Georgian food is having a moment. It’s apparent from the moment I tell someone I live in this fascinating, if not often forgotten and overlooked country in the Caucasus.
‘Oh, I love khachapuri!’ And ‘I could eat my weight in khinkali’ (who couldn’t?) are the usual declarations. But that’s usually where the conversation ends. No mention of kharcho, a traditional beef stew from Samegrelo, or ghomi, Georgia’s answer to polenta. No waxing poetic about sinori, an Adjarian dish rich and filling made from puff pastry, cheese, melted butter, and garlic, or ojakhuri, a dish almost as simple and delicious as it comes where pork, potatoes, onion, and garlic are all roasted together.
But that’s okay. It proves that it isn’t just the ingredients and care that go into these dishes that make these dishes so memorable. Georgian food is so much more than something you taste – it’s something you experience. And, even if you’re just beginning to eat your way through the deep traditions of this rich and welcoming cuisine, these moments are hard to forget.
Especially if you’re experiencing Georgian food for the first time in the country.
That’s when you really taste a Georgian tomato for the first time. When you discover the seasonality of Georgia’s bounty – mushrooms, mulberries, and all. When you begin to wish the ladies at Deserters Bazar selling you adjika and every other spice you could imagine would just adopt you and share their knowledge with you forever. It’s when the homemade wine and chacha appear out of nowhere. That’s the real heart and soul of Georgian food. That’s why people connect and adore this cuisine in unexplainable ways and why they continue to be drawn to Georgia.
That’s why these 12 Georgian restaurants in Tbilisi shine.
At 97 Uznadze Street and inside the rehabilitated bones of an old Tbilisi house, Ninia’s Garden is an oasis in the city from founder and Chef Meriko Gubeladze. As the sister restaurant to Shavi Lomi, another favorite among locals and tourists, it’s the homey feel, consistently delicious dishes, and great outdoor spaces at both restaurants that have people coming back for more. Simply put, Ninia’s Garden is an elegant and thoughtfully curated introduction to Georgian cuisine, and hospitality.
97 Dimitri Uznadze Street, Tbilisi, Georgia
Located in the courtyard of the Ilia Chavchvadze Literary-Memorial Museum, a museum dedicated to the life and work of the famous Georgian writer and political figure, Elegia is a sophisticated and uncomplicated addition to the space. Focusing on seasonal products and wild ingredients, the dishes at Elegia reflect deep layered traditions of Georgian cuisine in a way that mesmerize you from the first bite. Enjoy an afternoon in the courtyard with a bottle of natural wine shared between friends old and new, soaking in the literary inspiration that is sure to come from visiting the museum before or after this masterclass in Georgian cuisine.
7 Ivane Javakhishvili Street, Tbilisi, Georgia
Another nod to Georgia’s literary-rich history, Café Littera’s European meets Georgian cuisine embraces the country’s past while looking towards its future. Just like the Writer’s House of Georgia, where the restaurant calls home. Spend hours feasting on phkali, trout carpaccio, baked mussels, beautiful pink tomato salads topped with homemade sulguni, forest mushrooms, whole seabass, or filet mignon in the restaurant’s sprawling back garden, the atmosphere doesn’t get any better than this. One of only two restaurants to get a mention on the World’s 50 Best list, Café Littera is an institution in the city for good reason.
13 Ivane Machabeli Street, Tbilisi, Georgia
The only other restaurant in Georgia to get a World’s 50 Best acknowledgement, Barbarestan has been a force on the Tbilisi dining scene since opening its doors. Housed in an old butcher shop with meat hooks and caged singing canaries as part of the décor, the restaurant is family-owned and run with an energy and enthusiasm that’s undeniable as soon as you walk through the doors. Named after the 19th-century cookbook author Barbare Jorjadze, the food at Barbarestan is anything but antiquated. Ice cloud desserts and duck breast with chocolate sauce are just the beginning of the playful touches that set this eclectic Georgian restaurant apart from its peers.
132 Davit Aghmashenebeli Avenue, Tbilisi, Georgia
It’s the attention to detail paired with phenomenal locally sourced products that make Keto and Kote a standout in the city. Bright and delicate flavors lighten the bold and hearty notes Georgian cuisine can too often get carried away with – experiencing your favorite Georgian dishes at Keto and Kote can be like eating them for the first time. The restaurant’s white tablecloths, knowledgeable staff, and views overlooking the city make it one of the most memorable places to have a meal in Tbilisi, and not just for the food.
3 Mikheil Zandukeli Dead End, Tbilisi, Georgia
The latest restaurant to cause a buzz in Tbilisi, Chef Giorgi Ninua is defining what it means to serve Tbilisi cuisine. An upscale approach to the Georgian classics, the restaurant’s sense of self comes through in its dishes, where combinations such as chacha cured salmon, chicken ala shkmeruli with a garlic caramel sauce, and beef cheeks braised in Saperavi wine shine.
20 Ioane Shavteli Street, Tbilisi, Georgia
A self-proclaimed artisan khinkali house, these ethereal soup dumplings are the main reason to get here. Go with a group so you can taste your way through as many variations of khinkali as they have on hand, particularly the mtiuluri beef and pork boiled dumplings without herbs. Pair your khinkali with a bowl of chikhirtma, Georgian chicken soup, on a cold day and don’t forget a bottle of wine – your waiter, like all Georgians, will know what pairs best.
29 Atoneli Street, Tbilisi, Georgia
With a new location that embodies the same casual but cool atmosphere the team behind Poliphonia is known for, the restaurant’s new iteration is as strongly rooted in reviving lost Georgian dishes as it is in making their own mark on the future of the fare. Using local and seasonal ingredients and pairing with some of the best natural wines from across the country, Poliphonia’s place as one of the city’s best restaurants is as solidified – and as harmonic as the polyphonic singing the restaurant’s name comes from – as ever.
29 Chonkadze Street, Tbilisi, Georgia
You can’t come to Tbilisi and not experience one of the country’s famous dumpling houses. Located up the hill from Rustaveli Avenue, Klike’s Khinkali is a must-stop for it’s no frills but best-in-town khinkali. Throw the hand-written menu scrolled in Georgian aside and ask the waiter what you should order, and how many of these pillowy delights you should go for. Halve the number they recommend – Georgians can eat an impressive amount of these things that most mere mortals can’t – and don’t blow it by not ordering a Lagidze Water, or cold draft beer, on the side.
1 Shio Chitadze Street, Tbilisi, Georgia
Down the steps from Rustaveli Theater, Salobie Bia’s commitment to serving simple Georgian food is what continues to make it a staple in the city’s culinary scene. Centrally located and perfect for a quick lunch or unpretentious dinner while exploring the city, the shkmeruli (garlic chicken smothered in a divine walnut sauce) and lobiani (bean pastry) are a must order.
17 Shota Rustaveli Avenue, Tbilisi, Georgia
In Tbilisi’s vibrant Sololaki neighborhood, Dadi Wine, Bar and Shop is a welcomed hideaway from the bustle of Freedom Square just steps away. A place to try the funky, unconventional wines Georgia is quickly becoming known for, stop in for a glass but stay for a meal is the motto here. The seasonal a-la-cart menu is served all day and outside tables on Dadiani Street make for a great side of people watching.
4 Shalva Dadiani Street, Tbilisi, Georgia
A place where you’re more likely to sit next to a neighborhood local than an out-of-town foreigner, Mapshalia is one of the few restaurants that really give you a feel for the real Georgia, and its people. And its menu prices reflect that. Order the ostri, a slow-cooked beef stew for five Georgian lari ($2) or the khachapuri megruli for seven Georgian lari ($2.50) and wash it down with a cold Kazbegi lager, this is exactly that kind of place.
137 Davit Aghmashenebeli Avenue, Tbilisi, Georgia