With its diverse population, Dubai’s food scene has become more vibrant than ever. Whether you’re looking for a unique dining experience, cheap eats, homegrown favourites or international meals, there’s always something to savour in the city — no matter what type of foodie you are. Check off this definitive list of must-try places:
For Emirati cuisine
Getting a taste of the local cuisine is one of the best ways to discover a destination. Dubai has a variety of influences in its dishes – from the Bedouin lifestyle to Indian spices – that makes every bite exciting.
Visit Aseelah, a fine-dining restaurant that serves traditional dishes like samak, or local fish in gravy, and contemporary choices presented with indigenous dishes such as camel stew. Another interesting place to make reservations at is Logma, a casual cafe that gives a modern twist to local favourites such as the breakfast staple chebab (a traditional Emirati bread similar to a pancake) and dessert favourite luqaimat (deep-fired dumplings drizzled with sugar, honey or date syrup).
And at Al Fanar, experience the full Arabic dining experience as you are whisked off on a trip to 1960s Dubai through dishes celebrating quintessential Emirati cuisine.
To meet homegrown heroes
Dubai has produced a number of kitchen superstars who have shone the spotlight on the city’s diverse culinary stage. Among them is Singaporean chef Akmal Anuar, who was formerly head chef at award-winning European restaurant Iggy's. The chef-prenuer is behind modern Asian restaurant, 3 Fils; discover their sushi specials and grilled seafood while dining al fresco along Jumeirah Fishing Harbour.
Well-known mobile eatery SALT is another interesting local favourite to check out. A no-frills burger joint permanently parked at Kite Beach, it is most known for its halal wagyu sliders. If you’re looking for local dessert, chocolate lovers will love the offerings of homegrown brand Mirzam, which has opened its factory for guests to experience what goes on in its bean-to-bar journey.
For a unique dining experience
When eating out, you don’t just rate your plate – you take a look at the whole dining experience. Dubai has some of the best experiential dining restaurants that truly know how to serve a memorable meal.
Defy gravity while indulging in a hearty meal at Dinner in the Sky, located at popular skydiving venue Sky Dive Dubai. Choose from a three-course lunch or dinner menu or even an afternoon menu (sweet or savoury) and be served at your table suspended 50m up in the air by a crane for a dining experience like no other. Not a fan of heights? Dress up in your Sunday best and dine ‘underwater’ at Al Mahara, a restaurant with a smart-elegant dress code, where diners are seated within a plush environment set inside an aquarium. Savour Northern European cuisine as you spot exotic fish swim around you.
For yummy street food
To get a taste of Dubai’s street food — from Syrian to South Indian, Russian to Thai — head down to 2nd December Street. Find good and cheap eats along the kilometre-and-a-half road strip in the charming district of Satwa teeming with shops and old-school eateries.
Among the most notable spots is Lebanese restaurant Al Mallah, which started as a humble juice joint in 1979. It serves mouthwatering shawarmas (meat roasted on a rotisserie or spit) and manakeesh (a popular Levantine food consisting of dough topped with thyme, cheese, or ground meat) from an extensive menu that also includes traditional favourites such as labneh (yoghurt cheese) and fattoush (Middle Eastern chopped salad).
Ravi Restaurant is another cult favourite because of its flavourful Pakistani curry and naan breads. Those with adventurous palates can order their signature brain curry.
For people-watching over coffee
You’ll easily get your caffeine fix in Dubai – it’s just a matter of knowing which coffee house suits your needs. For an unforgettable cafe visit, visit Dubai Coffee Museum located in the heritage hub of Al Fahidi. Discover the rich history of coffee and the process of roasting and brewing beans before ending your trip with a cup of gahwa, the traditional Arabic coffee.
For a taste of everything
The Dubai Food Festival is the best place to satisfy your longing for a gastronomic adventure. Usually slated in February, the event features al fresco food carnival Beach Canteen, which gathers food trucks offering the best beach bites across three different food zones. Apart from food, visitors can also sign up for cooking workshops or fitness classes right at the heart of Jumeirah Beach.
Other notable dining spots to check out: Hell’s Kitchen Dubai by celebrity chef Gordon Ramsay, Dubai's eclectic beachfront cove La Mer, outdoor lifestyle destination City Walk, luxury beach club Nikki Beach, upscale contemporary Italian restaurant Armani/Ristorante and casual dining restaurant The Cheesecake Factory
Visit www.visitdubai.com for more information on what to eat and where to find it in Dubai.