The dining scene in Dushanbe has exploded in the last couple of years, with restaurants opening and closing regularly. There are far too many restaurants to list. But be aware that they opened with their targeted clientele being locals with higher incomes, not tourists. So do not expect service in English in most places.
For drinks, see the bars and pubs forum thread.
Non-Tajik restaurants popular with expats
Kaya, formerly known as Arirang, is a small and quiet Korean restaurant that serves Korean cuisine, but not the Korean-Central Asia fusion cuisine that Central Asian Korean families serve at home. Kaya helpfully has picture menus. Cheaper than the other expat-popular restaurants. Waitresses speak only Russian, with just a smattering of English. Closed on Sunday.
Formerly ‘Namaste’, Taj is a typical north Indian dish restaurant. If your server has problems with English, the Indian manager will come over to help. This is not a cheap backpacker option.
This restaurant is basically the same as Taj, minus the Indian manager.
A quiet little café on a back street of northern Dushanbe, but a quick walk from Rudaki Avenue (take the #3 shared taxi for 5 Somoni). The café is run by a non-profit organisation that helps vulnerable local women. The menu is not large, but you should be easily able to find something for lunch here if you want more than coffee and a pastry.
Centrally located, Segafredo serves a decent, if expensive coffee. Definitely foodwise, better and cheaper options are available. It looks and feels like an airport café-restaurant, but they have wifi.
Location: central Dushanbe at the corner of Rudaki and Foteh Niyozi.
Very nice Levant Arab cuisine, with an occasional belly-dancer who appears out of nowhere during dinner service. A great place for lunch or dinner, and priced for the well-paid expat’s budget (and less-so for the backpacker). Lentil soup and spinach pie are good options for the vegetarian.
A Ukrainian restaurant with many hearty dishes. Lots of meat and potatoes here, as well as an extensive alcohol selection. They do not serve pork during Ramadan, as the chefs are Muslim. But you can get vodka during Ramadan, and pork any other time of the year.
Not to be confused with the fast food-serving Merve Café, Merve Restaurant has better quality Turkish dishes in a more upscale environment. Nearby Victory Park.
A great burger restaurant with quick service. Definitely not the same as the fast-food street “burgers.” No alcohol.
This place markets itself as a ‘gastrobar.’ Alcohol and high-end grill food. Not cheap.
Very expensive, but as good as you would expect from large upscale international chain hotels. The Serena Hotel has the best location, while the Hilton and Hyatt are further from the centre.
Easy dining options in the centre
The Rohat Teahouse provides a great outdoor dining experience under a vaulted ceiling. The teahouse is a combination of neo-classical design and Central Asian art. During the heat of the summer it’s best to wait for the sun to drop below the adjacent buildings that provide shade later in the day.
The food, mostly local dishes, is nothing special, and waiting times can be long. If you come here it will be for the surrounding environment.
A 2-floor Turkish restaurant with dozens of waiters providing prompt and good service. Very popular with locals, so you may not get a table during busy times. Nicely located near the Opera Ballet Theatre. The upstairs seating area is the best.
Very quick fast food with some Turkish options. Quick table service, quick delivery of food. The Turkish manager on duty keeps everything running quickly here. The ice cream is far better than what you can find on the street.
A nice small café with a decent lunch menu where you can order in English. Location on Rudaki Avenue near the Opera Ballet Theatre.
Obitjon Juja Biryon
Cheap pan-fried chicken with the usual side options. Quick, friendly and, thanks to the frying, not likely to give you any gastrointestinal illness if you order chicken and fries. Local prices on a fixed menu. They also have free delivery.
True local dining
Some of these places have no menus, and if they have menus they don’t always have everything listed in the menu. Locals sit down and ask “What do you have?” and the server will list the options (but not the prices, unless you ask). Many of these places are truly authentic, and not adjusted to the tastes of foreign tourists. So expect little in the way of subtle flavours and much in the way of very high levels of sugar, oil and salt.
The best way to choose a convenient option is to ask at your place of accommodation. They have all answered this question thousands of times, and have a list of places nearby (and sometimes a menu with prices as well) that may now be able to accommodate people who speak no Tajik (with extremely basic English, or a picture menu, or just saying “Plov? Lagman? Shashlik?”.
Qurutob by the Puppet Theatre
This is easy as you only have one option here: the Tajik vegetarian national dish qurutob (half or full serving). It is made with shredded fatir bread, sour-yoghurt water, vegetables and oil.
You will have the choice of two different types of oil: zaghir (flaxseed) or vegetable oil (we suggest zaghir), and of tea or chilled fruit kompot. This place is busy at lunch, but after 13:00 it gets progressively less busy.
Location: behind the Puppet Theatre, facing the Children’s Park (Gmaps)
Ask for a recommendation from a local, preferably at your place of accommodation. The best plov (pilau, plaf) places cook the rice dish for lunch only (in a large batch), and by early afternoon it is finished.
Lunch or dinner
Toqi does both lunch and dinner, and the quality here is high compared to other local restaurants (at a higher price). It is, however, not located centrally (but it is not too far from Mehrgon Bazaar and Victory Park).
Location: Gmaps – On maps.me search for “Toki.”
Tajik dining culture outside the home is overwhelmingly about lunch, so dinner options are far more limited. The best local dinner restaurants are far from the centre. It would be best to go with a local or with someone who speaks Russian or Tajik.
Ask your host or accommodation manager for a recommendation for some place that locals go, preferably not a place that doubles as a wedding or special events venue.
You can find some very cheap dinner places (but also some expensive places that seem to have a clientele that is entirely businessmen). It is advised that you do not show up wearing shorts or skimpy clothing.
Things do tend to change quickly in Dushanbe. Please let us know your experiences with the restaurants listed above in our Dushanbe restaurants forum thread, as well as any new recommendations. The traveling community thanks you!