Home > Tourist Guide > Table of contents > Travel basics > Swiss food > Main meals
The line between a café and a restaurant is blurred: either can normally do you a meal, although generally only at set times (mostly noon–2pm & 6–10pm), with only snacks available in between. A Restaurant, restaurant, ristorante, is more or less the same as an inn (Beiz, Gasthof, Gaststätte, Gasthaus; auberge; grotto, osteria), although somewhere with the latter name probably serves more traditional local cuisine. Both generally take at least one day a week off as a holiday (Ruhetag, jour de repos, giorno di chiusura). Also watch out for alkohol-frei or sinalco establishments, as well as the noticeably tiny number of places with smoking restrictions.
Eating out can knock a big hole in your budget. The key to avoiding excessive expense is to make lunch your main meal, and always to plump for the dish of the day or menu (Tagesmenu, Tagesteller, Tageshit; plat/assiette du jour; piatto del giorno) – often comprising two or even three courses of substantial, quality nosh, whether in a café or a proper restaurant, for around Fr.15. The English term can be confusing: note that in all eating-places the menu is the particular dish or dishes on offer that day, while the house list from which you select individual courses is called the Karte or Speisekarte, carte, carta. Lunch menus are by far the least expensive way to sample the best of Swiss cuisine, and even Michelin-starred gourmet restaurants will have exquisite multi-course lunches for Fr.25–40 (not including wine). The same meal in the evening, or choosing à la carte anytime, can easily cost double, although beerhalls in the German-speaking cities often serve hearty inexpensive evening meals, and – depending on where you are – pizza-pasta joints and simple informal eateries can fill your stomach for Fr.15–20.
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