We’ve previously shared that our first and foremost reason for wanting to travel to Georgia was for the food. (Be sure to check out our article about Georgian cuisine.) We got our first taste of real Georgian food at a mix of Tbilisi restaurants ranging from casual to upscale. Here are six of our favorite Tbilisi restaurants from our trip to Georgia.
Bread is a big part of Georgia’s cuisine. The ever-present khachapuri cheese pie starts with bread. When we walked into the Bread House we were immediately greeted with the sight of a baker baking bread in the Georgian bread oven, a round vessel with fire at the bottom and with sides so hot that when the baker slaps the dough onto the side, the bread sticks and bakes. While bread is Bread House’s specialty, it isn’t the only thing they serve, as they have a menu full of Georgian specialties. Bread House has a homey yet upscale vibe.
Maspindzelo is part of the same restaurant group as the Bread House and is just next door. Maspindzelo is where locals go when they’ve had a late night and need some sustenance, usually in the form of dumplings or soup. Maspindzelo is where you want to go if you’re looking for an inexpensive, casual, Georgian meal. Khinkali are Georgian soup dumplings that are perfect with a cold Georgian beer, and Maspindzelo makes some of the best khinkali in Tbilisi. Just make sure you do it right by dousing your dumplings in black pepper. Maspindzelo is also known for khashi, a brothy soup of offal that is a popular Georgian hangover cure.
We learned something interesting about Georgian restaurants. Typically in Europe, the best restaurants are small, cozy, and intimate. In Georgia, this isn’t the case. Georgians prefer their restaurants to be big and roomy with plenty of space between the tables. The Georgian House is a high-class Georgian restaurant. It is huge with lots of tables, lots of space, and lots of decoration inside to make it look 19th century. In addition to traditional Georgian food, Georgian House offers guests a complete Georgian cultural experience with Georgian music, Georgian dances, and Georgian films. We were fortunate enough to visit on the restaurant’s three-year anniversary and be entertained with performances of dance and song.
PurPur Gudiashvili Garden
PurPur Gudiashvilie Garden is an upscale and eclectic Tbilisi restaurant that serves modern cuisine. PurPur is popular with locals and expats. When we walked in to PurPur we were greeted by a riot of colors, patterns, and textures in the form of floral upholstered chairs, mismatched tablecloths and rugs, and a mix of light fixtures and wall adornments. The food is not traditional, but rather leans towards the contemporary with items like sashimi and seafood salads. Be sure to visit one or both of the bathrooms, which are as lavishly decorated as the dining room.
No. 1 Sakhachapure
No. 1 Sakhachapure is a casual, fast food type restaurant in the same building as the Rustaveli Cinema. As its name suggests, it is a popular place for khachapuri, a Georgian staple. Other fun things to order there are Lagidze water, carbonated soda flavored with natural flavors like grape, tarragon, or chocolate, and freshly made puffy pastries filled with vanilla cream. When these pastries are cooking, the entire restaurant smells of cinnamon and sugar.
Café Leila serves traditional Georgian cuisine with a twist, because everything on the menu is vegetarian. We are far from being vegetarian, but we found we didn’t even miss the meat in Café Leila’s hearty vegetarian dishes. Our lunch included chvishtari, cornbread filled with cheese served with a beetroot and plum sauce (a thousand times better than any fried cheese stick), and vegetarian kharcho, made with eggplants and zucchini in a walnut and pomegranate sauce and served over hominy. The restaurant itself is colorful, decorated in a Moorish-inspired style.