6 of the Best Cheap Eats in Dubai
You might think that in the city of five-star hotels, you need a five-star salary to find a delicious meal. But you’d be wrong: From a retro Airstream that slings chicken-Cheetos sandwiches to a Levantine-inspired fast-food joint famous for its oven-baked manouche, Dubai boasts some seriously excellent, and sometimes seriously quirky, discount dining spots. Read on to navigate the best cheap eats in the City of Gold.
A first clue that Bu Qtair isn’t your typical upscale Dubai dining haunt? It’s located in a run-down shack on the beach. With no menu and plenty of fresh fish (including marinated hammour and chilli prawns), this tiny restaurant, run by a family from Kerala, India, got its start as a place for fisherman to grab a bite to eat after docking their fishing dhows in the nearby port.
Since 1978, crowds from around the emirate have been flocking to this legendary hole-in-the-wall Pakistani restaurant for forkfuls of butter chicken, chicken sukh and mutton palak. Vegetarian? Opt for the thick, silky paneer butter masala.
If you’re willing to look past the goofy names, including Where’s My Mojo Baby? (Thai-style fish cakes served with sweet sauce) and Miles of Smiles (stir-fried chicken with soy sauce), this Thai joint is a winner. If it’s heat you want, go with the Purple Rain ($12), a fiery red curry with barbecue duck, pineapple, tomato and coconut milk.
This silver, retro-style Airstream initially gained popularity by launching a burger treasure hunt around Dubai. The concept was simple but viral: Follow @findsalt on Instagram; find out where the truck would pop up next; and dash there for Wagyu sliders, cheese fries and chicken-Cheetos sandwiches in buttery buns. Although Salt now has a permanent location on one of Dubai’s public beaches, it remains a popular place to score a grab-and-go gourmet burger for only $10.
This fast-casual dining chain sports colorful decorations from around Lebanon, Jordan, Syria, Egypt and Palestine in a tribute to the vibrant street food vendors of the Levant. And then there’s the food, which includes oven-baked manouches served with cheese, sumac, za’atar or meat ($5); shawarma ($3); and crunchy-moist falafels (20 for $7). Also nice: the Lebanese foul with tahini or ghee ($5).
At this hot pot restaurant, you do the cooking yourself. First, mark your selections in pencil on a paper menu; choose from a huge variety of meats, noodles, vegetables and fish. Then, drop your spoils in a pot of mild, medium or spicy boiling broth. For a sure bet, go with the fat-streaked beef, cabbage, tofu knots and mushroom medley. Gather four of your friends and enjoy this hearty meal for only $7 apiece.
Dylan Essertier is a Nutella-worshipping Aquarius with a penchant for hot pot and travel. Prior to moving back to New York, she worked as a culture editor in Dubai for five years. Follow her on Twitter at @DylanEssertier.
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