1. Georgian food is all the rage right now!
Tell me now, who doesn’t love dumplings and bread filled with cheese or just freshly baked, warm, crunchy on the outside and fluffy, piping hot, doughy goodness on the inside, bread in general? Georgia certainly does! Between Kninkali, (Georgian dumplings), Khachapuri, (Georgian bread), and Puri, (Georgian flatbread), you’ll end up in dough Heaven in no time. Sometimes I think this food was created as a reason to drink more wine. Who doesn’t love a huge helping of carbs with a nice glass of wine?! In Tbilisi, you simply cannot pass one place without smelling freshly baked bread and the site of plump, piping hot dumplings. Many places have delicious variations on the two signature dishes. Kninkali is normally stuffed with a meat mixture of pork and beef, but you can also order them with potato, potato and cheese, or mushroom filling. You must however orders in quantities of five and eat each dumpling by hand, without any utensils (at least, if you don’t want to look like a tourist). Check out this Tbilisi food tour, it’s well worth it. Here are some suggestions of places to go:
a. Stamba Hotel: this publishing house turned hotel is one of the coolest hotels you will ever walk into. The rustic lobby opens open into a massive, head to toe library that just begs for Instagram photos. Go past the lobby area and you’ll see the adorable restaurant with an open layout bar straight out of the 1960s, a large restaurant, and a beautiful patio for outdoor seating. The food is fantastic, but I don’t need to tell you, the pictures alone do it justice…
b. Febrika Tbilisi: straight out of Industry City, Brooklyn, this warehouse area of Tbilisi will have you feeling like you never left Brooklyn. Old warehouse buildings are converted into bars and shopping areas with a courtyard area for mingling. There’s also a funky/hipster hostel/hotel complete with fading rugs, old chairs you swear came out of your grandmother’s basement and (of course) a coffee bar, because hipsters and coffee go together like shampoo and conditioner. Can’t have one without the other!
c. Café Linvil: take a step back in time in this authentic, vintage, cozy early 1900s Georgian home complete with flowered wallpaper, old, cranky wooden floors, large, ornate curtains and beautiful ancient European tablecloths. You’ll want to drink tea, eat a scone and talk about how hard times have been since the war. It’s quite an experience.
d. Salobie Bia: easily one of the best restaurants in Tbilisi, this adorable little ‘café’ is almost part art museum with walls covered in drawings and paintings. The wine is excellent as is their beet salad.
e. Iveria Terrace at the Radisson Blu: should you find yourself in Tbilisi during the months of May to October, check out the beautiful views from the Iveria Terrace. The food is fantastic too. Highly recommend the pastas.
2. Get there before all the tourists do. Seriously. You’ll get grade A treatment, private tours, and the traffic is still bearable, it’s blissful. The citizens of Georgia are excited for tourism, knowing it brings jobs and money into the economy and they make it known they’re excited for you to be there. I did a free walking tour one my first evening from 6pm to 9pm. The tour guide was super extensive and kept the tour going until way past 9am, she was so excited to teach us about Georgian history. Then on the city bus tour the next day, the tour guide sat down next to me and gave me a personalized tour the entire ride around the city! On the two tours we booked: the wine tour and the food tour, we were the only people on the tour, so we got a personalized tour made to our liking and they kept us out way later than the website described!
3. It’s so cheap! On our trip, the exchange rate was: 1 USD equals 2.74 Georgian Lari. If a glass of wine was on the menu for 12 Lari, that means it was around $4 a glass. The food was very reasonable too. You could easily order lunch for less than $10 (USD).
4. The people are so friendly. Most people speak at least some English and they will happily converse with you and ask you where you are from.
5. It’s perfectly acceptable to drink wine at all hours and they thoroughly encourage it. Seriously, 2am wine stores have their doors open, anxiously waiting for you to come in and try some wine.
6. Chacha. Georgians love this stuff. Rumor has many of them start their day with a shot of it. Lord help them. This moonshine like liquor is powerful stuff and it comes in all sorts of flavors. Be sure to check out Chacha time for drinks and Chacha corner if you’re looking to bring some bottles back as souvenirs.
7. It’s speechlessly beautiful and the air is so clean! Only pictures will do it (some justice), so here you go. While you’re here, check out the botanical gardens. Coming from New York City, it was nice breathing in fresh, clean air mixed with the smell of fresh flowers and blooming trees.
8. The culture is a wonderful mix of Georgian, Russian, Jewish, Muslim, Christianity and basically everything in between and the food is a wonderful reflection of the diversity.