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The best khinkali in Tbilisi—5 unmissable Georgian restaurants you just have to try

After navigating luggage arrivals, public transport, taxis, and getting checked into my hotel or Airbnb, the very next thing I turn my attention to upon landing in a new town or city is food. Just like hunting out the best tapas in Menorca, and seafood in the Florida Keys, I like to make a beeline for the dishes the country I’m visiting is famed for.

During six weeks traveling through the country of Georgia—and after spending four of those weeks in the curious city of Tbilisi—I concluded that traditional Georgian cuisine is some of the best in the world. From typical Georgian salad dressed in nutty Kakhetian sunflower oil to freshly baked khachapuri (homemade bread topped with local cheese and an egg, or filled with meat), and the incredibly garlicky shkmeruli (garlic-baked chicken), Georgian dishes impressed me daily. Yet it was the handcrafted dough dumplings known as khinkali that stole my heart. Night after night I’d leave Stamba Hotel or my Airbnb to visit a new cafe, restaurant, or eatery looking for the best the city has to offer. These are the versions that impressed me most.

Four images of Georgia's famed dumpling called khinkali, the images show the best khinkali in tbilisi as chosen by travel expert Lydia Swinscoe
A selection of the best khinkali in Tbilisi

How to eat Khinkali

On my very first night in Georgia, I was sitting outside enjoying the heat of the evening ready to try my very first plate of khinkali when the server ran over as I was about to plunge my knife and fork into the meaty, soupy-filled dumplings sitting on my plate. When eating khinkali (aside from the potato-filled variations), the trick is to pick up the khinkali by the stubby twist of dough, turn it over so the flat part is facing your mouth, and bite a tiny hole in the base. From here it’s best to suck out the fragrant, delicious soup or broth, before biting into the dumplings and enjoying the perfect combination of dough and filling. Knives and forks are a no-no as cutting into the khinkali means all of the flavorsome broth is lost on your plate. And you're not meant to eat the top of the khinkali, this stubby dough twist is the handle and should be left behind.

Where to find the best khinkali in Tbilisi

1. Sofia Melnikova’s Fantastic Douqan 

This is the restaurant where I was taught how to eat khinkali for the first time. Sofia Melnikova’s Fantastic Douqan lists six types of khinkali on their menu: Khinkali from the Pasanauri Mountains, and the following fillings: cheese, mushroom, potato, potato and cheese, and cottage cheese. The minimum order is five pieces and all five have to have the same filling.

A plate of the best khinkali in tbilisi at Sofia Melnikova's Fantastic Douqan
Pasanauri Mountain khinkali at Sofia Melnikova's Fantastic Douqan

I ordered five of the Pasanauri Mountain khinkali and was impressed with the flavor. The dumpling’s dough was not the softest or smoothest I came across in Tbilisi but they were certainly hot and delicious with a herby, very meaty taste and lots of soup inside. The atmosphere here is very relaxed with chilled outdoor seating, tangles of grape vines overhead, young servers, and cheap wine.

Prices from: $0.70/£0.53 (1.80GEL) per piece

Opening hours: 12pm to 2am daily

Address: Stamba Dead End, Tbilisi

2. Asi Khinkali

Asi Khinkali translates to ‘one hundred khinkali’ so it’s no surprise that the offering here is one of the best. Not far from one of the best breakfast spots in Tbilisi, I ate khinkali at this cute underground restaurant three times, always ordering the potato-filled dumplings because they were just too delicious. The potato variation arrives with a bright yellow buttery sauce to pour over and since there’s no soup inside the potato version it’s ok to eat these with a knife and fork.

Five potato-filled khinkali on a gray plate with a bowl of butter sauce in the centre at Asi Khinkali, one of the best places to get khinkali in Tbilisi
Asi Khinkali's amazing potato-filled khinkali

There are seven types of khinkali on the menu including beef with coriander and a special Dambalkhaco (moldy Georgian cheese) version coming in at $1.50 (4GEL) a piece. Most of the seating in Asi Khinkali is underground in a cozy Georgian-style setting but there are a handful of tables on the terrace outside at the front of the restaurant. The beetroot salad is also very good and the local wine is delightfully dry and affordable.

Prices from: $0.50/£0.39 (1.30GEL) per piece

Opening hours: 12pm to 11pm. Closed Sunday to Wednesday

Address: 19 Ushangi Chkheidze Street, Tbilisi

3. Cafe Daphna

Close to some of the best Tbilisi cafes, Daphna often gets labeled as one of the best Georgian restaurants in Tbilisi thanks to its aesthetically pleasing interior—think dusky pink walls and arty black and white illustrations—but what I loved most about this compact eatery were the friendly staff and gorgeous khinkali.

The dining room of cafe Daphna in Tbilisi, one of the best places to get khinkali in Tbilisi, Georgia
Inside Cafe Daphna
What’s more, Cafe Daphna is the only place I came across in Tbilisi (so far) where I was able to mix and match my khinkali fillings.

A pink plate holding a variety of the best khinkali at Cafe Daphna in Tbilisi, Georgia
A selection of the best khinkali in Tbilisi at Cafe Daphna

There’s still a minimum order of five but I was able to try a variation of the seven fillings on offer including cheese and potato, mushroom and meat with herbs.

Prices from: $0.52/£0.42 (1.40GEL) per piece

Opening hours: 11am to 2am daily

Address: Dry Bridge, 29 Atoneli Street, Tbilisi

4. Klike’s Khinkali

This is one of the last restaurants I tried but is right up there with Asi Khinkali, I think these two restaurants serve the absolute best khinkali in town. Klike’s is also an underground-style restaurant—you can almost miss it as you walk past—but I discovered it one day when I was out exploring, and upon hearing people chatting and laughing below I became curious and returned a few days later. The menu is quite short and dumplings can take quite a long time to arrive, but these are by no means a bad thing because every order of khinkali is made fresh upon order and seriously, these are some exquisite dumplings.

A plate of five freshly made khinkali at Klike's Khinkali, these are some of the best khinkali in tbilisi, Georgia
Freshly made khinkali at Klike's Khinkali

The menu lists eight types of khinkali; a special option filled with beef and pork, ‘urban style’ made of beef, pork, and greens, Sulgani cheese, mushroom, potato, potato and cheese, beef and apokhti dried meat (when in season). As well as khinkali the restaurant also serves black bread, cheese and ham boards, and pickles. I ordered the special khinkali and was instantly mesmerized by the texture of the dough, it was by far the smoothest and silkiest I found in Georgia, and the filling was incredibly flavorsome and juicy, I just wish I could have tried the rest of the fillings. Like most of the places on this list, the minimum order is five pieces. Don’t miss it.

Prices from: $0.60/£0.47 (1.60GEL) per piece

Opening hours: 12pm to 10pm daily

Address: 1 Shio Chitadze Street, Tbilisi

5. Shemomechama

I adore the vibe of this retro no-frills cafe in the Vake district of Tbilisi with fun illustrations on the ceiling and cute salt and pepper shakers. A short stroll from Stamba Hotel, it’s a pretty small affair but always teeming with locals or delivery drivers collecting food to go. It’s also the only place I found where you can order any amount of khinkali, even just one.

A gold rimmed white plate with three meat filled khinkali at Tbilisi restaurant Shemomechama in Georgia
Three 'uneducated' khinkali at Shemomechama

I tried three of the ‘uneducated’ meat-filled khinkali along with a delicious Georgian salad and a shot of oak barrel chacha (a type of brandy enjoyed across the country). As well as meat khinkali, Shemomechama also serves cheese and potato variations. 

Prices from: $0.63/£0.50 (1.70GEL) per piece

Opening hours: 11am to 12am daily

Address: 8 Mtskheta Street, Tbilisi

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