Dubai—home to the Burj Khalifa, the Palm Islands, and the Burj Al Arab—boasts the largest, tallest, biggest, and best of, well, everything. A city of superlatives, it stands to reason that the city has a preeminent culinary scene, too. And with 200 different nationalities living here, the diversity of food options is second-to-none.
From traditional Emirati cuisine to farm-to-table dining in the middle of the desert to an upscale restaurant in the world's only seven-star hotel, here are the top 12 places to eat in Dubai.
Best Overall: LOWE
LOWE, located in Koa Canvas in Dubai's Al Barari neighborhood, might seem out of reach, but trust us: Your taste buds will thank you. One month after celebrating its first birthday in March 2020, LOWE, led by Australian dream team Jesse Blake and Kate Christou, temporarily shuttered its doors due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Much to the delight of devotees across the city, though, the contemporary dining locale began welcoming back patrons with mocktails and home-grown dishes inspired by Middle Eastern and Australian cuisines like the Vegemite and molten cheese toastie.
For a more extravagant affair, book a reservation for the LOWE 2.0 Supper Club, a bi-monthly pop-up dinner that serves up to eight courses and your choice of mocktails or house beverages. See their event page to learn more.
Best for Seafood: Bu Qtair Restaurant
Bu Qtair, with its paper plates and plastic chairs, might not seem like much at first glance—but the always-long line will have you thinking otherwise. Serving up the same menu since 1986, this fish shack in Jumeriah consistently turns out the best seafood in Dubai. Meals are simple, just a whole fish and prawns—locally sourced from the fish market in Dubai—with rice and curry or paratha bread available as sides. And if that's not enough to convince you, chef and travel documentarian Anthony Bourdain filmed an episode of "No Reservations" here.
Best for Fine Dining: Al Mahara
So-called the only seven-star hotel in the world, Burj Al Arab is the epitome of Dubai luxury. A night here is going to cost you a pretty penny (a deluxe one-bedroom suite starts at around $1,300 per night), but you can get a glimpse of the grandeur by booking a reservation at one of the hotel's acclaimed restaurants. Get a table at Al Mahara, Burj Al Arab's signature restaurant—flecked in gold and home to a 260,000-gallon aquarium. Here, Michelin-star chef Kim Joinie-Maurin serves up caviar and oysters, fresh fish, and a $412 seafood tower for two.
To skip the prices but not the glitz and glamour, head up to the Skyview Bar & Restaurant on the 27th floor for gorgeous city views and wine, cocktails, mocktails, and spirits.
Best for Spectacular Views: Dinner in the Sky
Dinner in the Sky is exactly what it sounds like: A three-course meal 164 feet in the air. One of the more unusual meals you'll ever experience, your table is suspended by a crane, which slowly spins to give you panoramic views of the Persian Gulf and Dubai's incredible skyline. The lunch and dinner menu is simple, with your choice of Burrata salad or hummus and cheese sambousek (an Arabic cocktail bread) to start; beef, fish, chicken, or pasta for the main course; and chocolate fudge cake or fruit for dessert. (Of course, you could also book afternoon tea in the sky for added flair.) You'll be tightly strapped into your chair for safety and security; just be careful to hang on to your phone!
Best Farm-to-Table: Emirates Bio Farm
Situated about 53 miles southeast of Dubai in Al Ain, the largest privately owned farm in the UAE is a bit of haul to get to—but the dining experience is definitely worth the hour-long drive. When you arrive, join in on the 45-minute tractor tour of the farm to learn about sustainable and organic farming in the area, and to pick desert-grown veggies like radishes and kale. (Tours run Monday through Saturday from 9 a.m. to 4:45 p.m.)
Taste a sample of the fruits of your tour guide's labor afterwards by ordering a dish at their on-site farm-to-table restaurant. While the menu changes weekly based on what's in season, you can expect such culinary delights as breakfast manoushe (egg, zaatar, and cheese), manakeesh (Middle Eastern flatbread with cheese or zaatar), fattoush (Arabic salad), and homemade spaghetti with fresh vegetables and carrot pesto.
Best Emirati: Al-Fanar Restaurant and Cafe
Much of Dubai's cuisine is inspired by Asia and the Middle East at large, but if you want to sample traditional Emirati food, head to Al Fanar. Reminiscent of Dubai in the '60s—back when fishermen, pearl divers, and merchants settled down next to the creek—Al Fannar offers a taste of what the city was like before it became the contemporary behemoth that it is today. With everything from dango (chickpeas boiled in saltwater) to mutton kebabs and chicken machboos on the menu, the eatery is Old Dubai at its finest. They have locations in Al Seef, Al Barsha, and Dubai Festival City but the Festival City location is the first.
Best Cafe: Nightjar Coffee Roasters
Located on Alserkal Avenue, Dubai's industrial quarter, Nightjar Coffee Roasters is the perfect pick-me-up while you hop between art galleries and artisan shops, sample chocolates at Mirzam, and craft your own fragrance at Oo La Lab. Kombucha, nitro tea, and cold brew coffees are available on tap (the maple is out-of-this-world good), all of which pairs perfectly with the all-day breakfast and custard pie. Grab a table for a quick bite and to recharge your batteries.
Best for Kebabs: Al Ustad
Since it opened in Dubai's Al Mankhool neighborhood in 1978, this popular Iranian kebob shop has drawn quite the crowd. Co-owner Majeed Anssari estimates that they serve about 400 people on an average weekday, having welcomed the likes of Bollywood stars and the Crown Prince of Dubai Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed (photos of whom cover the walls).
The menu consists mostly of mutton, chicken, and tenderloin meat, marinated for 24 hours in yogurt or spices like dry lemon and saffron. We recommend ordering one of the mixed grills so you can sample a few meats in one go. Salad, mint tea, and dates are included in the price of the meal and you'll need to have enough cash on hand.
Best Mediterranean: BOCA
With chef Mattheus Stinnissen at the helm, this homegrown brand in the Financial District dishes out tapas inspired by the French, Italian, and Spanish coastlines off the Mediterranean. Striving towards sustainability and biodiversity, BOCA sources eco-friendly fish and ethical produce from local farms. The menu changes with the season, though a few items are mainstays (the porcini risotto, with wild mushrooms, salted ricotta, and black truffle is truly exceptional). Pair your meal with one of the 200-plus labels they have tucked away in the wine cellar.
Best Cultural Experience: Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum Centre for Cultural Understanding
Located in a traditional house within the Al Fahidi Historical Neighbourhood, the Sheik Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum Centre for Cultural Understanding offers cultural meals to give visitors a taste of 12 classic Emirati dishes, including lamb machboos (a spicier version of biryani), veal harees (oats beaten together), and lugaimat (deep-fried dough balls drenched in syrup). During the 90-minute experience, an Emirati presenter will dive into the meaning behind the food as well as Emirati culture and traditions in general. Breakfast, brunch, lunch, and dinner are available at different times throughout the week; check the center's website for the full schedule.
Best American: Pacific Groove Restaurant & Lounge
Paramount Hotel Dubai, whose grand opening was in January 2020, boasts a California-inspired eatery with a raw bar that fits perfectly into the hotel's old Hollywood theme. Chefs Ezequiel Cardozo and Larissa Mazzoli craft a delectable seasonal menu featuring house-made ceviche, wood fire-grilled steaks, and seafood like shrimp and octopus. If it's available, be sure to try the 18-hours Wagyu short ribs (served with kale, wasabi potato puree, and Portobello mushroom) or the surf and turf roll (with smoked salmon, black truffle cream, wakame, and togarashi).
Best Indian: Masti Dubai
The food at Masti is just as tasty as the interior is beautiful. Start out with the fiery cauliflower koliwada and heavenly eggplant bhata to share with the table. Then make your way to the BC pizza, straccciatella and dill butter chicken, or tamarind BBQ Angus beef ribs. With more than 70 types of a gin and a unique cocktail selection (try the Sassy Lassy with dried mango and toasted coconut-infused whiskey), you truly can't go wrong with anything you order at this La Mer hotspot. Reserve a table on the balcony for distant views of the Dubai skyline.