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Dubai's Favorite Pastime: Eating Out

Dubai’s Café Scene
Dubai's Favorite Pastime: Eating Out
Dubai is a food-lover's oasis in a desert of shawarma and falafel. You can find both those dishes in abundance, of course, but Dubai is full of diverse gastronomic surprises and cuisine from all around the world.
By Baxter Jackson, AFAR Local Expert
Photo by age fotostock
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    Dubai’s Café Scene
    Dubai’s Café Scene
    The Middle East is famous for its café culture, and Dubai is no exception. Check out The Sum of Us, one of Dubai's artisan cafés, which is perfumed with the scent of almond lattes and salted caramel French toast. For a wildly different atmosphere, pay a visit to Reem Al Bawadi for slightly kitschy Arabic decor, excellent fruity shisha, and an array of backgammon tables for customers to play.
    Photo by age fotostock
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    Traditional Emirati Cuisine
    Traditional Emirati Cuisine
    Emirati cuisine is a growing market in Dubai that connects visitors with traditional cuisine. If camel milk isn't enough you can try camel meat—either as a burger or in a curried dish—in Arabic-style dining rooms at Local House Restaurant in Al Bastakiya; locals are few and far between. Popular traditional Emirati cafés and restaurants include Khameer & Dough and Logma with their modern take on traditional foods. 

    Photo by age fotostock
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    American Invasion
    American Invasion
    American influences on Dubai cuisine are visible in the city's growing number of food trucks and burger joints. Join many Emiratis and burger lovers at the shaded benches and tables beside Salt, an Airstream trailer in Kite Beach known for juicy sliders. The Last Exit Food Truck Parks have a variety of trucks and a variety of cuisines and moods, with alfresco tables and a casual communal air. Black Tap and Slider Station have entered the fray to considerable fanfare—Black Tap's selection of burgers goes 13 varieties deep, and Slider Station's deeper still, including the occasional camel burger special. Black Tap's secret weapon? A panoply of frivolous and colorful ice cream sundaes that have launched the restaurant in the Jumeirah Al Naseem Hotel to Instagram fame.
    Photo Courtesy of Black Tap
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    Tantalizing Indian Food
    Tantalizing Indian Food
    Indians represent around 30 percent of the population of Dubai, and there are plenty of Indian restaurants. While there are many high-end options for Indian cuisine, some humble Indian restaurants, like the as-yet-undiscovered-by-tourists Meating Room, provide more bang for your buck and a dining experience that you'll be sharing with a more diverse segment of Dubai's Indian residents. 

    Photo by Jan Baldwin/age fotostock
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    Persian Delights
    Persian Delights
    Iranian influences in Dubai are palpable; you can taste them at the unassuming Special Ostadi Restaurant (SOR). The characters lining the walls—celebrities, singers, and pretty girls—testify to the fact that SOR has been cranking out the best kebabs this side of Tehran since 1978.
    Photo by Andre Baranowski/age fotostock
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    Dinner with a View
    Dinner with a View
    Restaurateurs in Dubai take their dinner aesthetics very seriously. Housed in Dubai Mall's oriental Souk Al Bahar, Abd El Wahab offers a Levantine evening with front-row seats to the mall's water fountains. For a more nautical experience, the city's popular Dhow Cruise's meals come with a panoramic view of the glitzy city.
    Photo by Jochen Tack/age fotostock
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    Dubai's Sweet Tooth
    Dubai's Sweet Tooth
    Maybe it's not a surprise that a city with a climate like Dubai's would have an abiding passion for ice cream, but it really does. The soft ice cream and milkshakes served at Salt have devoted fans among the beachgoers and locals who queue up daily to slurp their treats before they melt. In the air-conditioned dining room at Black Tap, your candy-covered sundae will remain photogenic long enough to get the perfect shot for social media (but probably not very long after you taste it). There are unfrozen dessert options in town, too. The exquisite baked goods at Home Bakery are often made with traditional ingredients from the region like rose water, saffron, and pistachio, but the results are anything but ordinary.
    Photo courtesy of Home Bakery