One of the most important things I try to experience when I travel is the food. Before coming to Georgia, I had no idea what Georgians ate. I can now happily say that no matter what I tasted, it was simple yet delicious.
If traveling to Georgia, there are two foods you will get familiar with quickly – khachapuri and khinkali. They are readily available everywhere and they are usually cheap.
Khachapuri is the most common. You can find little joints everywhere selling fresh khachapuri. Very simply, it’s bread stuffed with cheese. Some restaurants will offer several different local variations of it. Honestly, they all tasted the same to me – delicious.
Khinkali are dumplings ordered by the piece. Usually five are enough for a filling meal. They are normally filled with beef, pork, mushrooms, or cheese. I preferred khinkali over any other Georgian food. When you eat them, be careful because the juices from the meat could squirt out at you. It’s better to suck the juices out before taking a bite (or if you choose, let them drain). Apparently, the doughy knot at the top is not supposed to be eaten. I don’t care – that was usually my favorite part.
I visited three restaurants during my stay in Tbilisi. First, Shemoikhede Genatsvale in Old Tbilisi (there is another location, I guess). I had my first khachapuri there along with khinkali soup. The khachapuri was of course delicious. The khinkali soup was tasty but very watery and there weren’t many khinkali. They were also bite-sized, about five times smaller than the normal khinkali. Prices were a bit high compared to other Georgian restaurants, probably due to being featured in lots of guide books. Service was also kind of slow which was annoying because it was almost totally empty.
Next, I went to Puris Sakhli (Bread House). It was a little hard to find because there is no sign in English. It’s a little hidden off the main road near the river in Abanotubani. To start, I had grilled eggplant stuffed with walnut sauce and topped with a pomegranate seed. This was excellent. I also had some khinkali, which were the best I had during my trip, and a kebab wrapped in flatbread. While the food and service were incredible, the ambiance was a bit, shall we say, “mafia”. That was how it was described when I Googled it, and the description was spot on. There was live music and a very strange crowd, but the prices, which are expensive by Georgian standards, didn’t seem too high. The free wifi was also nice.
Finally, I got sucked into the interesting decor at the third restaurant I visited. Yeah, I’m embarrassed, but it looked so cool! Saidabad, located at the end of the Metekhi Bridge, has a very Middle Eastern look and feel to it. The menu looked intriguing with a selection of Georgian and Azerbaijani dishes, but the prices were ridiculous. I probably should have left, but I sucked it up and ate there. At least the food was good. I had a very tender pork shashlik (kebab) and veal dumpling soup. Anyway, skip it. You’re better off eating at the cheap place next door.
For tipping, all three restaurants added 10% service charge to the bill. Otherwise, tipping isn’t customary in Georgia.