Emirati Food in Dubai: Finding the Best

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Desert Safari BBQ Dinner Emirati food
Desert Safari BBQ Dinner

Emirati Tastes Are Worth Discovering

By Neha Singh

Outside a souk in the UAE.
Outside a souk in the UAE.

While Arabic dishes are quite popular all over the world, the menu options available for Emirati food or Arabic delights will be quite restricted or incomplete when it comes to a restaurant outside of the UAE.

So, being a regular wayfarer in Dubai, the first thing I head to do here is to explore the country’s local food scene.

Alternatively, it is also one of the surefire mediums to get to know the real locals and experience the modest Emirati culture, heritage and iconic Arabian hospitality.

Fruit Juice
Fruit Juice

First of all, let’s get it straight!

Where do we get the best Emirati food in Dubai?

Which is the top authentic Emirati restaurant in the UAE?

Which is the best place to try certain local specialties (like shawarma, stuffed camel, etc) in Dubai or the UAE?

These are some of the top questions that I get frequently asked about Dubai’s bonafide culinary scene. But, the sheer truth is that this largely depends on one’s personal awareness or distinct viewpoints. For example, what that appeases to my taste bud may not necessarily entice yours.

Through this read, my intention is to introduce our readers to some of the top Emirati eateries which I believe are authentic and must-visits for foodies with a special penchant for local Arabic foods.

Dhow Cruise Dubai Dinner
Dhow Cruise Dubai Dinner

Where to Start? Al Seef

Dining options in Al Seef are far more than you can imagine. We realized this when we took a break from the region’s usual culinary scene and embarked on a 90 minutes dinner dhow cruise. It is a slow paced cruise where you get to sail aboard a rustic Arabian wooden vessel that is nothing short of an intimate floating restaurant.

On our first dhow cruise Dubai experience, we were treated to a food menu that was a fusion of classic Emirati and refined international flavors. It was a pleasant winter evening and a piping hot cup of Arabic Cava gave a perfect start to the cruise. This was followed by different varieties of salads, soups, main course dishes and Arabian desserts including Mahalabiya. 

Al Fanar Seafood Restaurant, by the way, is the top choice for visitors coming here for pure Emirati treats. The ambience is cozy with an age-old allure, and its menu mainly focuses on fresh seafood delicacies enhanced with delectable Emirati flavors.

There are also other cool spots to try Arabic dishes in Al Seef; Al Hamidieh and Haleeb O Heil Restaurant & Café are some of my personal favorites. They both serve Arabic cuisines at its flavorsome best. Just a few blocks away from here are Al Khayma Heritage Restaurant and Arabian Tea House Restaurant & Café at Al Fahidi Historical Neighborhood.

They stand out from the rest for their marvelous antiquated settings and of course, Emirati menu, in particular the lavish Emirati breakfast trays.

kunafa
Kunafa

Dining options in Al Seef are far more than you can imagine. Take a break from the region’s usual culinary scene and add a twist to your traditional dining in the region with a dhow cruise Dubai session. This approximately two hours’ cruise down Dubai Creek aboard a rustic wooden Arabian vessel is full of charm.

Sights that surround you on the cruise is simply striking, and more than that, the food served onboard is a fusion of both Emirati and international flavors, allowing you to taste the best of both worlds.

Arabic Coffee Dubai
Arabic Coffee Dubai

Street Food Exploration in Dubai

baklava
Baklava

Given the glamorous reputation of Dubai, this may sound somewhat contradictory. The reality is that Dubai has some wonderful street food spots, particularly across Bur Dubai and Deira regions, for those looking for a more low-key and super budget-friendly local dining experience.

But, don’t expect these venues to be shabby, open-air stalls; they are mostly enclosed, reasonably clean spaces where food is served in an intimate, casual setting.

Small Cafes

Most of them can hardly accommodate five to ten guests indoors, however with some generous space for alfresco or outdoor dining. These spots are its best during the winter season from November to March.

Arabic street food beloveds such as shawarma, kebabs, falafels, Luqaimat, kunafa etc, are meant to be the stopgap alternatives for a heavy breakfast or lunch while in Dubai.

Take a bite of shawarma – its succulent chicken or lamb meat stuffed with the scrumptious spices and drenched in some special sauce is not only heavenly but also just enough to keep your tummy fill for a long time.

Wash it down with a cup of strong Karak tea or Arabic coffee and you are all set for a packed day of activities or sightseeing in the emirate.

Downtown Dubai
Downtown Dubai.

Emirati Cuisines with a Refined Twist

Dubai’s high-end, pricey dining venues may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but they are definitely worth a try if you can stretch your pocket a bit. Logma, placed in the classy area of Boxpark, is one elegant spot that we frequent for Emirati dishes in Dubai.

Aseelah is another place that we visit when we crave for bonafide traditional Arabic food (served in a magnificent setting.) It is found inside Radisson Blue Hotel at Dubai Deira Creek. For a hint of the Emirati maritime heritage, Al Jalboot at Al Souq Mall in Umm Suqeim area is highly recommended.

The city’s hotspots such as City Walk and Downtown Dubai too have its share of Arabic and Emirati restaurants; Sikka Café and Siraj Restaurant are a few to mention.

luqaimat
Luqaimat

Traditional Dining with Adventurous and Cultural Experiences

For most travelers to Dubai (including me), a holiday or tour in the city is incomplete without going on a desert safari.

The Arabian Desert landscape that encompasses the region is a national treasure and this guided safari will give you a sizeable slice of the culture, heritage, and traditions that make this country unique from other parts of the world.

The catch is to find the right service provider for your desert expedition. Our debut desert trip in Dubai went miserably wrong due to poor quality service and substandard food.

Our subsequent trips, however, turned out to be pleasant, where every aspect of our safari including 4X4 dune bash activity, camel ride, and mostly food and entertainment was well taken care of by our service provider.

Food menu in a desert safari is mostly filled with local Arabic BBQ specialties complemented by a long list of fruits, desserts and refreshments.

Its taste and quality is largely determined by the expertise of the desert safari company you choose.

When you search for a desert safari provider, don’t be deceived by the low rates; instead make a thorough research to know about its inclusions and inquire whether they offer all types of Emirati cuisines including vegetarian and non-vegetarian food.

falafels Dubai
Falafels Dubai

Final Thoughts

Visitors to Dubai or UAE not only get to see the most astonishing and record-breaking sights, but also taste the culinary delights from all over the world. The UAE, especially its popular emirates including Abu Dhabi and Dubai, is one of the world’s best dining spots in the world, featuring hundreds of thousands of dining venues.

Along with shopping and sightseeing, eating out too is practically an experience in its own right and tasting Emirati dishes is one of the unmissable segments of it.

Neha Singh
Neha Singh loves traveling and is an avid trekker and explorer. She did her post-graduation degree in Mass Communication, loves meeting new people and strongly believe in the Gandhian principle – ‘Simple living, high thinking’. She lives in Dubai.