The Best Restaurants In Dushanbe
Updated July 2021, The Best Restaurants In Dushanbe was written in October 2019
I’ve spent a lot of time in Tajikistan and a fair amount of it in the capital, Dushanbe over the last few years. Most tourists that arrive in Tajikistan come in search of epic road trips and mind-blowing trekking, not its modest capital or other small towns. With that said, many of you will find yourself in Dushanbe, even if only for a day or two to begin an adventure, between others, or are wrapping up one.
One thing Tajikistan is not known for is its food. Which if you’re reading this and you’ve already been in Tajikistan or the greater Central Asian region for a while you’re probably dying for something besides plov. But if you’re researching before your departure, don’t worry, I’ve included a few restaurants in here that serve up good Tajik dishes.
Note that most of the international Dushanbe restaurants listed in this guide have above-average prices compared to local eateries. You can expect most meals in international restaurants to set you back $5-10 USD.
For more info on traveling Tajikistan and restaurants in Dushanbe and other towns and cities in Tajikistan, get a copy of the Bradt Tajikistan Guidebook.
Tajik & Central Asian Restaurants in Dushanbe
Hop in any taxi around lunchtime and tell him you want to go to Kurutob Olim. Everyone in Dushanbe seems to know about this place, and for good reason: It dishes up the best bowls of the Tajik national dish in town.
So what is Kurutob you ask? It’s this:
A layer of thin, crispy, and flaky fatir bread in the bottom of a (usually) wooden bowl. The fatir will be drenched in a creamy yogurty-cheesy sauce made from kurut (a type of dried yogurt ball that is a common staple in Central Asia), and then topped with sauteed onions (and sometimes other veggies). The final touch includes chopped tomatoes, herbs, and sometimes mutton/lamb.
Kurutob is one of Tajikistan’s only dishes that is widely known for being distinctly Tajik, and it’s usually delicious.
Kurutob Olim seems to do it the absolute best in Dushanbe, and the lunchtime crowd is a testament to it- it’s generally packed to the gills. When you first walk in the entrance make sure to wash your hands (kurutob is traditionally eaten with your hands) and then plop down on a tapchan in the main dining hall. Eventually, someone will come over to take your order, and if you look confused or foreign enough (everyone will assume you don’t understand Russian or Tajik) a businessman on lunch break will likely come over and help you sort out your order before the waiter even walks to your table.
Chaikhana Rohat is a Dushanbe landmark. Built during the Soviet era and given grand Persian style with open sides- this is usually a must for those first arriving at Dushanbe. Chaikhana Rohat serves up all the usual Central Asian fare of any other teahouse. Make sure and look up at the painted ceiling.
This typical Central Asian-style eatery tucked in off of Nisor Mohammed Street is conveniently located a short walk away from Dushanbe’s most popular hostels. They serve up the usual fare that can be found throughout the region, though I recommend ordering the farsh (ground meat) shashlik with a plate shukharob (salad of tomato, cucumber, and onion).
Kokhi Nowruz is a giant monstrosity on the edge of Lake Komisol and right next to the Dushanbe Hyatt Regency. The original intent for Kokhi Nowruz was to be the biggest teahouse in the world (probably because Tajikistan’s flag pole got bumped from #1 tallest to #2 tallest in the world by the Saudis and Central Asian forever presidents love to rule countries with #1 grandest/tallest/largest obscure things).
Either way, basically what happened was construction got out of hand and it turned into a grand palace. The ceilings are absolutely stunning and downstairs there’s a cafeteria-style chaikhana (teahouse).
While the food is quite expensive by Tajik standards, the decor is quite nice. Try to get a seat outside and their ice tea is a highlight.
International Restaurants in Dushanbe
Dehli Darbar serves up decent Indian food and has another location in Khorog. I’ve eaten at both restaurants quite a few times and have never had a bad meal. Some of my favorites are the chicken vindaloo and the chatchat sambusa.
A little further up Rudaki Avenue, there used to be an Indian place called Taj Restaurant. The building it was in is covered in scaffolding and is under full-fledged construction (which seems to be a common occurrence in Dushanbe these days). I am unaware if there are future plans for the Taj to reopen.
Tiflis Georgian Restaurant
I swear Georgia was the Italy of the Soviet Union, they have all the good food and all the good wines. No matter where you go in the post-Soviet world you can always find a Georgian restaurant- and I appreciate that greatly.
Tiflis serves up all the typical Georgian dishes such as Khachapuri (bread with melty cheese and an egg cracked on top), Khinkali (Georgian dumplings), Badrijani Nigvzit (eggplant rolls stuffed with garlic, walnut, and pomegranate), and more.
Of course, you’ll have to get Georgian or Tajik (get the Georgian!) wine with dinner. There is an English menu floating around the restaurant and the waiter speaks a small amount of English if you need help or recs.
Who would think Dushanbe would have a Mexican-Italian restaurant? Well, it does! Salsa is probably my favorite restaurant in Dushanbe because let’s face it: I love Mexican food, shamelessly.
I wouldn’t say the dishes are totally 100% authentic Mexican-style, and I don’t mean that as a criticism. Considering just how far Tajikistan is from Central America I couldn’t find anything to complain about with the food.
There are also a couple of Ecuadorian dishes on the menu. I’ve tried the arancini on one visit and they weren’t bad at all, which gives me a sneaky suspicion the Italian food is pretty good too.
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Bella Pizza has gotten more and more popular over the years and recently moved a little up Rudaki from its original location. If you’re a pizza connoisseur or from Italy, you probably won’t be blown away- but this is Tajikistan we’re talking about. I wouldn’t have expected to find a decent pizza here, but I did. I usually go for the Mexican or chicken BBQ.
There used to be another great pizza place called Massimo that in my opinion rivaled Bella, but unfortunately as of June 2021 it’s gone and has been replaced by the Artuch Oshkhona.
Il Patio has become a popular eatery on the Dushanbe scene, serving up typical Italian fare. Local friends told me that this is the place in Dushanbe to head for the best pasta hands down. Their pizza didn’t get the same rave reviews, so it looks like if you’re craving a pizza you may still want to head over to Bella for that.
One of Dushanbe’s best restaurants where vegetarians can rejoice- there’s a Lebanese restaurant in town. Al Sham serves up all the dishes you can typically expect on a Levantine menu- hummus, shwarma, falafel, lentil soup cheese, olives.
The restaurant has a shisha master on hand and occasionally has a belly dancer (though I think we were late enough in the evening that she had already gone home). It’s also worth noting that Al Sham is quite expensive for Tajik standards, so budget backpackers might not be so willing.
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Bro burger is an upscale quick burger shop (when you compare it to say, SFC). They usually serve up food pretty fast and you can expect better quality than most of the street stalls whipping up cheap fast food.
Traktir is a Ukrainian Restaurant and there’s no shortage of meat, potatoes, and alcohol on the menu. In the summertime, it’s a great outdoor option with its shaded terrace.
Southern Fried Chicken
So I’m gonna be honest here: I love fast food
Deeply, truly. My friends make fun of me back home for it. I try to avoid it, I do- sometimes with success adding up to a few months at a time between binges.
But then there are times where you’ve been in Tajikistan for months and you just want some greasy fried chicken that wasn’t cooked in mutton fat. Meet Southern Fried Chicken.
It ticks all the boxes if you’re looking for a typical unhealthy fast food fix, but it’s worth mentioning that it is an international chain. You can get glorious buckets of chicken wings, sandwiches, hamburgers, fries, and even pizza.. but I haven’t tried the pizza, so I have no comment on it.
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Kaya (I’ve also heard people call it Arirang) serves up typical Korean dishes and I found it to be fairly inexpensive for international restaurants in Tajikistan.
Coffee Shops in Dushanbe
Tartine is a newer addition to the Dushanbe coffee scene offering up an array of good drinks as well as pastries, cakes, and other desserts.
Yes, this is actually the Italian chain and is a popular spot with expats. They do have an extensive food menu, but I can’t comment on it because I’ve only had coffees and lemonade when I’ve popped in.
Moose Coffee offers up an array of drinks including coffee, tea, and smoothies. They also do snacks, sandwiches, and burgers too if you’re looking for a quick and easy bite to eat. In 2020 Moose coffee has expanded from its original cafe by the opera-ballet and now has several locations around the city.
Where To Stay In Dushanbe
Have Any Recommendations To Add To The Best Restaurants in Dushanbe List?
Let me know in the comments sections below!