We only spent a few days in Tbilisi, but we always like to explore the local food options! This guide on where to dine in Tbilisi, Georgia, lists our favorite restaurants, and should help you make the best of a short stay in Tbilisi.
Firstly, what exactly is Georgian cuisine? Given its location, Georgian cuisine is a mixed bag of Asian, European and Turkish influences. Sitting smack bang in the middle of the traditional East–West trade routes, Georgians have been able to pick the tastiest of what the Greeks, Mongols, Turks, and Arabs were cooking on the Silk Road. Sauces are richly spiced and usually based on berries found in the region, and the carb-heavy menu always features a healthy dose of bread. Walnuts are in everything. Food is central to Georgian life, meant to be shared, and plentiful.
If you’re a vegetarian, you might struggle a bit with traditional Georgian cuisine, given the meat-heavy dishes that are most popular. In saying that, meat has been seen as a luxury in Georgia’s past, so you can usually find an interesting array of salads. It’s a little worse if you’re a vegan – dairy abounds in every meal, in ways you weren’t even sure were possible. Cheese dumplings? Deep fried cheese in nuts? Sure, don’t mind if I do! Cheese also seems to be a central feature of many dishes, with a wide number of varieties to pick from. Vegetables, when available, are usually of the root variety, though we saw beans and peppers as well. The classier the restaurant, the more likely you will be able to find nice, fresh grilled vegetables.
FOR A FANTASTIC VIEW AND DELICIOUS MEAT
Located at the top of the Funicular Complex (just in front of Mtatsminda Park), we were pretty hungry by the time Chela Funicular opened their doors. Lucky for us, despite its touristy location, the food was great. We ate juicy, tasty mtsvadi – both chicken and pork. Matt was even able to find his old favorite, pork ribs. The view from the top is stunning, even from inside. A great place to gather your energy before winding your way down through Old Tbilisi.
FOR A TAPAS, GREAT WINE AND PEOPLE WATCHING
N49 D. Aghmashenebeli Ave
Part of Agmashhenebeli Avenue, which was just down the road from our AirBnB, is a pedestrian street. The street is filled with lots of restaurants and eateries, most of which are tourist traps. Amber Bar is a beautiful local wine bar which, on the Wednesday night we visited, offered live music. The food was amazing – using tasty local meats, cheese and honey. We had a meat and cheese platter, breads, hummus, cheese coated in nuts (yum!) and finally, some random little tacos to finish. Matt sampled several delicious local wines. Best of all, you can sit right on the street for people watching. Highly recommended!
TO EXPERIENCE SOMETHING COMPLETELY DIFFERENT – AND TASTY
N132 D. Aghmashenebeli Ave
As one of the best rated restaurants in Tbilisi, we were lucky to sneak in a reservation at Barbarestan. A family run restaurant, it bases its culinary offerings on Princess Barbare Jorjadze‘s cookbook Georgian Cuisine and Tried Housekeeping Notes from the late 19th century. The staff were even kind enough to show us a copy of the cookbook! We truly ate like kings here – everything was fresh, delicious and well thought out. We ordered two mains to share, and the helpings were immense! Starting with fried onions and walnuts and smoked sulguni, we had roast beef in red wine and duck fillet in quince as our mains. We decided to treat ourselves to dessert – apple pie and mille-feuille – and were not disappointed. If you visit one restaurant while in Tbilisi, make it Barbarestan.
FOR TRADITIONAL GEORGIAN PUB GRUB
37/46 Griboedovi Street
MUST TRY DISHES
Khinkali – Anyone that knows me knows that I love a good dumpling. These delicious little treats – usually sold only in lots of 10 – contain boiled or steamed meat, all tied together with a little knot at the top. I remember reading somewhere that it’s polite to leave the little knot on the plate, rather than eat it.
Chvishtari – cheese corn bread. It was good. Very, very good.
Khachapuri – more cheese bread. You are seeing a tasty theme here.
Mtsvadi – various forms of meat on a stick. We have pork, chicken and lamb, and they were all delicious!
Churchkhela – given I had already blown my carb intake by eating my weight in dumplings and bread, I skipped on these sweet, sausage like confections. Made of concentrated grape juice poured over walnuts, they’re apparently a great source of protein. And sugar.
Tarkhun – tarragon lemonade. Go on. I dare you.