What Is Khachapuri?

The national Georgian dish has officially entered the mainstream

Hailing from the border of eastern Europe and Asia, khachapuri is one of those dishes that's been around for so long its origin has been buried in history. There are countless variations of the egg- and cheese-filled pastry—which is the national dish of Georgia—but remarkably little written history. The oblong delight is believed to have originated by the Adjarians in southwestern Georgia, but regardless of when this genius combination of cheese, bread and egg emerged, its appeal is unmistakable and recipe relatively simple. 

A yeasted dough is rested and formed into a football shape, edges folded over and filled with a combination of creamy, fresh and sharply aged cheeses, and a single egg. The khachapuri is then baked until golden, cheese nice and oozy and the egg just cooked through, a rich interior ideal for dipping pieces of the more well-done crust into.

Until recently, getting one's hands on a well-made khachapuri required a trip to a restaurant or bakery catering in Georgian cuisine. That's no big deal if you live in places like New York, New Jersey or southeastern Pennsylvania, where there's a large Georgian American population, or even in Portland, Oregon, where new-school Russian restaurant Kachka includes khachapuri. But for those elsewhere in the country, good luck. 

These days, forward-thinking brunch menus are getting in on khachapuri, spinning the classic recipe to jive with leisurely mornings and mimosas.

D.C. modern street food spot Compass Rose is credited with taking this Georgian go-to into the U.S. mainstream. On the menu, it sits between globe-trotting plates ranging from Peruvian grilled duck hearts to a selection of Danish smørrebrød.

At Philadelphia's Walnut Street Café, pastry chef Melissa Weller has upped her khachapuri by layering a delicate dough with rich Bulgarian sheep's-milk feta and LANDAFF, a raw cow's-milk cheese from Vermont. A sunny egg and sprinkling of black sesame seeds complete the canoe-shaped pastry.

Cambridge, Massachusetts, newcomer Broadsheet Coffee Roasters is also getting in on the game. Its take on khachapuri is dubbed the Georgian Egg Boat, and adds spinach and zhug, a Middle Eastern chile- and cilantro-spiked hot sauce, to the classic egg and cheese mixture.

Caroline Coral is a food and travel writer who splits her time between Philadelphia and the Caribbean. Follow her on Instagram at @caroline.f.coral.