The Ultimate Guide to York’s Cafes and Restaurants


Not sure where to eat out in the city? Emma McGreevy recommends some of her favourite cafes and restaurants to try out

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Image by Emma McGreevy

By Emma McGreevy

Welcome to York! Our beautiful, vibrant city is filled with cafes, bars, and restaurants to cater for everyone's tastes and preferences. Whether it’s a chill latte with friends at 200 Degrees coffee house, a night out at Salvation Club or mocktails and cocktails at Slug and Lettuce, our bustling city has something for everyone to enjoy.

Cafes and Bakeries:
An absolute favourite cafe of mine is 200 Degrees Coffee House. Opening in the centre of the city in 2021, 200 Degrees provides a space perfect for catching up with friends, researching and completing university assignments and of course enjoying great coffee and food. The cafe provides tables of all sizes with charging spaces at almost every one, making it perfect for academic work. With a chilled, relaxing ambience it’s not surprising that this coffee house is a hit. I’ve found, like many other cafes in York, the weekends are the busiest, however, a Sunday morning is a little quieter. 200 Degrees also has a range of vegetarian, vegan and gluten-free products - I strongly recommend trying the vegan Banana Bread!

One of York’s classics, Brew and Brownie has created an impressive name for itself amongst the people of York. Its wide selection of cakes, pastries and brunch menu items are difficult to resist and often lead to a long queue outside the cafe’s door! My tip if you want to try the tasty food but don’t have time to queue is to either head to the cafe on a weekday or check out its sister bakery just two doors down. Its menu is smaller but equally as delicious, with sourdough sandwiches, homemade granola pots and endless freshly baked pastries, cakes and of course brownies! I also recommend grabbing a takeaway coffee and pastry and heading to the free Museum gardens just across the road. The peaceful, historic gardens are a place of serenity, tucked away from city life. Although slightly pricey for most students, Brew and Brownie’s food and coffee is delicious and so it is a great place to treat yourself every now and then.

Ever wanted to dine in a Garden room whilst sitting on a swing seat? Well at Plush Café you can! Awarded as ‘LUX life’s Best Family-Run Local Restaurant & Bar 2022', Plush is a unique experience that caters to all. With a wide variety of food options including vegan, vegetarian and gluten-free, Plush is a big hit in York. Not only does it serve some of the best Afternoon Tea (winner of the Northern Enterprise Awards Best Afternoon Tea York 2021) but its three themed dining rooms - The Garden Room, the Art Deco-inspired Neon Room, and the luxurious Bohemian Room hold new dining experiences for customers.

Looking for a unique, relaxed place to hang out with friends? Look no further as Drift in is the spot for you! With an extensive amount of food options from topped toast, sandwiches and wraps to pancakes and French toast, Drift In offers something for everyone. Priding itself on being ‘a hub of creativity’ they use fresh ingredients for a menu that caters for vegetarian, vegan and gluten-free dietary requirements. A go-to for me is their Raspberry Heaven smoothie and their strawberries, Nutella, and ice cream French toast however their vegan Falafel wrap is also to die for. And what’s more, they offer 10% off for students with a valid student card and NHS workers as well as being a dog-friendly café that has covered their walls with the most adorable polaroid's of the pups who have visited over the years - it is precious!

Restaurants, Bars and more:
When writing an article about York’s best places to get food and drink one cannot forget about Spark! With its quirky appearance and assortment of food options Spark is the place to be. Inside you will find 11 independently run local food and drink outlets as well as ‘owl store’ clothing, Ossie studio beauty salon and ‘power and peace’ therapies Spark uses “upcycled shipping containers” to “incubate start-ups and provide a platform for growth and expansion”. Often there are quiz nights, vintage clothing sales, a cinema club and live music as well as showing live sporting events. The best thing about Spark is its range of traders creating a space which provides something for everyone; ‘el Rayo vegan cantina’ provides delicious dishes which are completely plant-based, ‘Clucking Oinks’ serves incredible fried chicken and loaded fries, ‘Spritz’ delivers a fantastic twist to the classic Aperol Spritz as well as offering variety of mocktails and cocktails and Melk creates mouth-watering hot cookies and ice cream. Supporting local start-ups and businesses is vital and always appreciated, so in my opinion, you will never go wrong with a trip to Spark.

Lucia’s Italian Bar and Restaurant is one of York's most popular dining destinations. With an extensive menu ranging from traditional Italian pizzas, pasta and risotto to the classic Sunday roast dinner, Lucia's serves up quality food surrounded by the prettiest décor ready for any Instagram post. Like other restaurants in York, the price tag is slightly more expensive for the typical student budget however they provide a good-sized portion, and the taste is most definitely worth it. Therefore, for special occasions such as birthdays and other milestones their food, cocktails and mocktails make spending that extra bit of money worth it. Furthermore, with separate vegan and gluten-free menus, Lucia’s really does cater for everyone! Although, its popularity means that you always need to book in advance, I believe it is certainly worth it.

One can’t visit York without visiting the famous York Shambles Markets and so we residents are spoiled with having it around us year-round! The diversity of foods served in the Shambles is fantastic, and similarly to Spark it provides space for smaller local businesses to find their footing and gain support. From ‘Krep’ serving up heavenly sourdough savoury and sweet crepes to Na Na Noodle’s mouth-watering noodles and rice dishes, there is truly something for all. At the weekend the most incredible brownies and traybakes are sold as well as some beautiful pieces of locally handmade jewellery. The buzz around the markets especially at the weekend is fantastic and amplifies the feeling of warmth and sense of community in York- I highly recommend checking them out!

Other favourites:

  • Bison Coffee House - a smaller café, less than a 10 - minute walk from Campus West. It has Vegan Samosas, croissants, and lots of different types of Brownies. It’s the perfect place to head to when wanting to leave campus for a quick coffee and change of scene.
  • Busk Coffee House - a smaller café just outside the centre of the town. A quieter place to either have a coffee and read a book or catch up with friends while enjoying some delightful food options.
  • Flori Bakery - one of York’s most popular independently run bakeries, Flori provides the most delicious pastries, cookies, and other goodies Friday – Saturday. It is so desirable that often there are queues out the door!
  • Little Arras Bakery - Similarly to Flori, Little Arras is a popular bakery in the centre of town. Serving the flakiest croissants and crusty baguettes, popping into Little Arras to grab a treat to take to Kings Manor Library for some studying is a must!
  • Bobos Cocktails - a favoured cocktail bar that has everything from the classic cosmopolitan to their renowned ‘Bobos Famous Zombie’ cocktail and their fresh pineapple Coladas (yes, the drinks are served inside a pineapple!), Bobos drinks always add extra fun to the night especially with their 2 for £12 cocktails Sunday- Saturday (until 6 pm) offer!
  • Dusk - similarly to Bobos, Dusk has an innovative cocktail range that is perfect for a fun night out with some friends. Their 2-for-1 deal always goes down a treat and allows you to mix and match cocktails with your friends.

Enjoy exploring York’s fantastic, extensive food options and keep up to date with MUSE’s food and drink section, where we will be reviewing more of York’s finest food and drink establishments throughout the year.