Where best to eat and drink in Kutaisi? I suspect this will be the first question you will be asking yourselves the moment you land in the biggest town in the Imereti region. Since this is where discount airlines fly to, more and more people starting and ending their adventures in Georgia here. Those who are hungry and thirsty can safely, according to my experience, head straight for four establishments: three bars where the food is fantastic, and one winery where you will discover for yourselves the true taste of the Caucasus drink of the gods.
So without further ado, let us get dining well – after all, Georgia is renowned for its divine cuisine. You will find bars and restaurants all over the place – but I would like to point you towards several establishments which will fulfil all your culinary aspirations.
El Depo – affordable home cooking, round the clock
El Depo is a popular venue on the map of Kutaisi. In the past, it was known as a bit of a dive, seeing as it was always submerged in a deep fog of cigarette smoke, and it was not always clear to see what one was eating – that’s how thick the smoke was at times. For some years now, however, it has been illegal to smoke in public places in Georgia (this is as of May 2006, but it has only been properly policed in the last two years), which is why we can go inside El Depo and see exactly what we are ordering.
The food here is of the home-cooked variety – tasty and affordable. Khinkali starts at 50 tetri each. For a dinner set for a group of between four and five diners, ordering 10 pieces of khinkali, skewers and the kebabs this region is famed for, with a tomato and cucumber salad, beer and some coffees, you will pay no more than 60-70 lari, which really is not much. In addition, El Depo is open round the clock – so if you arrive on an afternoon or a late night flight, you can be sure to dine here in fine style. And yet one must remember that El Depo is very popular with the locals, hence seats are at a premium and not always available for everyone.
Address: El Depo, Ioseb Grishashvili St no. 10, Kutaisi, FB
Palaty – Georgian hipster joint
The next place I would like to recommend is a restaurant called Palaty – very cosy and welcoming, its interior done up in pastel colours and a style we associate with “Georgian hipsters”. The establishment is pleasing to the eye and the soul, though it is much more expensive. We had some coffees, two beers and two bottles of lemonade here, paying almost 100 lari! And yet Palaty is worth visiting to sample its fine coffees or wines produced by the restaurant itself. Its “fusion cuisine” kitchen is also worth sampling. This menu, which includes such rarities as carbonara pizza or banana milkshakes, has little to do with traditional Georgian cooking, but anything you do eat from here will please you to no end – I am sure!
Address: Palaty, Pushkini St. 1, Kutaisi, FB
Baraqa – for a range of palates
In central Kutaisi, next to the famous Kolkhida fountain, you will find another wonderful place where, for not a lot of money, you can sample traditional Georgian cooking, and much else besides. In Baraqa restaurant, you can eat things such as khachapuri, khinkali, kababi, mtsvadi (shashlik), chkmeruli (chicken in garlic sauce), but also Mexican style potatoes, chips, pizza and sandwiches. The prices are close to those in El Depo, while the atmosphere is friendly and familiar. Then, having dined, you are close to all the city’s attractions.
Address: Baraqa, Tamar Mepe St. 7, Kutaisi, FB
Satsnakheli Wine Bar
Once you have dined to your heart’s content, it is worth looking for a place where you can sample delicious wines from the Imereti region. You can drink many of these in all of the above listed establishments, but for traditional wine sampling one should call upon a place which specialises in Georgian wines and spirits. Perhaps you will wonder if Kutaisi is actually the right place for this sort of pleasure. I believe this to be so! Although Kakheti is the region best known for wine production, to the east of the country, it is Imereti which has new treasures to offer up. Local wines do also differ from those in Kakheti, making it all the more worthwhile sampling some while here.
I am a great fan of the local wine called Baia’s Wine, owned by 25 years old Baia, whose family lives in the village of Meore Obcha, some 30km from Kutaisi. This joint is highly recommended!
Address: Baia’s Wine, Meore Obcha 1000, Bagdati, FB
Those who wish to sample wines without leaving town are best off visiting Satsnakheli Wine Bar, based close to Palaty. Here, you can truly experience the flavours of Georgia, in a fine setting, which being air-conditioned is lovely when temperatures outside are hitting 40°C.
In the Satsnakheli winery you can sample great white and red wines, along with chacha and arak, which are vodkas made from a range of fruits. Another plus is their range of organic wines, made using traditional crafts methods. Following this adventure with wines, one might feel the temptation to actually buy a bottle or two of various local concoctions. Those working in vineyards clearly know their stuff, and so can be trusted to advise you on the best purchases to choose from. Small scale production and limited edition series will offer up amazing, delightful wines coloured a shade of amber – magic! But do expect to be surprised by some of the prices – some stores offer wines for between 6 to 10 lari, in Satsnakheli it can go up as high as 50 lari per bottle.
Address: Satsnakheli Wine Bar, Aleksandre Pushkini St. 8, Kutaisi, FB
It seems now is the time to pose and answer a simple question – is it best to take back with you five, six bottles of wine which you can buy back home at discount anyway, or perhaps better to buy one Georgian wine, truly delicious, made in line with traditions and local passions as they have been for generations? For me, the answer is simple – sipping fine wines back home will remind you of all the fine times you had while visiting Georgia and the Caucasus region – Gaumarjos!
Do also read: 5 things you best know about Kutaisi