Chugureti, or Plekhanovi as some Tbiliselis still call it, is easily one of my favorite neighborhoods of Tbilisi. It’s nice to walk around in, and I feel like around every corner, there’s some weird eclectic architectural gem waiting to be discovered. In last week’s blog, I wrote a little about the different characters of each of the parts of the neighborhood. All that walking can make a person mighty hungry though, so here’s a list of my favorite gems so far. That said, if I’ve missed a place, let me know in the comments, I’m always looking for new spots. Stay tuned next week for what to do in this storied hood.
Also forgive me for all the Facebook links. Most Georgian restaurants seem to think FB is the way to go, rather than having a decent website with a menu. So if you're a tourist who's been wanting to ditch the Zucc, wait until after your trip.
I've included telephone numbers as well. If you're calling from an international line, the Georgian prefix is +995.
entering Chugureti from Dry Bridge
What to eat in Chugureti?
Tel. 032 294 3779
My wife and I ate here the other week and it was a real treat. The exterior of the place is wrapped in vines with an old school carriage parked out front, already giving the place an old-timey feel. Upon entry, the light is low from lampshades hanging over the lights, proper supra tableclothes adorn the tables, and the general décor emanates a romantic environment – though the strange and odd occasional digression by the house parrot might interrupt your pre-pillow talk.
the beautiful interior of Barbarestan
Our lovely time was in for a shock. The prices are certainly aristocratic, but after eating the 22 lari Lazuri khachapuri and their take on the badrijani with nut sauce, we quickly discovered why. That was some of the most delicious khachapuri and eggplant I’ve ever had in my entire life (and I’ve eaten a lot of it). So though I usually don’t think restaurants qualify for crazy prices (for locals, for Europeans prices are on par what you'd expect for a Georgian restaurant in Europe or the States), I think this one is well justified in it: the food is delicious and the atmosphere is tops.
support Saint and get your "Who will watch the watchmen" shirt here!
There’s a secret about the food too. It’s rumored that the owner had discovered her great grandmother’s 19th century cookbook, and decided to open the restaurant based on that. You see, Georgian cuisine really suffered under the Soviets, when the Soviets stressed that they shouldn’t have “bourgeois” food, but rather peasant food, and so much of the cuisine was de-sophisticated and the dishes became more plain and easier to prepare. Barbarastan, I think, is the real flagship of this blossoming Georgian food renaissance.
the front facade
But what about the service? This is usually the part where Georgian restaurants fall apart. Barbarestan definitely maintains its presence though. The waitstaff are dressed like professionals and they act like it too. They even had this weird habit of adorning our plate with the ordered food (that was queued, I might add) in front of us, and as we emptied our plate, quickly refilled it with our order. This can be a bit tedious as Georgian food centers around the table rather than the person, but since we were there early and before the crowd, it wasn’t a big issue. My only qualm is that the waitstaff lacked smiles and small talk, but then again, maybe that’s a good thing, and frankly, these days I'm happy with good service where I can get it, smiles or no.
Despite the deep pockets necessary for this joint, we’ll definitely be back. Expect to spent about 50 lari a person for a good meal and drinks. Be sure to make reservations as well if you're coming during peak hours. Don’t worry, the entire staff speaks English.
Shavi Lomi near Fabrika
Tel. 0322 96 09 56
Noon - midnight
10 years ago, I was able to confidently say that all Georgian beer seriously sucks. Shavi Lomi has made me reasses this statement, and now I say that most Georgian beer seriously sucks. They make a seriously good brew, and they also have a solid chain of restaurants.
The restaurant near Fabrika is their flagship, a hidden basement on a quiet street of Chugureti a few blocks away, the interior beautifully decorated with bright colors and Georgian tapestries, and a courtyard patio providing and intimate and comfortable outdoor setting in the summer. Shavi Lomi, or Black Lion, definitely predates Barbarestan and even Fabrika, as if announcing to the city that Chugureti would be the next hip destination, and then making it so.
Black Lion also offers another level of more interesting Georgian fare, with fusion items resembling quesadillas and a great appetizer platter for a group out just wanting something like tapas to go with your beer and wine. The food, in my opinion, though, seems to have gone the route of most Georgian establishments, in that they start strong and they tend to not be so good after a couple of years (thankfully the beer hasn’t followed that pattern!).
Don’t expect good service here, but standard Georgian style – angry servers slamming your plates down (or if you're lucky, a disinterested server).
Tel. 551 15 09 43
This Ratchuli place is a real gem. A friendly waitstaff – though they don’t seem to speak English, so don’t expect much in regards to explanation, but the menu is in English, so there’s that – and seriously delicious food (best lobiani bean curd bread I’ve had outside of the small village of Baghdati).
The atmosphere is a bit bright and not very traditional looking (head to the back if you prefer the dark woodwork to plain tables). It’s definitely not a romantic place, but if you want a delicious sampling of the best potential of traditional Georgian food for a moderate price, then this is perhaps the place to try.
86/1 Aghmashenebeli Ave.
Tel. 0322 96 09 56
Are you Irish, Lithuanian, or Polish and really like potatoes? Then this is the place to try. This 24 hour restaurant on Marjanishvili is perhaps also the perfect place to soak up the suds with spuds, with a huge menu of various different ways to prepare baked potatoes. Wednesday nights here are a treat because Vano, the best accordionist in Tbilisi (and I write that as an accordionist myself!) is there to give you a treat of jazz and blues accordion.
Marjanishvili Square, Discovery to the right
The place also doubles as a café and more than comfortably sits you, a laptop, and a cup of coffee in the corner. Breakfasts aren't just leftover khachapuri either, as this place was serving one of the first English breakfasts in town. The first one was over in Vake, but that one has since disappeared, leaving the one at Marjanishvili Square a legacy.
Pipes Burger Joint
At Fabrika 8 Egnate Ninoshvili
Tel. 557 23 02 45
Few people come to Tbilisi with the idea of burgers. And if you do, then perhaps you haven’t done your research on Georgian food. However, after two weeks of cheesy bread and dumplings, perhaps your ready for a change? Pipes Burger Joint, located in the courtyard of Fabrika (there's also one near Vera Park across the river), is a good choice on that. They serve solid burgers at American prices, which means anywhere from 15 to 20 lari a burger. These are proper gourmet burgers, not your pink slime McDonald’s trash.
Every other place on Aghmashenebeli
The mainstay of Aghmashenebeli Ave has and always will be Turkish restaurants. However, none really stand out to me, as they’re pretty all generic and the same, the only differences are in slight changes in the décor. They’re typically set up as a kind