Even for me, Dubai’s food scene is impossible to pigeonhole: Indian, Asian, British, and American expat populations still pull its cuisine every which way.
The key to enjoying its food is to cherry-pick by neighborhood, not by restaurant. Scout the often soulless-seeming districts around Bur Dubai to unearth busy Indian cafeterias. Stroll scented souks and Arabian enclaves for Emirati fare. And delve into big hotel neighborhoods like JBR and the Marina for international cuisine that includes OTT brunches and Michelin-starred dining spots. While all this can be hard to navigate on a short break, my 3-day itinerary gives you a steer.
Dubai is ferociously hot, but bring a sweater for winter evenings when temperatures can drop.
If you only have time for one thing, visit a restaurant beside Dubai Creek, where lunch comes with a side of ever-changing views.
Dubai’s old Deira district has countless Indian and Pakistani eateries beloved by the city’s homesick expats. Enjoy breakfast on fluffy biriyani at the no-frills Pak Liyari before crossing the creek by abra boat to Bur Dubai’s souks. While here, pause your shopping for spicy lunchtime dosas from the area’s bustling Indian canteens.
After a heat-swerving afternoon siesta, catch an evening bus or cab to Al Satwa, whose 1980s blocks near Bur Dubai hardly figure on tourist radars. Make for Ravi, a roadside diner famed for its authentic Pakistani cuisine—if it’s cool outside, savor its scrummy chicken tikka at a sidewalk table.
Today calls for Emirati cuisine. Start at the Sheikh Mohammed Centre for Cultural Understanding (SMCCU) on the fringes of the restored Al Fahidi quarter, where Arabic breakfasts come with dishes like syrupy donuts and balaleet—sweetened vermicelli and omelette—accompanied by Gulf coffee.
After a morning exploring Fahidi’s lanes and Coffee Museum, make tracks for the nearby Arabian Teahouse, where juicy kebabs and iced hibiscus teas provide lunchtime refreshments in a shaded courtyard.
Later, a short walk from Fahidi reveals Dubai’s creekside. Seek out Bayt Al Wakeel to enjoy a dinner of crispy falafel, hummus, and flatbreads as you watch the illuminated boats of the creek chug by.
If your budget allows, devote today to a classic Dubai splurge. Visit touristy hotspots like Downtown or the Marina for one of its legendary Saturday brunches: Asian, European, Arabian, and fusion feasts fit for kings. Picks include the Marina Westin’s Bubbalicious or, for wow-worthy views, the rooftop Burj Club Brunch. If you still have room, book high tea at the sail-like Burj Al Arab.
Later, succumb to Dubai’s much-flaunted world-class gastronomy by dining at the Armani Hotel’s Mediterraneo buffet or at the Michelin-rated Ristorante, which overlooks the illuminated Dubai Fountain.