8 must-try restaurants showcasing Cairo's local and regional flavors
On offer in the Arab world's largest city: hearty traditional Egyptian cooking and surprising and unmissable cuisines from around the region.
Egypt’s capital has much to offer the discerning diner, whether you’re looking for local specialities or cosmopolitan cuisine. Warm, rustic restaurants serve up Middle Eastern classics in spaces that evoke the Cairo of old, while modern eateries offer creative cuisine, cocktails and chic ambience.
And, while it’s inconceivable you tire of fūl medames, koshari, molokheya with pigeon, and ta’meya, if you do find yourself craving something a little different in Cairo, there’s no shortage of options. At the crossroads of Africa and the Middle East, you’ll find diverse regional cuisines offering alternative takes on Egyptian favorites as well as less familiar dishes.
Here are eight of our favorite place to satisfy your cravings, broaden your palate and eat your fill of the best that Cairo has to offer. The first four are Egyptian favorites and the second four serve tantalizing regional cuisine.
Tucked away in the warren of alleys in the Khan al-Khalili market in the heart of Islamic Cairo, this café is an oasis of calm in a buzzing neighborhood and the perfect lunch stop during a day of sightseeing. The colorful and welcoming space, decorated in eye-catching geometric patterns and décor that harks back to the Cairo of days gone by, is dedicated to Egyptian Nobel Prize-winning author Naguib Mahfouz. You’ll notice his photos and books lining the walls. Try the karkadé, a popular hibiscus tea served hot or cold.
This laid-back restaurant on the northern tip of the island of Zamalek is a favorite among Cairenes and expats alike, known for its chic ambience and unbeatable view of the river. Enjoy a range of Mediterranean specialities and cocktails overlooking the Nile and cityscape beyond. Make sure to book ahead.
Fodor’s and Lonely Planet agree that the atmosphere at this subterranean Garden City restaurant is what sets it apart from the many Lebanese joints in town. In its spacious but cozy and tastefully appointed environs, feast on hot and cold mezze with basket after basket of piping hot bread. While many of the ingredients will be familiar from Egyptian cuisine, they’re often prepared differently or combined with different ingredients in Lebanese cuisine—you’ll find both moutabal and baba ghannouj (two takes on smoked eggplant) and muhammara, a spicy pepper dip with ground walnuts. The toumia, a whipped garlic dip listed under the salads on the menu, is often eaten with chicken in Lebanon, but it’s great on bread too. To top it off, if shisha (hookah) is your poison, you’ll be able to enjoy it along with your meal.