Tbilisi is one of the oldest cities in Europe and home to a kaleidoscope of food, culture and history. This food guide to Tbilisi will cover all the bases with what food to try and which restaurants to hit first. Georgia’s cuisine dates back thousands of years and is one of the most unique and diverse in the world.
While you might think the Georgian table looks a lot like it’s Russian neighbour up north, Georgian food is entirely its own thing. Heavy influence from Turkey, Persia, Russia and even the Mongols have made Georgian food what it is today. The reason for this being that Georgia was smack dab in the middle of the Silk Road, making it home to loads of cultural influence over the centuries.
In addition to these influences, Georgia has been and always will be, a proud nation. They take their food (especially wine) and culture very seriously. This is evident in not just the amount of great food you’ll find in the capital, but how passionate and willing locals are to have your try it. So, let’s get into the good stuff. What should you try?
Must Try Dishes In Tbilisi
Adjarian Khachapuri is a massive bread boat that is filled to the brim with cheese, baked and then given a generous slab of butter and a fresh egg yolk in the centre. First, stir together the egg, cheese and butter, all of which are piping hot and will blend smoothly. Then, break off a piece of the bread, dip it in the mixture and enjoy!
Khinkali are Georgian dumplings packed with your filling of choice and are always juicy, hot and filling. Traditionally, dough pockets are stuffed with meat and spices and then boiled. In Tbilisi you’ll often find pork/beef mix and up in the mountain, lamb. These are not just any old dumpling, though, they are much larger than other styles of dumplings like pelmeni or pierogi and come with lots of broth inside.
Grab the bundle on top, take a small bite from the side to suck out the juices and then eat the rest.
Long slivers of fried eggplant are smothered in walnut sauce and pomegranate seeds to create badrijani nigvzit. The walnut sauce alone is life-changing as it is packed with garlic, spices and herbs making it more of a paste than a sauce. Once combined with the eggplant and pomegranate seeds, the dish is simply unbelievable. They are served as tiny rolls, so use your hands or fork and dig in.
Georgians are notorious for taking humble dishes and creating something truly amazing out of them. Lobio is a great example of that. At first glance, it’s just a pot of beans, but in reality, it’s loaded with walnuts, onions, cilantro, fenugreek and more. Lobio is always served in a clay pot and usually 1,000 degrees. Be sure to take the lid off and stir it so that it can cool for a bit before eating.
Georgians have been making wine for over 8,000 years, so it goes without saying they know what they’re doing. The capital is home to loads of great wine bars from cosy holes in the wall to more upscale places. The unique wines that you can’t miss are saperavi (dry red), tsinandali (dry white) and mtsvane (dry white).
Where To Eat
If you are looking for slow, traditional Georgian food in a no-frills setting – Babus Qokhi is the place to be. This cosy Georgian restaurant is Tbilisi’s best kept secret and in the heart of Saburtalo. When it comes to dining, it’s about as traditional as you can get without going to a village. Walls are lined with 5-litre bottles of homemade chacha (Georgian brandy), pitchers of village wine are sold dirt cheap, and the entire place is run by a small handful of staff.
What to eat? Honestly, everything. Babus Qoki is the place to treat yourself to a full spread. Grab a lobio, khinkali, dolma, shashlik(barbecue), badrijani nigzvit, lobiani and don’t forget the wine.
Sabatono is the perfect first choice once in Tbilisi. You’ll have the option to choose from a big variety of dishes making it easy to see what you like and where it comes from. They keep it old school, too with time tested ancient recipes and no fuss over staying trendy. Order the shashik (Georgian barbecue), khinkali and khachapuri.
Tucked away in the local neighbourhood of Saburtalo, Sormoni is the real deal. Their menu is extensive, providing you with plenty of options to taste everything. From lobio to kharcho (beef stew), it’s always served fresh and delicious. Be sure to grab a seat on their patio and order a pitcher of saperavi with badrijani nigzvit.
Also in Saburtalo and just off Vazha Pshavela, you’ll find Chashnagiri. Chashnagiri has a complete Georgian menu and an atmosphere that just can’t be beat. Their ajapsandali (seasonal eggplant stew) is something of a local legend, and their wine prices aren’t half bad either. Be sure to treat yourself to a Georgian barbecue, khinkali and cheese bread.
Shavi Lomi, or ‘Black Lion’ is a cosy tucked away Georgian restaurant in Old Town. They specialize more in ‘modernized’ Georgian food with a contemporary twist, but their real claim to fame is pkhali. Pkhali is a variety of walnut paste, greens, pickles, bread and cheeses. It sounds pretty basic, but trust us, it’s delicious. While there, be sure to order the local beer ‘Shavi Lomi’.
This classic Georgian restaurant is located across the river and definitely worth the trip over. Barbarestan is adorably vintage, always authentic and at its core, a family restaurant. Run by a family of 10 who are all genuinely thrilled you’re there, eating at Barbarestan feels homey and welcoming. You’ll find a wide variety of regional dishes here as well if you are up for trying some mountain food. Be sure to try their abkhazura(spicy herby meatballs) and lobio.