Saburtalo is an oft-maligned residential neighborhood in central Tbilisi, regularly cursed for its traffic and plethora of Soviet-era apartment blocks. But the area is more than just a conduit between Vake and Dighomi - Investor.ge unlocks Saburtalo's hidden secrets for great shopping and dining.
Many expats living in Georgia have grown accustomed to traveling home with an empty suitcase, only to pack it full with everything they cannot purchase here when they make the trip back to Tbilisi.
But slowly the city is turning into a real shopping paradise, where finding real 100% cotton T-shirts, genuine American street styles, affordable designs or simply real Aquafresh toothpaste, is no longer a daunting task.
While the city's two largest malls - Tbilisi Mall and East Point - have become the go-to places to shop, there are great bargains for adventurous shoppers in nearly every neighborhood in the city.
Over the next few issues, Investor.ge will take you on an insider's tour of retail therapy around the city.
Our first destination is the central residential neighborhood of Saburtalo. Famous for its universities, traffic and seas of Soviet-era apartment blocks, Saburtalo has long suffered under the shadow of Vake.
But great deals await for those who brave the traffic and explore Saburtalo's main avenues - Pekin, Kazbegi, and Vazha Pshavela—as well as the smaller streets that make up one of the city's most vibrant and diverse neighborhoods.
I was walking on Saburtalo district with my dog when I spotted "The American Market" (Kazbegi 32).
From the outside, it looked like one of those random shampoo-and-toothpaste shops. But, to my surprise, I discovered that it sold everything we miss from America, apart from food, of course: Vavoom shampoos, dresses from Talbots, cutlery, tableware, bedding and shoes. Prices start from under one GEL for various items, including hygiene and cleaning products.
The Pink Panther Jeans
Retail clothing outlets have been mushrooming on Pekini Street for the past several years, and now include NEXT, New LOOK and many others. But where can you go if you and your daughter adore funky fashion? Glamour Boutique, located at 6 Pekini Street, is a small two-room paradise for those who like torn jeans, pearl necklaces, net tops and sparkling shoes. The place is not for the faint hearted, but shopping here won't break your bank as your daughter—or you—seek out original, stylish designs. You will keep people guessing just how much that original designer Pink Panther jacket cost.
A Bite to Eat
Saburtalo has long been associated with McDonalds' at the Sports Palace. While that can hit the spot at times, the neighborhood has a lot more to offer for foodies of all sorts.
Strada (7 Sandro Euli Street) is justifiably famous for its waffle breakfasts and delicious entrees. The restaurant staff is friendly, with crayons and paper on hand for the kiddos while you wait for your food. There is a no-smoking section inside.
Gia's Acharuli Khachapuri (2 Gamrekeli) is one of the best places in town for Acharuli khachapuri. Service is quick, and you can watch the chef make your order through a special glass window. Take notes—the khachapuri is so good, you will want to make it at home.
Literaturi Cafe (31 Pekin) is the original location of this great Tbilisi chain. A good spot to buy books (they have a small selection of English-language books, as well as Georgian and Russian)—and to pick up one of their homemade cakes or signature lobiani.
Shua Kalaki (90 Vazha Pshavela) is a neighborhood favorite for khinkali, and is especially well-known for the kalakuri version.
8000 Vintages (26 Tsintsadze - previously known as Saburtalo Street) is a wine shop and bar that offers a new twist on wine selection: every vintage on offer was chosen via a blind taste test by an independent tasting committee.
Cheese House (20a Kazbegi) is a one-stop shop for artisan and traditional Georgian cheeses.
Assorti (22 Pekin; 86a Nutsubidze) is a Georgian bakery and cake shop with cafes across the city. There are two in Saburtalo, where they sell their trademark cakes and salads. Even if you don't have a sweet tooth, it is worth checking out the store front on Pekin - a treat for the eyes and the imagination.