One thing for sure when visiting Dubai, you will never go hungry. There are so many restaurants in town I’m pretty sure you’ll find something to suit you, unless you have a hankering for Sweet & Sour Pork or a rack of baby back ribs that is.
(Pork is sold in some restaurants, but the pickings are very slim and in my experience not very well prepared. If pork is on the menu or on the buffet you will find a limited selection that will be clearly labeled as containing pork.)
Dubai is home to many of your favorite fast food franchises and restaurant chains. McDonald’s, Wendy’s, KFC, Pizza Hut, Starbucks, just to name a few, are in all the malls and around town. Chili’s, TGIF, IHOP, Red Lobster, Outback, and many others have places in the malls and around town as well. You’ll also find local franchises and chains as well as those from around the world which we Americans aren’t always familiar with.
In short Dubai is truly a melting pot of culinary delights.
When we travel we prefer to eat at local restaurants and sample the area’s cuisine; but I have to admit that a Quarter Pounder at McDonald’s or a pan pizza at Pizza Hut can be comforting when you’ve been abroad for a while and are missing home. That’s why every so often we’ll grab a quick lunch at one of those familiar places. (Half-way thru a 10 day Baltic Cruise a few years ago my daughter spotted a McDonald’s in the old town area of Tallin, Estonia and insisted on having a cheeseburger. She never eats them at home, but said she was tired of cruise and foreign cuisine, she just had to have something familiar.)
But really one of the best parts of traveling is trying different foods at local establishments. Dining like the locals is a great way to experience the culture of the areas you’re visiting. Dubai is no exception, they have many fine restaurants that serve traditional Middle East cuisine as well a cuisine from around the world. So yes do pop in at Chili’s or Pizza Hut when you’re in need of some familiar comfort food, but don’t leave town without at least trying something different.
Here are some of my favorite Dubai restaurants I hope you’ll check one or two out, you might go home with a new favorite dish!
Al Halabi Restaurant located in the Fashion Dome section of the Mall of the Emirates is our all time favorite for Lebanese cuisine.
You can’t miss it, it’s on the right side of the fountain on the ground level in the Fashion Dome section of the mall. (PF Chang’s is near by and Fauchon is across the aisle).
From mezzes to dessert this place serves delicious Arabic food and has very good service.
It is a bit pricier than other Middle East restaurants in the same mall, but it’s truly worth the price. We eat here several times whenever we’re in town.
They offer a variety of hummus, baba ganouj, toum (garlic dip), and other dips all served with freshly baked pita bread. If you’re not too hungry just order a variety of mezzes including stuffed grape leaves and you’ll walk away pleasantly full.
If you’ve a heartier appetite follow up the mezzes with one of their grilled meats. I love their Shish Tawook (chicken skewers) which I order with rice instead of fries. My husband and grandsons love the lamb chops and lamb kebobs. We usually order the mixed grill for them, it comes with 3 kebobs (lamb cubes, chicken, and ground lamb) and french fries.
Every meal is served with salad, actually salad makings. The waiter will bring out a tray of fresh veggies including lettuce, tomato, cucumber, lemon, and green onions. Cut it and fix it the way you wish.
We always round out the meal with dessert. Their Kunafa is very good as is their Muhalubia (pudding) and Creme Caramel. There are so many different desserts to choose from it’s hard to pick just one.
Expect to pay about 200 dirham, $54, for 2 people; that would include mezzes, entree, dessert, and a couple of beverages.
My favorite breakfast place is the breakfast buffet at the Blue Orange Restaurant in the Westin Dubai Mina Seyahi Beach Resort & Marina.
It is by far the best breakfast buffet I’ve had anywhere. It’s pricey at 120 dirham, $32, per person (kids 6-12 are half price, 5 & under are free), but it is so worth it.
This buffet has the standard eggs & omelette station you’d expect at any decent breakfast buffet, and so much more. Along with breakfast foods they have a smoothie bar where you can order any smoothie you want; an Asian, Arabic, and Indian station that has Congee, Curries, Falafels, and more; a selection of cheeses; a bread section that offers a large variety of breads, muffins, and pastries; a cereal and yogurt bar; and my favorite the crepe station that has fabulous crepes you can fill or top with a variety of toppings. They even have an ice cream section filled with delicious homemade ice cream in some very interesting flavors including fig, date, and baklava!
The restaurant has a play area complete with TV, play house, and other toys to keep the kids entertained so you can enjoy your meal.
If you want to splurge the Westin puts on a fabulous Friday Brunch they call Bubbalicious Brunch.
This award winning brunch spans across the three restaurants on the hotel’s ground floor (Hunter’s Room & Grill, Spice Emporium, Blue Orange) and when the weather is pleasant to the out door seating area as well.
The food displays and stations are amazing. The Blue Orange section caters mostly to families with children offering a kid’s buffet along with with seafood, pasta, and sushi stations. The entertainment is mostly in this area where they have clowns, jugglers, acrobats, and even a petting zoo.
Hunter’s Room & Grill is a steak house where they set up various stations including a pub style bar where they generously pour drinks for those who purchased the brunch inclusive of bubbly. The Spice Emporium serves up Asian delights including chefs showing off their skill on the teppanyaki grill.
This brunch buffet is truly an experience for everyone. It is rather pricey starting at 450 dirham, $122, for the bubble free brunch to 680 dirham, $185, for the brunch with free flowing bubbly. Children under 6 are free and 6-12 are half price.
This Friday brunch seems to be a very popular event in Dubai, specially for ex-pats who come out in their designer duds to partake of this international feast. During our 2 week stay at the Westin this summer we noticed the crowds of people flowing from restaurant to restaurant on Fridays. Buffet stations are set up even in the hallways between the restaurants; you must pass thru them on your way to and from the pool or beach.
In case you’re wondering about alcoholic drinks in Dubai, it is served at some restaurants and lounges except during the month of Ramadan. You can purchase over priced cocktails, liquor, beer, and wine and consume it in the restaurant or bar, but you can not consume alcoholic beverages on the streets, in the parks, or other public areas. A popular alternative to alcoholic beverages are their “moctails” virgin versions of popular concoctions such as Pinacolodas, Margaritas, Bloody Marys, and such; in short over priced smoothies.
If you’re wanting some Lebanese cuisine but don’t want to pay the prices at Al Halabi the Al Halab restaurant on Level 1 in the Mall of the Emirates is a less expensive alternative.
It’s located along the row of restaurants above the entrance to Ski Dubai. You can dine within the restaurant itself or at one of the tables in front of it, you can’t miss it, you’ll see a large area filled with tables in front of the restaurants including Chili’s and CPK.
This place serves great tasting Shawarma sandwhiches for very reasonable prices, 12 dirham each, that’s just a bit over $3. It’s our go to place for a quick lunch when we’re at Ski Dubai or shopping at the mall.
If you’re hungry for some Korean food then Koryo Korean Barbecue in the Level 1 Food Court of the Mall of the Emirates is a good choice.
The prices are reasonable and the food tastes good.
They cook to order really good Kim Chee pancakes.
n This Koryo Combo Box for 35 dirham, $9.50, is a bargain. You get a choice of 2 main entrees, 3 sides, rice & noodles, and a fountain drink. I had the Barbecue Beef and Spicy Chicken it really was quite good, and very filling.
If you’ve a yen for sushi while at the Mall of the Emirates Fujiyama located in the Level 1 Food Court has a pretty good selection of sushi along with boxed lunches and Donburis. There’s also one in Dubai Mall’s huge food court.
I love their Tendon – tempura rice bowl. Their prices a very reasonable, you can get a complete meal for around $10. My grandson Dion, a sushi lover always goes their for their spicy tuna roll.
The Mall of the Emirates has 2 food courts – ground level and Level 1. Between the 2 I’m sure you’ll find something you want to eat.
When we feel like Persian cuisine we grab a table at Hatam located within the vast food court at Dubai Mall.
Although it’s in the food court it isn’t necessarily fast food. Table service is available. It sure beats standing in line and searching for at table at this very busy food court.
The prices at Hatam are slightly more than it’s fast food counterpart in the food court itself, but the food and service are good.
For very reasonably priced Lebanese food Karam Express is your best choice. You can get a meal with grilled meats, hummus, starch, and pita for about $10. They have food court locations in both the Mall of the Emirates and Dubai Mall.
Here’s a Shish Tawook Plate with rice, hummus, and pita from Karam Express in the Dubai Mall.
They also serve a yummy lentil soup.
There are many fine Indian restaurants around town. It’s very popular here due I guess the the huge number of immigrants from India.
When we feel like a quick lunch then Shamiana usually found in mall food courts is quite good.
My daughter loves their butter chicken.
When I’m hungry for Filipino food or even Filipino Fast Food I head over to Jollibee in the food court of Dubai Mall for some “Chicken Joy”.
Or for real Filipino cooking then the Filipino restaurant chains in Dubai’s Al Karama district is the place to go.
Max’s Manila is always a good go to restaurant for good Filipino specialties like Kare-Kare (beef braised in peanut sauce) and Daing na Bangus (marinated milkfish). It’s not quite home cooking, but almost.
For a hearty Filipino breakfast or brunch then head over to Tapa King in the Al Ghurair Mall or in the Al Karama district. This popular Filipino fast food franchise serves up excellent Tapsilog – Tapa (marinated meat), fried egg, and rice. I was surprised to find Lamb Tapa on their menu in Dubai.
Every so often I have a yen for Chinese food. I love Chinese food, but am very particular about where I get it from. When I’m in Dubai I never have time to explore the Chinese restaurants so when I “feel like some Chinese” I go to the familiar, Panda Express.
I’ve tried other fast food Chinese places in the malls and have never liked them. At least at Panda I know what to expect and they usually meet my expectations.
I like the Panda locations in the Al Karama area and also the one on the JBR walk.
I think it’s great that dine-in food is served on real dishes with real utensils, not styrofoam containers and plastic forks.
Another favorite of ours is the Cheesecake Factory, it’s my idea of fine comfort food. They have 3 locations in Dubai; at the Dubai Mall, in the Mall of the Emirates, and on The Walk at the Dubai Marina.
All the popular ice cream franchises are in Dubai; Coldstone and Marble Slab Creameries, Carvel, and Baskin & Robbins to name a few.
But we found this cool new place in Dubai Mall’s food court called Ice Cream Lab. It’s a California based ice cream shop that creates “experiments” of made-to-order liquid nitrogen ice cream. They use fresh ingredients and “make” the ice cream in front of you.
It’s super cool! You order your ice cream then watch the ice cream maker make your ice cream in this machine that looks like an industrial sized Kitchen Aid enshrouded in very cold fog.
My grandsons had Mango and Vanilla. They loved watching the “experiment” and loved the ice cream too!
A word about dining at the food court in Dubai Mall. It is ALWAYS busy and crowded! We’ve popped in there at all hours and have never found it not busy.
With about 50 different shops you’ll be astounded at your dining choices. Most places have long lines and tables are hard to come by, specially if you have a large group.
I find dining here to be a workout, first you have to hike what seems like miles to get to the place you want to order from, stand in line, then hunt for a table. By the time you sit down to eat your food is cold.
The best way to eat here in our experience is to first stroll thru the food court and decide where you want to eat. In our case we never seem to agree on just one place, that’s okay, you just have to keep track of where everyone went off to.
Once you’ve decided what you want to eat and where you want to buy it from find a table for your group. You will see tables that have empty trays and left over food, if no one is sitting there it’s probably available. Just hail a bus person and have the table cleared, in Dubai you’re not expected to clean after yourself even at fast food places. People will walk away from their table once their done eating. Claim your table and have one person sit there while the others go buy food. I usually end up sitting at the table and have my husband or daughter buy my food, it works out so much better.
When I find myself in the Dubai Mall at dinner time we head to Wafi Gourmet. I love this place!
They serve fine Lebanese cuisine and have outdoor tables in front of the Dubai Fountain. It’s a great place to watch the fountain show and people watch.
They serve excellent Arabic meals and wonderful Arabic sweets. I love their kebobs and shawarmas, and adore their desserts. There’s even a sweet shop where you can buy pastries to take home. They are a bit pricey, expect to pay $17+ for an entree. But the food and location are well worth the price.
My grandsons love the Rainforest Cafe located above the Dubai Aquarium in Dubai Mall. It’s a fun place to have a burger in a rain forest setting.
If you just want to hang out by the Dubai Fountain but don’t want to pay for a meal at the restaurants with fountain views then grab a table at Tim Horton’s located on the mall’s lower ground level right by the exit to the fountain.
For the price of a cup of coffee you can sit there all day to people watch and see the fountain show that comes on every half hour or so.
This is our “base” whenever we’re shopping at the Dubai Mall. My husband likes to sit at one of the tables while the rest of us shop til we drop. Very convenient, we stop by every so often to drop of shopping bags and grab a drink or a quick snack, catching a fountain show while we’re resting is an added bonus.
When we’re wandering the Gold Souk area we always stop by at Ashwaq Cafeteria for a shawarma or falafel sandwich. Seating is under a tent on the sidewalk, but the food is good and very cheap.
Sandwiches are 5 dirham, that’s like $1.30! The fresh fruit juices cost a bit more, but are really delicious.
It’s not the classiest place in town, nor does it offer great views and ambiance, but the food and juices really hit the spot after a morning spent haggling with shopkeepers.
There are many, many more places to eat in Dubai; from tiny hole in the wall snack bars to five star gourmet dining you’ll find it here. I hope you take some time to explore all the culinary treats Dubai has to offer, it really is an adventure.