Eating out in Sierra Leone can be expensive, especially in Freetown. Burgers and fries can easily reach 10$, and a pizza will cost even more. That is, if you eat in the more up scale restaurants. If you are more adventurous and dare to risk a running stomach, some spicy soups and are okay with eating in plastic chairs, read on to find some of the best places to eat on a budget.

With decreased prices can come an increased risk of eating something funny. So only embark on this adventure if you have an iron stomach or are willing to accept the results with grace. The writer herself has sampled all and has only had one occasion where it ended with numerous trips to the toilet. Do not let that scare you though.

5. Cookery

The cookery is not one specific restaurant or place, but the general name for small cooking stores that are spread all over the country. This means that it can be in a Fula store, in the middle of the street or at your neighbors. Cookery stores are fantastically cheap, serve only local food and do not have any sanitary standards. This means that you can get a plate of rice with cassava leaves for 3000le (0.50$) that will certainly fill up your stomach for the rest of the day. You can even bring your own pan or plate and fill it up to your liking.
In general, you get the choice between two or three different dishes. Do beware that the sauces are always spicy. Even when they tell you they aren’t, they are.

A special word of caution here: the biggest risk you’ll have from eating at a cookery store would be cross contamination that can lead to the oh so popular runbele, and its less funny cousin typhoid fever.But this does not always happen, and the food is very tasty, extremely affordable and a good introduction to the daily culinary life of a working Sierra Leonean.

Where to find them: ask literally anyone on the street for a cookery and they will show you the location
Risk factor: 8/10.
Price indication: 3000le- 10.000le (0.50- 1.25$)

4. Noreskar

Noreskar is a restaurant located in the centre of Freetown. It has been running for almost thirty years and is a good place to escape the hustle and bustle of town. Prices are little higher, but with that comes the security of food prepared in an actual kitchen.
Highly recommended is their fried rice with chicken, which you can get for 20.000le (3$). Oh, and beer is served cold and sold cheap.

Where to find it: Campbell street, Freetown
Risk factor: 2/10.
Price indication: 3000le- 10.000le (0.50- 1.25$)

3. Francesca’s

Maybe a bit more expensive, but still within budget, Francesca’s serves both western and Sierra Leonean dishes that have been properly spiced. Their grilled fish with Jollof rice is really well done and costs 40.000le (4.50$).

Because it is located near the Youyi building, which is home to most of the governments’ ministries, it is often filled with politicians and business men. It is rare to see a tourist in this restaurant but don’t worry about pairs of eyes observing how a foreigner eats. It is all pretty relaxed.

Where to find it: 3, Rasmusson street, Brookfields, Freetown
Risk factor: 2/10.
Price indication: 3000le- 10.000le (0.50- 1.25$)

2. Lodge: Roast meat with Kankankan

Lodge is located in Brookfields, right where King Harman road and Wilkinson road cross. As the sun sets the barbecue barrels at the corner of the street get lit and the sellers start roasting the best meat in town. Freshly prepared meat is tasty, but what makes this roast meat famous in town is the addition of the beloved kankankan.

The person who has the recipe to this mixture of spices is a rich man with many wives. This delicious concoction of spices, salt, and maggi stock cubes is sprinkled royally over your roast meat. If you’re hungry at an odd time (say, 3am), drive by Lodge and buy roast chicken, beef or liver that is then topped up with onions, tomatoes, cayenne pepper and, of course, a generous amount of kankankan. It is served on an old newspaper and you will get a toothpick as your cutlery. It is especially good after a night of wild partying and magically prevents hangovers.

Where to find it: Lodge is in Brookfield, Freetown, at the crossing between King Harman road and Wilkinson road.
Price: 15.000le/2$ for a large piece of chicken
Risk factor: 6/10 (make sure your meat is well done)

1. Spine restaurant

This place offers very cheap food (from 1$- 3$) at the best possible quality. Ideal for if you want to try out the national dish, cassava leaves with rice, with a Star beer for a total of only 2$. It’s a family run restaurant in Aberdeen that might not have the most luxurious interior design, but the food is good and cheap, the staff friendly and it comes with no surprise that most customers are regulars.
Do try out their fried chicken and their homemade ginger beer.

Word of caution: the food is hot.

Where to find it: Sir Samuel Lewis road, Aberdeen (near the Masada box)
Price: 12.000le- 20.000le (2- 3$)
Risk factor: 2/10 (make sure your meat is well done)

Esther Kamara

Esther Kamara is a Dutch-Sierra Leonean that was born and raised in Amsterdam. After finishing her bachelor Media Studies from the University of Amsterdam she moved to Freetown, where she now works as a freelance writer and artist manager. Her brainchildren are otherworldly short stories and peculiar drawings of non-existing characters.

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