The Best Savoir Flair-Approved Casual Restaurants in Dubai

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matto restaurant dubai interiors mural
Photo: Courtesy of @SimoneScribes

With new venues popping up around Dubai every week, it can be tough to keep track of what the best restaurants are. In fact, it can be downright daunting. With that in mind, our editors have eaten their way through the city to bring you Savoir Flair’s selection of the best casual restaurants in Dubai. Whether you’re craving a burger, Arabic street food, or Aegean sea fare, we’ve got you covered.

Best Indian: Farzi Café

chole kulche punjabi dish farzi
Photo: Courtesy of @Grub_A_Fare

Stereotypes around Indian restaurants tend to come from a place of truth, but here’s an eatery determined to defy them at first sight with its quirky and whimsical décor elements. It’s no different as far as the innovative menu is concerned. Humble dishes such as rice with lentils are given an Italian twist à la arancini, British staple shepherd’s pie is deconstructed and lent a touch (or two) of Indian spices, while prawn tempura is jazzed up with lime-chilli foam – all revealing a very hip (and delicious) side of Indian cuisine. Farzi Café is also renowned for its emphasis on culinary theatrics. Palate cleansers come in the form of pebble-like spheres inspired by mango lassi, while little caviar-esque balls make a piña colada feel more like bubble tea. As for dessert? Set the menu aside and order the ‘Tres Leches’: a wonderfully chaotic combination of rice pudding, meringue, nuts, dry rose petals, mawa crumble, and creamy mousse – all accented with a dramatic touch of liquid nitrogen clocking in at -196°C.

Best French: Aubaine

lemon tart cake aubainedubai
Photo: Courtesy of @AubaineDubai

While French restaurants somehow tend to be stuffy by nature, the London-born Aubaine is renowned for its “simplicity is beauty” philosophy. This is reflected in its classic French café cuisine, with options such as chicken paillard and eggs Florentine on the menu. Step in and be prepared to forget any croque monsieur that you’ve ever had, as it’ll pale in comparison once you’ve sampled the signature ‘Le Croq Aubaine’ – a generous serving of bresaola, béchamel, and aged comté cheese sandwiched between sourdough bread. The French know pastries, as evidenced by the many sweet temptations at this shabby-chic eatery, so don’t forget to browse the glass case showcasing a decadent selection of mille-feuille, caramel tarts, passionfruit cheesecake, and chocolate and blood orange cake.

City Walk II, Al Wasl Road
+(971) 4 510 8391

Best Mediterranean: Mythos Kouzina & Grill

Mythos JLT
Photo: Courtesy of Veggie Buzz

If fantasizing about the laid-back vibes and idyllic landscape of a beautiful Greek island comes naturally to you, then make Mythos Kouzina & Grill a go-to spot on your dining list. Corridors and car parks haphazardly pave the way for this warm and vibrant joint that is reminiscent of a charming taverna in the heart of Santorini – stone walls, wooden floors, white furniture accented by pastel-blue décor elements, dim lighting, and an overall feel of intimacy. Here, you can expect to dine on a wide array simple and traditional Greek dishes, courtesy of the chef who hails from Athens. The grilled-octopus starter is as Insta-worthy as it is deliciously cooked, while hearty mains such as the slow-cooked lamb and overnight-stewed veal always win rave reviews. And if it’s a day to satiate the sweet tooth, opt for the classic baklava and make your way through layers and layers of filo pastry crammed with walnuts, pistachios, sesame, and homemade syrup.

Cluster P, JLT
(+971) 4 399 8166

Best Chinese: Din Tai Fung

din tai fung Steamed Dumplings
Photo: Courtesy of Marina Bay Sands

Founded in 1958 by a Chinese man named Bingyi Yang, Din Tai Fung boasts over 100 outlets worldwide and is beloved for its range of delicate soup dumplings – xiaolongbao – and more substantial options such as chicken chow mein and Hong Kong-style roast duck. The shrimp and chicken wontons come tossed in a wonderfully spicy sauce, while desserts such as ‘Sweet Red Bean Xiaolongbao’ and ‘Eight Treasure Candied Sticky Rice’ encourage you to linger. The frills-free branch in Mall of the Emirates is easily one of the mall’s most frenzied restaurants – in fact, a meal here feels more like a dining experience on a crammed street in Shanghai. You can expect an hour-long queue on weekends, but remember, patience is a virtue – at least as far as dumplings are concerned.

Level 2, Mall Of The Emirates
(+971) 4 265 1288

Best Pizza: Jazz@PizzaExpress

jazz band musicians on stage pizza express JLT
Photo: Courtesy of @PizzaExpressUAE

While pizza is inarguably best enjoyed on the couch in front of really good bad TV, this upbeat spot in JLT actually makes the drive over worthwhile. To begin with, it serves some of the best pizzas in the city. From the classic varieties that have stuck to their 1965 roots to the thinner and crispier Romana pizzas inspired by those in Rome, this pizza parlor manages to accommodate virtually any palate. There are also plenty of starters, salads, and sharing platters to choose from. The pièce de résistance, however, is its upbeat vibe, courtesy of seven evenings of live music. While the music isn’t always jazz in the literal sense of the word, the jamming sessions features crowd-pleasing classics, making for a laid-back spot in which to catch up with friends.

Cluster A, JLT
(+971) 4 441 6342

Best Iranian: Al Ustad Special Kabab

mint tea currency notes special ostadi
Photo: Courtesy of Pearl Spotting

If you’ve lived in Dubai longer than you’d care to admit, you’ve undoubtedly dined at – or at least heard of –  Special Ostadi, which is now known as Al Ustad Special Kabab. Running successfully since 1978, this legendary Iranian restaurant is a highly recommended pit stop during a day spent in Old Dubai. Its menu is uncomplicated, its succulent kebabs grilled to perfection, and dining here feels more like visiting a chatty aunt who’s also a brilliant cook. You’ll be greeted by a hodgepodge of vintage telephones, currency bills from around the world, and an array of baseball caps, while photographs on the walls proudly display the celebrities, athletes, and royalty who have already visited. A word to the wise: Parking in this neighborhood is an absolute nightmare, so get dropped off, hop on the metro, or grab a cab instead.

Al Musallah Road, Bur Dubai
(+971) 4 397 1933

Best Brunch: The Bench Brunch

The Daily brunch at Rove downtown dubai
Photo: Courtesy of The Huntr

This is not your typical brunch in Dubai – and we mean that in the absolute best way possible. Served at The Daily in Rove Downtown Dubai every Friday and Saturday from 11 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., it features a spread of freshly-baked croissants, a wide selection of cheese, assorted cereals, cold cuts, fruit juices aplenty, sweet nibbles, mini wraps and sandwiches, and feta-watermelon salad served in Kilner jars. The décor is leaning on the artsy and industrial side, and there isn’t a stiletto-clad hostess in sight. Instead, you’ll be a greeted by easygoing staff, casually dressed diners, and a family-friendly feel. This refreshingly unique brunch also brings with it an unexpected surprise: a choice of mains from the kitchen is included in the AED 99/SAR 101 price. You can choose from breakfast staples such as eggs Benedict and blueberry pancakes or go down the healthy route with a quinoa salad with beetroot and goat cheese. Our advice? Arrive early, arrive hungry.

Rove Downtown Dubai
(+971) 4 561 9000

Best British: Reform Social & Grill

reform grill interiors decor clockoff
Photo: Courtesy of ClockOff

Craving the ambiance of a bona fide gastropub in the heart of London? Head to Reform, where British classics such as fish and chips, chicken and leek pie, and ‘Black Pudding Fritters’ await. The desserts are just as traditional – think: sticky toffee pudding with as much custard as you can handle and artisanal cheeses served with chutney and fruit loaf. In true “English” fashion, there’s also a ‘Curry Night’ each Wednesday. Lively and family-friendly, Reform is the definitive spot in which to enjoy brunch and transition slowly into a relaxed evening under the stars.

The Lakes, Emirates Living District
(+971) 4 454 2638

Best Italian: Matto

MATTO pasta dish in a pan
Photo: Courtesy of Matto

No list of must-try casual restaurants would be complete without a spot serving the comforting likes of homemade ravioli, truffle pizza, fried calamari, and cannoli. Enter: the recently opened Matto at The Oberoi, Dubai. The Italian restaurant, a homegrown concept from the creators of Iris and Indie DIFC, combines eclectic art and industrial décor with a menu that was inspired by Italy’s Mediterranean coast for days when a light meal in an airy space just won’t do. Matto promises to offer an unconventional Italian dining experience as its chefs have taken ownership of recipes from their grandmother’s kitchens and given them a trendy twist. The presentation of the food is also delightfully quirky. Order the ‘Dammi Un Vaso’ if you’re baffled by the choices on the dessert menu, but don’t be surprised if something that resembles a neglected potted plant shows up – it’s actually a delicious combination of berry mousse, meringue, shortbread, and Lotus biscuits.

The Oberoi, Dubai
(+971) 4 444 1335

Best Thai: Wise Kwai

wise kwai dubai table mat film cinema
Photo: Courtesy of @WiseKwaiDXB

Between the likes of Smiling BKK and Little Bangkok, we’re spoilt for choice when it comes to great and affordable Thai food in the city. However, Barsha Heights (or Tecom, as some stubborn Dubai residents know it) is now the new destination for your next craving. Located inside dusitD2 Kenz Hotel, Wise Kwai serves authentic Thai street food within a contemporary, almost-kitschy atmosphere. Its interiors pay tribute to a famous Thai movie of the same name, which is evidenced by its cinema-centric décor. The real star, however, is a menu that features everything you’d look forward to: Pad Thai, fish cakes, Thai fried rice with seafood, and steamed fish with coriander, lime, and garlic. Dessert gets a little more adventurous thanks to offerings such as pumpkin custard and chili ice cream.

dusitD2 Kenz Hotel
(+971) 4 567 2247

Best Asian Fusion: 3 Fils

beetroot sushi 3 fils dubai
Photo: Courtesy of @3.Fils

Delicious, contemporary Asian cuisine brimming with Japanese influences is always a big, fat yes – especially when it’s affordable and served in a minimalist, fuss-free environment. Tucked away in Jumeirah Fishing Harbour, 3 Fils serves sushi rolls featuring salmon teriyaki and shrimp tempura as well as turbot served with yuzu cream alongside unexpected fare such as buttermilk-fried chicken burgers. The menu is limited, but each dish is prepared to perfection, so you’re unlikely to notice or even care. Don’t skip dessert – in fact, try to resist the urge to order the ‘African Powerhouse’ chocolate cake, and opt for ‘The Tooth Fairy’ instead. Subtle in its sweetness, it pairs saffron meringue with violet sour curd, blackberries, and edible flowers.

Shop 2, Jumeirah Fishing Harbour
(+971) 056 273 0030

Best Seafood: Aprons & Hammers

aprons and hammers tables mina seyahi
Photo: Courtesy of @ApronsAndHammers

Voted best seafood restaurant three years in a row, Aprons & Hammers is all about freshly-caught shrimp, mussels, lobster, and more served alongside a signature dipping sauce. The name of the place says it all – half the fun is grabbing a hammer and testing your smashing skills with a bucket of crab claws. Aprons & Hammers boasts multiple locations around town, but we recommend dining aboard the charming and traditional dhow at DIMC Mina Seyahi. The portions here are generous – to say the least – so take a big group along and be prepared to share.

Mina Seyahi Beach Resort & Marina
(+917) 4 454 7097

Best Burgers: Salt

salt burgers fries soda
Photo: Courtesy of @FindSalt

If it’s good enough for the royal family, it’s good enough for us. What started out as a sort of ‘gourmet treasure hunt’ is (thankfully) now a permanent fixture at Kite Beach, serving delicious Wagyu-beef sliders, four varieties of fries, and addictive milkshakes out of two retro-looking Airstream trailers. The setting at Salt is the perfect combination of cool and casual: shabby-chic palette seating is complemented by ping-pong tables and a happy-go-lucky ambience. You’re practically guaranteed to encounter a queue, but take our word for it: it’s worth it.

Kite Beach, Umm Suqeim

Best Levantine: Zaroob

zaroob dubai interior decor
Photo: Courtesy of Travel+Leisure

Whether you’re a hipster looking to eat a late dinner or a foodie on a quest for authentic street food from the Levant region, this 24-hour eatery on Sheikh Zayed Road will not disappoint. While its kitschy décor will have you convinced you’ve made your way into a Japanese eatery – complete with manga-style artwork and neon lighting – what awaits are traditional and wholesome Arabic dishes such as man’oushe, koshari, foul, and plenty more. Open-plan kitchens, live cooking stations, a juice bar, very reasonable prices, and a fuss-free approach only add to Zaroob’s appeal.

Jumeirah Tower Building, Sheikh Zayed Road
(+971) 4 327 6262

Best Emirati: Logma

chicken wings logma restaurant
Photo: Courtesy of Table No. 7

Think of the food at Logma as Emirati cuisine tailored to the 21st century – sandwiches using traditional khameer bread, a range of salads, hearty rice dishes, and creative desserts such as lugaimat served with Nutella and nuts. Our tip? No matter what you end up choosing, be sure to also order the perfectly seasoned ‘Logma Fries’. This Khaleeji restaurant has proven a real hit with locals and expats alike, thanks in large part to an ambiance that is simple, friendly, and contemporary, with plenty of traditional design elements such as kerosene lamps and woven palm fronds scattered across.

Boxpark, Al Wasl Road
800 56462

Best Mexican: Loca

banana empanada loca uae mexican food
Photo: Courtesy of @LocaUAE

Loca has been a local favorite since 2009 and, eight years later, nothing has changed. The chef is from Mexico City, which is echoed in a menu of really authentic dishes from South America. Start your evening here by ordering the guacamole, which is prepared tableside and just the way you like it. Mexican staples such as sizzling fajitas and generously-stuffed burritos stand alongside lesser-seen options such as corn-husk tamales and slow-roasted lamb tacos with red onion and cilantro. With its industrial design elements and Chesterfield leather furnishings, the atmosphere can feel a little masculine at first sight, but settle in and it starts to feel more inviting. Easy tunes and oversized plasma screens help make it the perfect place to catch up with friends after work.

Souk Al Bahar, Downtown Dubai
(+971) 4 449 4455

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