Zanzibar is one of the most popular destinations in East Africa, and for good reasons. When you visit Zanzibar, make sure you spend some time in Stone Town, the ancient part of the capital. Not just for the meandering narrow streets, the historic sights, its early-evening vibrancy, the stunning views and sunset skies, the Swahili architecture and the relaxed atmosphere, although any of those reasons would be enough to visit. But you have to try some of its excellent food!
There are of course many restaurants in Stone Town, but, surprise, surprise, not all of the best food (and drinks!) are to be found in a restaurant. Instead, we’ll give you a list of the best places (not just restaurants) to visit when you are exploring Stone Town.
The places that stand out from the crowd, the ones that will give you a real taste of this Swahili paradise.
Image courtesy: by wildlifesafariadventures
The top spot on the foodie tour is not a restaurant. Every night in the Forodhani Gardens, food stalls emerge as the sun sets. Soon locals and tourists swarm around them, trying to find the table with the best deal. There is a lot of seafood, but carnivores and vegetarian food lovers can also find great options. As this is street food, be street smart and look for a busy stall, or find out where the locals go and you hopefully won’t end up with tummy issues…
Things to look out for here, apart from the obvious excellent seafood options, are the Zanzibari pizzas. They are made fresh from a ball of dough and you can pick from a wide range of ingredients, including a dessert-style banana and nutella one. I always save that one for last.
All the pizzas are fried on a hot plate. The dough is spread out thinly and the ingredients added, for example beef, chicken or fish. They then pile in the chopped up capsicums and onions followed by an egg in the middle. Before it is folded into a rectangle mayonnaise and a triangle of happy cow cheese are added. I’m not sure if this is selling it to you, but believe me, they are delicious and a must try for any serious foodie visiting Zanzibar. You simply cannot leave Zanzibar without trying one of these (at least
Image courtesy: ourlifecake blogspot
Another local specialty is the Zanzibar Mix, or simply ‘the mix’. The official name on Zanzibar is Urojo. It is a soup like concoction which is mixed to your taste right in front of you. Potatoes, bhajias, chickpeas and peanuts are generally part of a standard mix, all floating in the curry like broth, and topped with some chips or other crunchy goodness. If you want you can add some kick by adding chili sauce (pili pili). It is simply delicious and dirt-cheap (it is also suitable for vegetarians!). There is often only one or two places that serve the mix so you might have to wander around a bit, or ask a local where to find one in between the many seafood tables.
After picking your dinner, join the locals in the queue for a sugar cane juice. Add ginger or lemon (why not both?) to really satisfy your taste buds. Find a seat anywhere in the gardens to enjoy your food and do some people-watching. It is probably my favourite food experience in all of Zanzibar!
Image from: Living Free Range Travel/ martincallum.blogspot.com
Emerson on Spice
This is probably my second favourite restaurant in Stone Town for dinner and it is completely the opposite end of the spectrum to the Forodhani Gardens. They offer a set 5-course menu, always different, made with fresh, locally sourced ingredients. It is served in the Tea House on the roof overlooking the old Stone Town. You’ll need to book and I recommend going early. Not only to pick the best table, but also to enjoy the sunset and the views before it goes dark whilst sipping on a drink. They cater for vegetarians and other dietary requirements, but you need to be able to climb a few stairs to get to the Tea House!
Image from: www.emersonspice.com
Emerson on Hurumzi (also often known as the Tea House)
Another Emerson, another favorite. Again food is served on the rooftop Tea House, but here they are open for lunch as well as dinner. Expect the same amount of stairs to get to the roof, and the same excellent service, lovely views and delicious food. During dinners they often have live music adding to the intimate, Swahili atmosphere.
Image from: facebook.com/emersononhurumzi
A low-key local establishment serving a great selection of Zanzibari specialties and Tanzanian dishes for not a lot of money. It’s buffet style eating, but the juices are made fresh from the fruits hanging up at the entrance and you can pick your own mix. Some of the dishes to try here are the pilau or the biryani with any of the day’s fresh fish curries or stews. One of Zanzibar’s specialties is the octopus curry and they often have it here, some people even ordering a second serve as it is so good.
Don’t expect a beer to go with the curry though as no alcohol is served here. For me this is a great lunch spot or a place to pick up an excellent juice during the day.
Zanzibar Coffee House
Yep, there is a coffee house on Zanzibar and it is an excellent one too. The coffee they serve is great and the beans make a great gift (and a perfect souvenir for yourself too). They (the beans) come from the Mbeya region in the southwest of Tanzania where they have their own coffee plantation, and you can buy the beans right here in the café.
Image from:Zanzibar Coffee web site
They also serve food and this is my favourite place to enjoy a relaxed breakfast. It is hidden in the middle of the meandering, narrow streets of Stone Town, and if you have trouble finding it you can ask the locals to point you in the right direction. It is well worth your effort!
The Tamu ice cream shop
Close to all the action, but a little tucked away, you will just have to follow the signs to this delicious stop or ask around for the best ice cream place in town. They serve proper Italian ice cream and on a hot day (which means nearly every day of the year!) this will go down a treat!
Image from:Facebook/ Baba Ake Jannaina
6 degrees south
The food here is good, but what made me decide to add this place to the list are the drinks. And I am not talking about the standard soft drinks, beer or wine. No, I am talking about the variety of freshly-made interesting drinks on offer. They serve madafu, fresh coconut water. You can have it straight from the coconut, or with flavour added to it. Or, equally delicious but from a less healthy variety, try the interesting milkshake or smoothies. But for me the remarkable non-alcoholic cocktails are the ones to try. Try all to find out which one is your favourite!
Image from: 6 degrees south website
Jaw’s corner for coffee
Another none-restaurant on the list. This is a real gem, but not everybody’s cup of tea… In fact, no tea is served here. Just coffee. Of the strong type. Served in a small cup. Brewed in the corner of this local get-together place. A place to unwind, chat with your friends and just watch the world go by. It’s what the locals do every day. They come for a cuppa, play a game of dominoes or just sit, chat or watch. There is nothing more authentic than this, and if you love a cup of strong coffee, this is the place where the atmosphere adds to the flavour.
Image from: becomingthebboss.com
Livingstone Beach restaurant
This is NOT foodie recommendation. Nor are the drinks outstanding or the service impeccable, so why is it on this list? Location, location, location – that’s the only reason it is here. Whilst some of you might feel it should not be on this list, I didn’t want to leave it out as it has a great location for a sunset drink or a meal with a sea view. At the Livingstone Beach restaurant you sit with your feet in the white sand under a huge tree, whilst enjoying a drink with candlelight overlooking the beautiful sea. Occasional live music enhances the atmosphere.
From Facebook/ Livingstone Beach Restaurant
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