With the recent announcement that Tbilisi restaurants and bars can open their doors to patio diners beginning February 15th after being closed since late November, Tbilisi’s food scene may see the revival it so desperately needs. Thanks to a brief reopening over the summer and early fall of last year, many of Tbilisi’s restaurants adapted to new Coronavirus restrictions like enforcing social distancing and amping up outdoor seating spaces. By now, the whole city (like the rest of the world) has become a pro at outdoor dining. That said, Tbilisi’s dining landscape has changed drastically with countless family-run eateries having closed their doors. Moreover, several restaurants that are currently running delivery services that also have outdoor seating simply can’t afford to fully reopen come February 15th and will have to improvise until they can function normally again.
Nonetheless, Tbilisi’s gastro culture is overwhelmingly strong and possibly even more resilient than before. So that’s why I compiled this list of Tbilisi’s best patio spots that’ll be open from February 15th ready to whip up all your faves. Weekend and curfew restrictions apply.
This traditional family restaurant is the authority on fine Georgian food in Tbilisi. The menu items are taken from recipes created by the ever-legendary Barbare Jorjadze, who was 100% feminism pioneer, Georgian cuisine revolutionary, and the woman behind 1874’s “სრული სამზარეულო” or “Complete Cuisine”; one of the most important Georgian cookbooks out there.
So, you know it’s good. It’s run by a nearly-dozen-person family who are committed to recreating the best Georgian classics courtesy of Jorjadze, with a few modern-twists here and there. Menu items include goodies like walnut stuffed trout, lamb shilaplavi, and tkemali smothered pork roll.
The restaurant is a tribute to one of Georgia’s most iconic artists, Niko Pirosmani, who had an affinity for painting animals. You’d probably recognize his Fisherman in a Red Shirt, Actress Margarita, and Kartli Supra. Shavi Lomi, however, is based on his Black Lion painting or, Shavi Lomi in Georgian. They serve a variety of classic Georgian dishes that’ve been modernized a bit to fit their eccentric and quirky style, and they are damn good. Oh, and it’s set in a neighborhood house that makes the atmosphere pretty tough to beat. Be sure to try the ajapsandali (eggplant and veg stew) and gobi, a hearty bowl loaded with varieties of red peppers with walnut paste, pickles, cheeses, and mchadi (cornbread).
Look up the definition of a classic Georgian family-style restaurant, and you’ll find Beletage right there in all its glory. It’s run by the Churadzes, an Imeretian family who brings their love for Imeretian and west Georgian cuisine to Beletage in the form of time tested recipes from bebia’s kitchen.
Located smack dab in the center of Tbilisi in a 19th-century building just off Vashlovani, Beletage is oozing with all the charm you’d expect. This super cozy family restaurant is home to some of the heartiest traditional Georgian food in Tbilisi. In truth, it feels more home than restaurant and really gives life to the whole “ოქროს სტუმარი” or “golden guest” mentality, one of the pillars of Georgian culture and hospitality.
This place is everything to do with Tbilisi’s trendy food scene and nothing to do with Vladimir Nabokov. Part of the Rooms Hotel, famous for its swanky spots in Tbilisi, Kazbegi, and Kokhta, Lolita is loaded with character calling itself the archetype of a modern Georgia. And it’s not really hard to see why – it’s set in a 19th-century half art nouveau half gothic residential building that used to play host to some of Tbilisi’s most iconic poets, artists, and cultural figures. If the sprawling patio complete with a charming garden and killer cocktail bar weren’t enough, the food isn’t lacking either. It’s mostly a mashup of contemporary international cuisine meaning you can chow on everything from pumpkin and potato croquettes to mac and cheese to falafel pitas.
Kikliko proves that you absolutely can have a sprawling brunch full of chocolate and banana pancakes, eggs benedict with bacon, fruity muesli, and frothed-to-perfection lattes in Tbilisi. Their real specialty though, is of course, the kikliko. For the uninitiated, kikliko is essentially a type of Georgian bread smothered in egg and milk before it’s crisped to the high-heavens on the grill and then topped with just about anything. Think french toast, but typically more savory. And at Kikliko, they whip up a mean one with your choice of toppings like ham and sulguni, triple cheese, caramel, and more.
Few things hit the spot like a sizzling steak dinner with a stout whiskey or wine – and Asado brings those things front and center. This swanky steakhouse is run by chef Enzo Neri who provides the fine people of Tbilisi with arguably the best steak in Georgia from hearty ribeyes to classic filet mignons. Commited to small scale and sustainable buying, Asado only sources their cuts from local farmers. They also dry-age their steaks in-house up to 28 days to keep everything in house and honestly, they make it look pretty easy.
As of late, Tbilisi’s seen a huge boom in vegan and vegetarian joints – namely, Living Vino. This completely vegan restaurant brings the very best in plant-based whole foods and pairs them with natural wine sourced only from artisanal producers – no big wigs here. So not only are you treated with a deliciously healthy meal, you’ve also got Georgia’s signature beverage to go with it. And when it comes to the food, it’s not all salads and falafel. It’s vegan fish and chips, savory lentil soup, cauliflower wings, and even vegan kharcho.
Simply put, Living Vino has totally elevated Tbilisi’s plant-based scene. and even better? They have outdoor seating, so you can enjoy them in person from February 15th.
Nestled in a centuries-old building just a couple of blocks from Rustaveli Theatre, you’ll find uber-charming and romantic Z10. This vintage boutique hotel slash restaurant marries hospitality on all fronts and comes complete with a sundrenched garden perfect for soaking up the atmosphere. It’s much more than a pretty face, though. On the menu, you’ll find loads of innovative dishes like beef stewed with plum and quince, stuffed rabbit, and chicken chestnut soup. They also offer a great line up of regional foods hard to find in Tbilisi like pkhlovana, and Meskhetian salad made with tenili cheese.
When it comes to BBQ and beer, Number 8 does it best. This beerhouse slash barbecue joint is one of Georgia’s first craft breweries and has really solidified its spot in Tbilisi’s craft beer scene, which has been on the rise in recent years. But anyway, back to the food. Fall off the bone baby back ribs, saucy pulled pork, beef tenderloin bbq, smoked sausage – the list goes on and on. Their patio seating is massive and sits above Vasil Petriashvili in the super hip Wine Factory area in Vake. You can’t miss it.
*They have two locations – but only the one off Vasil Petriashvili has outdoor seating. Find it here.
Sormoni is a place you go for the food and stay for the atmosphere. You’ll find all your faves here, including the run-of-the-mill Georgian staples (khachapuri, khinkali, lobiani, Georgian salad, etc.), plus more regional goodies like Imeretian kupati and ghomi, and khinkali soup. And, and! The patio is seriously adorable and will make you all forget about forced outdoor seating. Named after a cozy village up in Imereti, Sormoni brings Imeretian cooking traditions, ambiance, and hospitality front and center.
Hands down my favorite restaurant in Tbilisi. When I say I love this place, I love this place. I find a way to work it into every conversation when someone mentions they live in or near Saburtalo, and in pre-pandemic times, I ate here probably once a week or every other week.
NOTE: Sormoni will open in Spring, not February 15. Exact date TBA.