrimp sandwich’] – trans. said of someone who has it easy
One might not be having gravlax everyday (and preferably not Flygande Jacob (a chicken, peanut, chili cream, and banana casserole)) either, but there is still much to consider and sample in Lund.
Some modern, popular eats might not be characteristically Swedish, but their presence represents emerging and older, immigrant communities that have established their roots and traditions in the Skåne region. If one is missing a piece of home or something that resembles home, food is a wonderful gateway to reconnect and enjoy nostalgia and heritage.
In Lund, this desire was difficult for me. So, I had to make my own food constantly. Luckily, I love to cook. However, I did enjoy branching out and exploring the food scene in hopes of finding other things that seemed familiar or maybe even a bit out of place. Perhaps uncharacteristic food resonated with me, someone uncharacteristic to Lund too …
One of my favourite aspects of trying new places in Lund was that at many a time, Swedish students I would talk to would be unfamiliar or not have tried these places before themselves. (Frozen) pizza is easy, I guess?
What is more fun than trying something new with a new friend? And, seeing the joy on a person’s face after one discovers a new favourite meal? It is priceless.
If one is studying in Lund, try out these places, experiment, find a rhythm that works for patronising them, bring friends along. There is a lot to offer within its many cobblestoned alleyways and crevices. Follow your nose and gut.
A short reprieve from our backpacking adventure, Lund has been on my mind a little since returning to Canada. I do miss the sound of skånska (the regional dialect). It is a charming tune to which to listen. However, back on track, we will continue onward to Torino (Turin) in Piedmont, Italy! Get ready for tips on how to enjoy a day trip in this lush, delicious northern Italian city. Stay safe and travel often.