The Egyptian capital is a place of superlatives. With a population of over 20 million, it’s the largest city in Africa and the Middle East. It’s also one of the richest and most culturally diverse. All of these elements make for a world-class culinary scene, with restaurants spanning the full spectrum from authentic Egyptian cafes to fine dining establishments serving food from Asia, Europe, and beyond. Many of Cairo’s top restaurants are located within its most elegant five-star hotels but luckily, a favorable exchange rate means that gourmet dining is relatively affordable in Egypt.
Best Overall: The Blue Restaurant & Grill
Located on the east bank of the River Nile within the five-star Kempinski Nile Hotel Garden City Cairo, The Blue Restaurant & Grill is Cairo's best-loved restaurant. A la carte menus for breakfast, lunch, and dinner showcase exquisite contemporary Italian fare crafted using the best-imported meats and fresh seafood. Opt for authentic antipasti followed by decadent lobster linguine or saffron parmesan risotto. Carnivores can get their fix with a selection of American Black Angus steaks, while vegetarians and people with gluten-free diets have plenty of options.
Best Upscale Egyptian: Al Khal
Part of InterContinental Citystars Cairo in Nasr City, Al Khal serves high-quality Egyptian cuisine without any pretensions. Meals are authentic and generously portioned, while the restaurant itself uses warm wood and fabrics printed with 18th-century Egyptian lithographs to create a sense of atmosphere. To start, try baladi (traditional Egyptian mixed salad) or rokak (layers of pastry stuffed with ground beef, onion, and spices). Main courses range from Egypt’s signature dish, koushary (a unique blend of rice, pasta, lentils, chickpeas, fried onions, and tomato salsa) to stuffed pigeons and lamb kofta.
Best Local Egyptian: Naguib Mahfouz Café
To sample Egyptian cuisine at its most authentic, make your way to historic Naguib Mahfouz Café. An air-conditioned haven amidst the chaos of Khan el-Khalili bazaar, the cafe is named after the famous Egyptian author who was once its most esteemed patron. The decor transports diners to a bygone era, with magnificent inlaid chairs, Fatimid architectural elements, and historic portraits hanging on the walls. The menu is equally traditional, featuring Egyptian grilled meats, tagines, mezze, and salads. Alcohol is forbidden for religious reasons, but the mint tea and juice mocktails are delicious. Expect shisha and live Egyptian music in the evening, with doors staying open until 2 a.m.
Best for European Fare: Vivo
The Blue Restaurant aside, Vivo restaurant in the Nile Ritz-Carlton is one of the city’s top-rated options for gourmet Italian fare. Open daily for lunch and dinner, it combines an elegant caramel and turquoise color scheme with breathtaking floor-to-ceiling views of the River Nile and Cairo Tower. The farm-to-table menu focuses on Italian ingredients grown locally on Egyptian farms. Savor beef carpaccio or grilled octopus to start, then choose from a smorgasbord of flavorful risottos, freshly-made pasta, and authentic Neapolitan and Sicilian pizzas. Desserts are also classically Italian, with the tiramisu being a particular highlight.
Best for Asian Cuisine: Noble House
Located near the airport, Hilton Cairo Heliopolis’ Noble House is an excellent choice for connoisseurs of Asian cuisine. The decor is a bold combination of black, red, and gold, while interactive staff add to the festive ambiance. The menu highlights Cantonese and Sichuan specialties, with Peking duck as the signature dish. Dim sum platters, clay pots, and stir-fries feature high-quality meats and seafood, while vegetarian, vegan, diabetic-friendly, and gluten-free diets are also catered for. Three teppanyaki grills add an extra level of excitement to your dining experience but make sure to leave enough space for dessert.
Best Indian: Raj
Hilton Cairo Heliopolis is a hotspot for foodies, with Raj being the second of three hotel dining outlets to appear on this list. Helmed by a native Indian chef, the restaurant serves traditional cuisine beneath the glass ceiling of the palm-filled atrium. Starters range from spiced minced lamb kebabs to Punjabi samosas, while main course options are dominated by fragrant curries and biryanis. Alternatively, choose perfectly cooked meat and seafood from the tandoor ovens, accompanied by an impressive selection of roti and naan. Vegetarians fare well too, with no fewer than 12 meat-free curries. Best of all, Raj is incredibly well priced and stays open until midnight every day.
Best American: Lucille's
Located in trendy Maadi, Lucille’s has been serving tasty American and Tex Mex cuisine for breakfast, lunch, and dinner since 1995. With its diner-style booths, it’s the perfect antidote for homesick expatriates and families with picky kids. All-day breakfast options include homemade biscuits and gravy, pancake stacks, and chicken fried steaks. Opt for a Philly cheesesteak or meatloaf for lunch, or see whether Time Magazine’s 2007 claim that Lucille’s serves the best burgers in the world still holds true. The infamous Outlaw Burger is only for the truly ambitious, featuring 1.3 pounds of beef and all the toppings.
Best for Romance: Le Steak
Experience the romance of aris aboard floating French restaurant Le Steak. Part of Le Pacha 1901 (a ship and gourmet dining destination moored off Gezira Island) the restaurant channels Parisian glamor with Belle Epoque decor and intimate train-style booths. The menu showcases expertly cooked steaks and seafood. While you wait, share a bottle of imported fine wine and revel in the spectacle of the city lights reflected in the Nile flowing past outside the window. For dessert, indulge in melt-in-the-mouth creme brulee or praline-filled profiteroles drenched in chocolate sauce. The restaurant closes at 1:30 a.m., so there’s no reason to rush home.
Best Views: 139 Restaurant
For the best view in Cairo, take a drive out to Giza on the city’s outskirts. Located on the grounds of Marriott Mena House, 139 Restaurant offers Indian and Middle Eastern buffet spreads for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. The service can be a little slow sometimes, but it gives you the excuse to linger longer and enjoy incomparable views across the reflecting pool and lush gardens to the iconic Pyramids of Giza. There’s something truly awe-inspiring about dining beneath the gaze of monuments that have stood for over 4,500 years. The restaurant is quite popular so we recommend making advance reservations.
Best for Vegetarians: Maria’s
While several of the restaurants on this list cater to vegetarians, one of our favorite spots for conscious dining is Maria’s, located at Hilton Cairo Heliopolis. A traditional cantina complete with a cozy burnt orange color scheme and authentic Mexican decor, its menu is full of meat-free choices. Opt for nachos topped with refried beans, sour cream, and freshly made guacamole followed by your choice of vegetarian quesadillas, enchiladas, fajitas, or burritos. Wash your meal down with a margarita and be sure to save space for traditional some dessert. If your other half is a dedicated carnivore, most menu items can be made with added chicken, beef, or shrimp.
Best Breakfast: Culina
Culina is located in the light-filled lobby of The Nile Ritz-Carlton and has earned a reputation as the capital’s best spot for breakfast. The magnificent buffet spread features an incredible array of local and international dishes and is presided over by unfailingly helpful staff. There are options for vegetarians, vegans, gluten-free diets, and small children; and you can choose to sit inside or amidst the greenery of the hotel garden. Weekly Friday Brunch events add to the occasion with gourmet seafood stations and a premium selection of martinis, Bloody Marys, and sangrias. Live jazz and kids’ entertainment are also provided.
Best Cafe: Cake Cafe
Those with a sweet tooth or a craving for American-style coffee should make their way to Cake Café, located on Gezira Island in fashionable Zamalek district. The cafe doubles as a gourmet bakery, run by a Swiss-trained baker with a passion for creating mouthwatering cakes, cookies, pastries, and desserts. Many of the menu items make the most of classic Middle Eastern ingredients (think dates and honey), while the diet-conscious Apple Date cake is a consistent crowd-pleaser. If you prefer savory treats, peruse the artisan sandwiches instead. Space is limited in the cafe, but there are tables available upstairs and outside for those that want to eat in.