What and where to eat in Dubai

Diverse flavors from every corner of the world

Dubai: A kaleidoscope of cultures all thrown into the desert frying pan.

Melinda HealyJournalist and travel writer
15 September 2022

Dubai tantalizes taste buds with mouth-watering street food, local treats and sweets, and it’s a destination that’s renowned for its world-class culinary connoisseurs who consistently dish up five-star fare.

Best for local food

Sample traditional eateries with homestyle dishes and beverages that the locals have been enjoying for centuries.

Al Fanar Restaurant

All about introducing visitors to traditional Emirati cuisine, Al Fanar proudly serves up as much nostalgia as it does cultural immersion. With a menu that features everything from shakshuka, breakfast burritos, paratha wraps and Emirati breakfast trays, dining here is delivered with as much education as it is taste explosions.

You’ll no doubt love the rustic and museum-like appeal of each of Al Fanar’s four Dubai sites and while I’m sure you’ll agree a meal here is more old town than modern marvel, that is its calling card.

Address: Al Seef Street, Al Hamriya, Al Seef / Pond Park, Al Barsha 2, Al Barsha / Souk Al Bahar and Ground Floor, Dubai Festival City Mall

The Arabian Tea House

Step back in time and enjoy genuine home-style cooking Emirati-style. Whether dining in for breakfast, more interested in barbecue, or simply want a cup of gahwa (traditional Arabic coffee), you can savor it in this charming oasis. Authentically decorated to reflect days gone by, the tea house in the Al Fahidi Historical District once belonged to a local pearl merchant.

It’s not the only branch in Dubai though – the tea house team has expanded and now has outlets in The Mall Jumeirah and the Jumeirah Archaeological Site. You’ll enjoy the ambience and flavors here, and no doubt the friendly staff too.

Address: Bastakiya Opposite Musalla Post Office, Al Fahidi Street, Bur Dubai

Al Khaimah Heritage Restaurant and Cafe

Also within the Al Fahidi District, this eatery is a nod to Dubai’s yesteryears. From the thatched palm placemats to the Arabesque lanterns and traditional courtyard set-up, every detail throughout the cafe provides a flavor of tradition.

Handpicked fresh ingredients are the name of the game here and the menu spans everything from Emirati pancakes (locals call this chebab) to sizzling seafood sharing platters.

Indulgence is expected when you commit to a meal at this popular Bur Dubai favorite. The breakfast offerings are the standout here, with dishes like balaleet (sweet vermicelli with egg) keeping the locals – and visiting tourists – coming back for more, time after time.

Address: Al Serkal’s Heritage House, Bastakia, Al Fahidi Street, Meena Bazaar

Star-worthy eateries

Whether it’s the décor, the views, the reputation or the atmosphere, these restaurants all offer a ‘wow’ effect that goes beyond the food.


Inspired by all things oceanic, this fine-dining restaurant seriously impresses and as such deserves its position within the wow-worthy Atlantis, The Palm hotel. Dining with the fishes, sharks and stingrays that swim on by while you chow down does come at a price, but if it’s gobsmacking surrounds and delectable seafood you’re looking for, then this is the restaurant for you.

Ossiano is renowned for its 10-course seafood degustation, and of course head chef Gregoire Berger. Chef Berger is considered one of the UAE’s most innovative and he runs a world-class service team. It’s the ideal spot for a romantic dinner or special occasion.

Address: Atlantis, The Palm, Crescent Road, Palm Jumeirah

Tasca by Jose Avillez

Tasca is a triple-threat-style taverna with Portuguese cuisine at its core. Jose Avillez is a whizz at taking staple ingredients and turning them into delicious, visual masterpieces with punch. Positioned on the rooftop at the Mandarin Oriental Jumeira, you will no doubt be as taken by the spectacular skyline views as you are by the menu.

The marble bar in the center of the restaurant is a show unto itself with the team’s creative mixologists shaking and stirring all manner of cocktails. The action in the open kitchen is fascinating for foodies keen on seeing the masters of the kitchen preparing your meal. For the full experience, this eatery ticks all the boxes.

Address: Mandarin Oriental Jumeira, Jumeirah Beach Road, Dubai

Torno Subito

With a man like Massimo Bottura at the helm, guests at Torno Subito are guaranteed world-class food with an ambience to match. There is no denying that this restaurant is deserving of the Michelin star it was awarded when the Guide launched in Dubai.

In keeping with the W Hotel it operates within, the restaurant is fun and full of personality. Patrons are given quite the welcome, greeted by bright lights, mirrors, and Bottura’s face beckoning them inside. It’s like going from one world to another, as you make your way into a 1960s version of the Italian Riviera. The pastel color palette gives it a light, sort of airy-fairy feel, while the furnishings are of that time, which is thought of fondly by many.

The service is exemplary but not pretentious, the coastal position welcomed, and the food understated yet sophisticated and full of flavor. Choose from a five-course tasting menu or opt for a la carte, it’s up to you.

Address: Ground floor, W Dubai, West Palm Crescent, Jumeirah


The food scene in any city in the world is not the same without Nobu’s presence. As is the case worldwide, the Dubai establishment is often referred to as the city’s best Japanese restaurant. With a home like Atlantis, The Palm, it’s already got a winning location, and when you add to that the breadth of Japanese-Peruvian flavors, its sake selection and, of course, its brunch offering, you know you’re in for a delectable dining experience.

You can’t go past Nobu Matsuhisa’s iconic black cod miso, his sensational sushi, not to mention his mouth-watering premium wagyu beef tacos. Sleek in its design and rich in appeal, a meal here is worth every cent – it’s all about delicious food, skill, and entertainment. The dress code is smart casual.

Address: Ground Level, The Avenues, Atlantis, Palm Jumeirah

For the showmanship

An evening at one of these eateries goes beyond filling your stomach – it’s pure entertainment. Be dazzled by interactive displays of culinary mastery where you’re front and centre.

Hell’s Kitchen

As the chorus of ‘Yes Chef’ resonates from the lively open kitchen, you’d be forgiven for thinking you had walked onto the set of Gordon Ramsay’s reality TV show of the same name. Emblazoned with HK logos and the flaming pitchforks synonymous with the popular cooking show, the atmosphere and quality of the dishes served up here make this one of Dubai’s standout culinary offerings.

It doesn’t hurt that Hell’s Kitchen is right at home at Caesars Palace Hotel – the only one in the world without an accompanying casino. Everything on the Hell’s Kitchen menu is first-class, and the service team is friendly and efficient.

Don’t leave without following up the succulent Beef Wellington with Ramsay’s signature toffee pudding, which you simply have to make room for!

Address: On pool level at Palace Tower, Caesars Palace Dubai, Bluewaters Island.


This Omakase experience is an intimate yet lively affair – experiential dining at its best. There are just nine seats available in this cozy setting with full attention paid to Japanese culinary king and sixth generation sushi master Masahiro Sugiyama who never fails to disappoint with his knife skills.

Guests guide each night’s menu according to their specific preferences, which means that every meal is different, highlighting not only Sugiyama’s skills but celebrating fresh ingredients and creativity.

Specialities you can expect to enjoy include Japanese omelets, fatty tuna cheek, and deliciously decadent seared octopus tentacles, not to mention plenty of handcrafted sushi.

Address: Bulgari Resort, Jumeira Bay Island, Dubai

MasterChef TV restaurant

Whether you opt for the Mystery Box, or choose the MasterChef pairing menu, those who are familiar with the international MasterChef cooking show format will know they’re in for a treat. For those who are not, MasterChef launched the careers of many hopeful chefs and this concept sees the best talent identified take to the kitchen for your culinary pleasure.

I can tell you that the Mystery Box experience is a fun way of enjoying a meal out. You choose one appetizer and dessert from the menu, as well as a choice of protein for the main meal – once this is done, the MasterChef team whips up a three-course meal from which you’ll be asked to guess the two mystery ingredients from each course.

It’s an interactive experience and as appealing to those who know nothing about the reality cooking show as it is to fans of the concept.

Address: Ground Floor, Millennium Place Marina, Dubai.

Best for Vegans

These restaurants have dishes that are so mouth-watering, you won’t even realise they’re also better for the planet and your health.

Wild and The Moon

Fresh juices, nut milks, salads, soups and desserts all contribute to make this Alserkal Avenue eatery popular with vegan foodies across the emirate. The ethos here is that food should be good for you and good for the planet, which is why it focuses on, in their own words, ‘slow food set to a natural beat’.

Expect organic ingredients and traditional techniques, while all products are homemade without refined sugars, additives, gluten, GMOs, dairy, etc, so if you’ve got dietary needs, this is one of the spots to seek out. It’s relaxed and welcoming and full of yummy menu items.

Address: Alserkal Avenue, Street 8, H77, Al Quoz

Ce La Vie

With a name that means ‘This is Life’ in French, many of you will already be saying oui to this rooftop establishment. Right at home within the Address Sky View hotel, this eatery is considered one of the best vegan restaurants in town. The tagliatelle mushroom fricassee is top-notch, while other menu items, like roasted cauliflower and vegan gluten free chocolate cake will tickle plenty of taste buds.

Ce La Vie does offer other non-vegan dishes too, so if there are mixed tastes in your traveling party, this is a good spot. It’s a lovely, casual, relaxed vibe and the views are sensational.

Address: Tower 2, Level 54, Address Sky Views, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Blvd

Koko Bay

A taste of Bali on the beach in Dubai, it’s an interesting mix but it works thanks to its ‘sense of calm and an essence of mystery’ mantra. Experience Far-Eastern flavors combined with a European touch in dishes like truffle dim sum, poke bowls, and the ‘very vegan’ salad. Non-vegans are welcome here too, with dishes to suit their tastes also part of the menu.

One thing I do know, apart from the fact you’ll enjoy a good dose of coastal cuisine bliss, is that you must make room for dessert – Choco Loco, Hawaiian Pineapple Carpaccio and vegan ice cream – yummo! Rustic and relaxing, Koko Bay doesn’t disappoint.

Address: Unit 3, West Beach, Palm Jumeirah

Food Tours: Frying Pan Adventures

There is something about discovering the food scene in a foreign country in a group with a guide who knows all the best places to go and what to try. Established by sisters Arva and Farida Ahmed in 2013, the team at Frying Pan Adventures offers small group or private food tours in which tourists (and locals) will spend three to four hours together decoding the dishes you simply must try, but perhaps wouldn’t know about if they were going it alone.

Not only will you taste great food, you’ll learn about its origins and the stories behind it. Whether you choose a Middle Eastern Pilgrimage or a Little India tour, one thing is for sure – you’ll leave not only full of flavorsome food, but also full of knowledge.

As there are various options and prices to match, it’s best to go online and book your ticket – that’s when you’ll find out where to meet etc.

Cultural Meals: Sheikh Mohammed Center for Cultural Understanding

One of the most humbling and cultural food experiences you can have in the Emirates is here at the Sheikh Mohammed Center for Cultural Understanding. Everyone is welcome to sit down and enjoy traditional Emirati cuisine and meaningful conversations in what is one of the oldest neighborhoods in Dubai, the Al Fahidi District.

Taste new food, make new friends and ask as many questions about the food and the culture as you like. The Center’s open door policy is all about education, so you are expected to bring your cameras, your curiosity and be willing to enjoy shared experiences and traditions.

The meals are led by Emirati community leaders, so give them the respect they deserve and dress conservatively for the occasion – you will be sitting on the floor as the locals do, so do also bear that in mind.

Private sessions can be booked if you’re interested in those. You can choose from breakfast, lunch, dinner meals or morning/afternoon tea.

Address: House 26 Al Fahidi Historical Neighborhood, Al Musallah Street, Bur Dubai.

Best Budget choices

Fragrant, filling and at a fraction of the cost of most other restaurants in Dubai, these humble eateries pack a punch everywhere but your wallet.

Aappa Kadai

You wouldn’t guess it from the outside, given its position among plenty of other multicultural eateries across the emirate, but the Tamil community doesn’t lie. Aappa Kadai serves up some of the best tea around – for just AED 1 – and their biryani is full of flavor too.

Standout dishes at this humble Tamil eatery include the ghee rice, beef gravy and mutton biriyani. Vegetarian? No problem, in fact it serves up a cross-section of meals from cuisines including South Indian, Tandoori and Chinese.

Aappa Kadai’s speciality is Aappam, the pancakes made from coconut milk and fermented rice batter.

Address: 16th Street, Deira / Shop No 4 – 6, Building #18, Zen 2, Discovery Gardens

Hanoi Naturally

Small in size but big on great authentic Vietnamese food, Hanoi Naturally serves up everything from vegetarian pho, miso ramen, gyoza and bao. The best thing about this franchise is that the food is fabulous, flavorful and a fraction of the cost of the fancier Vietnamese fine-dining restaurants that will burn a hole in your wallet.

If you’re OK with plain, simple decor, no frills about it and are happy for the food to do the talking, this should be on your dining go-to list while in Dubai.

Address: Jumeirah Lakes Towers, Dubai

Bu Qtair Fish Restaurant

Fried fish, curry sauce and paratha bread has become a Dubai institution and the magic comes from the humble Bu Qtair kitchen. More of a fish shack than a restaurant, the food here is as fresh and as simple as you can get, but it sure does pack a punch – you just have to look at the queues of people lined up to get it.

So what’s their secret? Well, it’s as simple as catching the freshest fish in the morning, marinated and fried. Early evening is the best time to visit – you’ll order, take a ticket and wait outside. Drinks are limited, but you really should try a karak chai tea – an aromatic, sweet milky offering, that’s super popular in these parts.

The price of the fish is determined by weight. Try the hammour, it’s delicious.

Address: ​​Old 32B Street Fishing Harbor 2, Umm Suqeim 2, Dubai

Like nothing else: Dinner in the Sky

Dubai is all about doing things ‘big’ and there’s not too much bigger than this when it comes to dining out here. If you are OK with heights, then having a meal at a table that’s suspended 50 meters in the air will be no problem, right? I’ve done it and, while a little jittery at first, it is a cool experience.

Considered one of Forbes’ top 10 most unique dining experiences, this has to be tried at least once.

Whether you choose to join a lunch or dinner sitting, you can expect to be up in the air over Dubai Marina for about 60 minutes. Able to seat 22 per session, the table which is suspended by a crane, slowly rotates as you enjoy the views and the food, so that you are able to take in the view from every possible vantage point.

Considered one of Forbes’ top 10 most unique dining experiences, this has to be tried at least once. Just don’t drink too much beforehand – if the crane has to come down for a bathroom break, that’s you done.

Address: Al Sufoh, Sky Dive Dubai

Best one-stop shop

If you’re hungry and wanting to get that perfect foodie Instagram shot, head to one of these ‘must see to believe’ establishments. There is something to delight your eyes and stomach here.

Last Exit

This ultra-cool concept is unlike anything the emirate has to offer and it’s as funky as it is flavorful. Last Exit is a pit stop to rival all pit stops. A multitude of themed street food vans parked side by side with the hungry hordes able to drive through or park and wander the site, which has a few games for the kids and bathrooms that have to be seen to be believed.

Besides the tasty food and drink options – everything from Mexican, Asian, even Starbucks – this is a photo opp stop if ever I saw one. There are four Last Exit sites across Dubai.

Address: Al Khawaneej, Al Qudra, Abu Dhabi bound near Dubai Parks and Resorts.

Tania’s Teahouse

A perfect place for Insta snaps, Tania’s Teahouse is quaint, cute and full of personality, and there’s a reason it holds 7th spot on the world’s most instagrammable cafes. ‘Hey there Habib-tea’ is just one of the clever slogans that emblazon the walls inside this tea-inspired establishment.

The two-story cafe is a delight from the moment you walk through the doors. The menu has been thoughtfully crafted and includes specialty flavored teas, coffee and food with a ‘punny’ theme. Tania, the brains and beauty behind the concept, is as stylish and engaging as her namesake. It’s a friendly, feel-good vibe, and not to be missed.

Address: Villa 779a on Jumeirah Beach Road, between Al Thanya Street and Al Manara Street, Dubai

Must-try local fare

When in Dubai, these you must try. Whether you’ve tried all of these dishes or haven’t heard of a single one before, the ones you can sample in Dubai taste extra delicious.


This Middle Eastern favorite is something you must try while in Dubai. There are plenty of hole-in-the-wall outlets serving up these delicious parcels of goodness. Expect an Ottoman-inspired pita bread cone stacked with thinly sliced rotisserie meat – you can choose from traditional lamb or mutton, or other meat options including chicken, beef, veal or turkey.


This Lebanese taste explosion is typically eaten at breakfast time, and believe me, once you’ve had one, you will never be the same again. Manousheh is a traditional white flatbread that’s embellished with meat, cheese, herbs and even sugary treats it’s often referred to as ‘carb-charged comfort food’. Available at most bakeries and oh so good!

Al Harees

A mainstay of Emirati cooking, this dish is one of Dubai’s most popular. A combination of wheat, meat and a sprinkle of salt. It may sound like a basic recipe, and it is, but it actually takes quite a long time to make. Available on the menu of many Dubai eateries, even some of the finest, Al Harees is a popular special occasion, wedding, and banquet dish.

Al Machboos

This rice-based dish, or kabsa as it is also known (meaning ‘pressed’ in Arabic), originated in Saudi Arabia but has been adopted by many countries within the Middle East. Combining basmati rice with meat – lamb, chicken or seafood – soaked in delicious spices. Al Harees is a dish of celebration, street food and a home-cooked comfort dish.


Delicious, creamy and slightly sweet, this traditional dessert hits the spot every time. Made from kataifi, a spun pastry soaked in sugar syrup (attar) and filled with cheese, cream or nuts. Kanefeh should be served straight out of the oven.


A champion of the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region, the chickpea dip is a celebration of all things produced locally. Whether eaten as an addition to breakfast, lunch or dinner, sometimes hummus can even be its very own meal. Most travelers will know about this global staple, but eating it here is a whole other experience.

About the author

Melinda HealyAlthough born in PNG, Mel is an Aussie-made journo who's always been more interested in passport stamps than possessions. A whiz with words, Mel spent a number of years living and working in the United Arab Emirates, it was here that she shared insight into Dubai and Abu Dhabi with the world. Mel believes travel is a privilege and an educator.