There are lots of cheap eats in the bustling Centro, although not so many good ones. And at night, the place all but shuts down. However, several long-standing Soteropolitano institutions—which have been offering up delicious comida caseira (home-cooking) for decades—are definitely worth your while if you’re looking to lunch like the locals.
Close to the Pelourinho  and just off the Praça Castro Alves, Mini Cacique (Rua Ruy Barbosa 29, Centro, tel. 71/3243-2419, 11 a.m.–4 p.m. Mon.–Fri., R$15–30) is a favorite lunch destination for business people, particularly those with a liberal bent, which means it can get animated and even a little noisy. The elderly waitresses in pumpkin-colored uniforms are atypically brisk and efficient, so you won’t have to wait long to dig into the well-seasoned dishes. The daily specials are the cheapest and often the most succulent. Offerings may include ensopado de carneiro (braised lamb stew) or the classic xinxim de galinha (braised chicken cooked in palm oil). The owner is of Spanish origin, meaning that classic Bahian cooking shares menu space with some Galician fare such as tortillas and arroz ao polvo (grilled octopus with rice).
Facing a flower market in the lively neighborhood of Dois de Julho, the small and somewhat claustrophobic Porto do Moreira (Largo do Mocambinho 488, Carlos Gomes, Centro, tel. 71/3322-4112, 11 a.m.–4 p.m. Mon.–Sat., 11 a.m.–3 p.m. Sun., R$20–30) is a throwback to Bahia  of yesteryear with its tiled walls and oversized whirring fans. If it seems as if the place was ripped from the pages of a Jorge Amado novel, know that Bahia’s favorite author was an assiduous fan of the 70-year-old family restaurant’s delicious bacalhaus (Portuguese salted cod, prepared in various manners) and moquecas (including the unusual moqueca de carne, made of beef meat seasoned with dried shrimp and palm oil). To ensure a table, arrive a little on the early or late side.
For delicious Bahian food in unpretentious surroundings, grab a bus from Campo Grande  labeled “Fazenda Garcia” or hop in a cab and make for the “fim da linha da Garcia”—the last stop on the Garcia bus line—which will deposit you in the midst of the lively and popular residential bairro of Garcia. You’ll need to ask directions to find Aconchego da Zuzu (Rua Quintino Bocaiúva 18, Garcia, tel. 71/3331-5074, noon–4 p.m. Tues., 11:30 a.m.–1 a.m. Wed.–Sat., noon–4 p.m. Sun., R$20–30). It was Zuzu (now over 100 years old) who taught her family to make the Bahian specialties served in this homey backyard restaurant, with tables strewn beneath the shade of a century-old mango tree. Fish and shrimp moquecas, escabeches, and carne-de-sol (sun-dried beef) are standouts, as are the feijoadas, served on Fridays and weekends to the accompaniment of live chorinho and samba.
Meanwhile, a practical, affordable, not to mention pleasant option for lunch or dinner is the fresh and varied per kilo buffet at the Teatro Castro Alves’s Café Teatro do TCA (Rua Leovigildo Figueiras 18, Campo Grande, tel. 71/3328-5818, 11:30 a.m.–3 p.m. daily, 5–11 p.m. performance nights, R$10–15). Local and visiting musicians, dancers, and thespians performing at Salvador ’s premiere theater eat here, making it a great place for people-watching. Eat light or go for second, third, and fourth helpings—the diverse choice of salads, international, and Bahian main dishes makes it hard not to. After your meal, sink into one of the cushioned wicker chairs on the terrace for coffee or dessert. This is also a good place for a pre- or post-show cocktail.