In general, eating out in fancy restaurants is expensive in Sri Lanka, far more so than at local eateries. Most big restaurants are needlessly expensive and do not provide authentic, wholesome Sri Lankan fare.
Beef is not as easily available (or hygienic) as chicken/fish/goat meat. The Muslim populace, as a matter of religious practice, do not eat pork while the Tamil people avoid beef.
Sri Lankan food makes good use of the local fruits, seafood, and spices. One can enjoy multiple cuisines and also some new 'fusion' foods, created with a twist. Besides the staple curry, rice and Sri Lankan tea, you can savour European dishes, tweaked to accommodate local Sri Lankan ingredients.
Sri Lankan dishes you should try:
Being a Buddhist country, vegetarian and vegan options are plentiful. Buddhists practice ahimsa or non-violence, which is against the slaughter of animals for food. This is a paradise for all vegetarian/vegan foodies.
Best Vegetarian Restaurants in Colombo:
The fast food/street food scene in Sri Lanka's busy markets and urban hubs is amazing. There are many options and the cost is reasonable. The food available in these eateries might be uninspiringly the same, but it is fresh, clean and tasty.
Everywhere you go, in case you are not too hungry, you can order a plate of short-eats, which are different types of baked or fried breads, stuffed with fish, potato, etc. These savoury snacks are available in small paan vans or modified tuk tuks which materialise magically around tea-time.
A popular site for a quick meal is Galle Face Green with vendors packed around the lawn.
As with cabs and taxis, there is no practice of tipping a percentage of your bill at restaurants. It is just not done.
Drinking in Sri Lanka is an expensive proposition. Customarily, alcohol is not consumed with meals. In certain ethnic groups, it is regarded as taboo and considered undignified, especially for women.
The choice of hot beverage in Sri Lanka is black leaf tea, a custom left-over from their colonial past. It is drunk hot, sweet and with milk, or black. Usually, it is served in fine bone china tea cups. Though coffee is available, it is not as per the European or American taste/way of brewing it.
Fresh coconut water and wood-apple drinks are refreshing alternatives. Ginger beer is locally produced and a tasty drink.
Water from the tap is generally avoided and drinking packaged water, after checking the expiry date, is advisable. Locals use boiled water for drinking purposes.
Any alcohol which is imported would be fine, though expensive in Sri Lanka. For example, imported wines are very expensive. Local beer however, is a decent choice and much cheaper. The other local alcoholic product is fermented coconut water or Arrack, which is served with ginger-beer or in other combinations.
Twenty-one is the legal drinking age in Sri Lanka. Till quite recently, there was a ban on women buying alcohol. Though it has since been lifted, conservative views surrounding liquor and drinking practices still prevail.
Other restrictions, like drinking and driving, are rarely enforced.
For cafes and places to chill over a coffee (or tea), there are several options. Colombo, specially, has several coffee places where one can sit, chat with friends or just enjoy a cuppa.
Recommended cafes in Colombo: