Come for the architecture, stay for the food! Central, charming, cobbled and crumbling, Sololaki is a haven for Tbilisi tourists and a hotbed of good dining.
After traversing the city from the suburban heights of Saburtalo to the remodeled facades of Aghmashenebeli Avenue, the third in Investor.ge's series on shopping (and eating) in Tbilisi is close to home: the AmCham office is located at the heart of Tbilisi's historic Sololaki neighborhood.
The streets of Sololaki are a treasure of 19th century (and older) architecture, and nearly every block holds a hidden gem of an Italian courtyard or piece of Tbilisi history. From the former residence of the Nobel brothers to the creator of Sarajishvili brandy, David Sarajishvili - as well as plenty of ghosts from the Soviet era - the Sololaki neighborhood is a mosaic of the city's past.
It is also at the heart of the capital's growing identity as an international tourism and food destination.
The neighborhood is full of shops, cafes and restaurants, so we will tackle the guide street by street, with sincere apologies to all we miss along the way! For a more complete list, check out Culinary Backstreets' great archive of articles about tasty dining in Sololaki at http://culinarybackstreets.com/.
For more detailed information about the history of some of Sololaki's most iconic buildings, see www.sovlab.ge.
Most of the best shopping is intertwined with eating, so it's best to come prepared with good walking shoes, a full wallet and an empty stomach.
There are two well established, much loved, and competing Georgian art cafes on this little street that connects Sololaki to the government district: Azarphesha (2 Ingorovka) and Amo Rame (4 Ingorovka).
Burgio (8 Amaghleba Street)—A small burger/craft beer joint with a cult following.
Family Kitchen (1 Leonidze Street)—One might dismiss this gem as yet another ready-to-eat cafeteria, but don't be so quick to judge. What it lacks in ambiance, it makes up for in delicious khabizgina (Ossetian khachapuri), lobiani and pizza—if you have lived abroad long enough to realize that, yes, sometimes you can put mayo on pizza.
Lui (1 Kikidze Street at the corner of Leonidze and Kikodze) —A neighborhood institution, highly recommended for its apple cake and its tarragon pies.
Ezo (16 Kikodze)—A lovely, popular cafe with a yard, where guests can dine in good weather.
Lado Asatiani Street
Black Dog Bar (33 Lado Asatiani)—Non-smoking and pets allowed! Serves bar food and craft beer.
Tone (in the passage between 23 and 25 Asatiani)—Khachapuri and lobiani baked to crisp perfection in a traditional Georgian clay stove, called a tone.
Kiwi Cafe (6 Machabeli) is a well-known vegan restaurant, with a menu that includes delicious cookies.
Tabidze Street is a tiny, cobbled pass that, once upon a time, was a true pedestrian street. Now, it is clogged with cars, most driving in reverse and attempting to merge with the helter-skelter traffic on the square. Proceed with care, although the eating and shopping is worth the risk.
Crafting Corner (23 Asatiani)—Located at the top of Tabidze, on the corner of Tabidze and Asatiani. Part cafe, part gift shop, it is the perfect place to warm up while you buy that perfect-little-something for a friend.
Royal Wine (23 Tabidze Street) - Here you can buy wine, wine and more wine. If you are interested in a Georgian beverage, check it out.
Vino Underground (15 Tabidze Street) - A famous wine bar, known for its knowledgeable staff and rich collection of spectacular Georgian wines.
Georgian Tea House (15 Tabidze Street) - A little shop (which also boasts a tea museum) with an abundant selection of Georgian teas.
Firewok (20 Dadiani) - Homemade noodles, cooked to order, at this great take-out spot.