Lovin Dubai’s TOP 10 old eateries of Dubai
These little gems could give any fancy restaurant a run for its money
Gazed at the aquarium at Atlantis, visited the ski slope in Mall of the Emirates, watched someone sprinkle 24-carat gold dust on your cappuccino at Burj Al Arab…most of us have done one or the other.
But the one thing that surprises us, or rather shocks us, is when anyone who calls Dubai their home hasn’t visited some of the city's oldest eateries. They’ve been around longer than most of us have, with the promise to offer great food minus the frills. So ditch the fine dining for fuss-free food as we unveil some of the best eateries around the historic areas of town.
Ask anyone who has schooled in the city about Ginny’s and chances are they will tell you about its mini pizzas – a regular at many school canteens. The bakery and confectionery shop, which started in 1989, credits itself for introducing these little bites to Dubai. Other popular snacks on its menu include puffs – with options ranging from chicken and sausage to cheese – as well as fresh cream cakes and cookies (the gingerbread ones being our fave so far).
04 393 1876 (from AED 1.75)
Rich Indian desserts are just one part of what Puranmal’s menu has to offer and perhaps the most popular. The city is home to a large Indian community and any celebration calls for a box (ranging from grams to kilograms) of sweet treats such as kesar pista katli (a diamond-shaped dessert made with thickened milk and sugar and flavoured with pistachio and saffron), laddoo (ball-shaped desserts made of flour and sugar) and jalebi (wheat flour batter deep-fried in spiral shapes and soaked in sugar syrup). To give you a break from the sugar rush, the menu also includes street faves such as pani puri (hollow crisps filled with flavoured water) and pav bhaji (mixed vegetables served alongside buttered bun).
04 393 7701 (from AED 15)
8. Yoko Sizzlers
Since its birth in 1986 Yoko Sizzlers has become residents’ go-to spot for all sizzler yearnings. Go with a friend or an appetite because the generous serving isn’t everyone’s cup of tea. The broad options include veal, chicken, beef, seafood, mutton and vegetarian sizzlers with tons of choices under each of them. The ones we favour are the sizzling chicken with pepper sauce and fish with oyster sauce – served with veggies and fries. (Psst… it’s okay to salivate when your food arrives as the sound of the sizzle and aromas that surround you tend to have that effect.)
04 396 8558 (from AED 18)
7. Al Mallah
Most often the traffic build-up you experience on 2nd December Street (aka Dhiyafa Street) can be attributed to the popularity of this Middle Eastern cafeteria. Forget a drive-through, here you roll down your windows and place your order with the staff standing on either side of the pavement before driving around the block. Rest assured your meal will be ready for pick-up as soon as you're back. Word of caution: traffic fines are generously given out around the area so double-parking isn’t recommended, go ahead and clock those miles instead. In cooler months, opt for a table outside and enjoy shawarmas, falafel wraps or even a platter of mixed grills while watching the world go by.
04 398 4962 (from AED 9)
6. Chicken Tikka Inn
They refer to themselves as Dubai’s oldest and finest charcoal BBQ grill restaurant in the city and we don’t deny that. Kicking off its first outlet in 1972, the chain now has branches across several areas of Dubai. A satisfying (but heavy) meal at Chicken Tikka Inn includes the signature chicken tikka (marinated in yoghurt and tandoori seasoning) with spice levels ranging from mild to hot, chapli kebabs (minced mutton mixed with green chillies, dried pomegranate and coriander seeds, shaped into flat patties and deep fried) and chicken malai boti (boneless pieces of chicken marinated in cheese, cream and herbs) – best had dipped in either raita or their homemade chutney. With a side of paratha or naan, it's common to see diners create their own wraps at their table.
04 344 5524 (from AED 10)
5. Al Reef Lebanese Bakery
The Middle East’s answer to a pizza, a manakish is something every clubber will swear by after a night of binge-drinking and if there’s one place that’s going strong on their game… it’s this Lebanese bakery. Stop by any of Al Reef's three branches (Qusais, Karama or Al Safa) at 3am to see it flocked by hungry residents waiting to sink their teeth into the soft, freshly baked bread topped with cheese, zaatar or meat.
04 396 8999 (from AED 5)
4. Delhi Darbar
If you’re craving carbs, this Mumbai chain is your calling. Though the menu offers enough to make any North Indian expat not miss home, it’s the biryanis that we endorse as brilliant enough for a visit (or two…or more). What’s so special about Delhi Darbar's biryani? Well… imagine long-grained Basmati rice with Indian spices cooked over a wood fire. And you get variations from chicken and mutton to prawn and fish. Veggies can ditch the traditional vegetable biryani for the paneer tikka one instead – marinated cottage cheese grilled and then cooked with the rice.
04 457 3750 (from AED 9)
3. Ravi Restaurant
Authentic Pakistani food is all you should expect when you set foot in Ravi Restaurant. An iconic spot in Satwa, the restaurant’s motto is simple: flavourful food served fuss-free. While the menu is meat-heavy and your dilemma could well be mutton kadai or mutton Peshawari, we strongly recommend allowing the servers to help you decide. And if you believe breakfast is the most important meal of the day, then begin it here with an order that includes brain nihari (slow-cooked beef and bone marrow stew with brain) and puri (deep fried Indian bread) served with halwa (flour/semolina based dessert).
04 331 5353 (from AED 4)
While you might find most residents walking out with boxes filled with pizzas, puffs or even its speciality cakes (we’re talking flavours including Ferrero Rocher and Florida which is topped with fresh fruits), what loyalists will vouch for are the sizzlers and the shawarmas – think chicken flavoured in a secret marinade enveloped between a grilled roti (flatbread). Weather permitting; it’s also a place where you’ll spot the young Asian community catching up outdoors over samosas and chai (tea) in the evenings.
04 3379797 (from AED 12)
1. Bu Qtair
Jumeirah Beach Road
Do show some gratitude to Google maps because without it, finding this tiny seafood joint is almost impossible. The portacabin-looking venue located along Jumeirah Beach Road serves seasoned fried fish (Hamour, Sheri and even prawns) with curry sauce. With a ‘no reservations’ policy, it’s best to head there early in the evening to grab your chair and table. The extremely efficient staff at Bu Qtair ensure service is quick so each batch of hungry diners get their share of the delish, pocket-friendly meal.
055 705 2130 (from AED 40)
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