MENA1 Baghdad Restaurant: One of island’s staple Iraqi restaurants, a rather dreary interior disguises a fantastic menu that can easily compete with the vast array of mixed-grill menus that saturate the city. With the Kebab Baghdadi at BD2.4 and one of the best red beet salads in town, the portions are large, the expense, comparatively tiny.
Exhibition Road (17 291 881).
2 Lebanese Restaurant: The Lebanese have swamped the world in a sea of parsley salad and labneh, and thank goodness they have. At Lebanese Restaurant (slightly misleading – the menu is so massive it incorporates China, India and Iran), the food is good and the restaurant habitually packed. Pick up a chicken burger for 350fils.
Four branches: Manama, Zaweiyah, Jedali and Tubli (17 877 845).
3 Happy Yemen: One of the few Yemeni restaurants in town (we mainly love it for its name), food here is cheap and plentiful, with a fried fish and green salad just BD2. Try to book the traditional majlis-style seating for a truly authentic experience.
Exhibition Road (17 294 471).
Exhibition Road (17 537 037).
5 Turkish Mazaya Pastry: Serving good grills and Turkish pizzas (they have an impressive pizza oven), this is a good place to head if you don’t mind dining alfresco. Nothing on the menu’s over BD1.5, while the meat here is a treat. When we last checked it out, it boasted the largest shawarma rotisserie we’d ever seen. Better than that, this place never closes.
Zubara Avenue, near the corner of Palace Avenue (17 294 455).
6 Marmaris: Monumental in size, this is the place to dine if you want to be sure of absolute privacy. Literally hundreds of booths line the halls of this restaurant, with food a real bargain. Selected pickles are just 800fils, while the mixed grill is just BD2.8. They do a mean banana split that comes in at a fabulously cheap 900fils.
In Seef, near Seef Mall (17 555 909).
7 Take Away: Situated sand banks away from any other eatery in Seef, Take Away (we like the name – direct) is an oasis that serves fantastic Lebanese fare at bargain basement prices. In spite of the name, you can also eat in.
Next to Seef Mosque (17 566 442).
8 Isfahani: If you are looking for authentic Persian, Isfahani is a great find. With both booths and a communal dining area, food here is almost as good as the atmosphere, which is reminiscent of a Greek taverna. The smell of Iranian spices keeps customers pouring through the doors.
Exhibition Avenue (17 290 027).
9 Beiruti: A great little vegetarian Lebanese, Beiruti is the place for falafel and hummus. Where most of the Lebanese and Syrian expats can be found, small, cosy, cheap and packed on the weekend.
In Palace Avenue, near the crossroads with Abu Ther Al Ghaffary Avenue (17 280 788).
10 Al Shoala: One of the Bahrain’s favourite grills, with three branches across the country, Al Shoala serves all the usual suspects, including chicken wings and reash. The tabbouleh here is cheap as chips and among the best.
Three restaurants: Jidhafs, Jid Ali and Murharraq (17 333 676 – Muharraq branch).
11 Zyara: Another Seef gem that has become a firm office favourite, Zayara has a menu that spans the globe, but it’s the Middle Eastern fare that most people opt for. The kastaleta (BD2.2) comes highly recommended, while the shish tawook sandwich (BD1.1) is another fave find. If you have room to spare and cash to splash order the sweet rice with nuts (800fils).
In Seef, opposite side of the highway to Seef Mall, near the flyover (17 580 990).
East Asian12 Honey Restaurant: This Thai staple has been steadily making a name for itself over the past few years, with great Thai fare at Bangkok prices. Slightly chaotic but run by a fantastic Thai team, everything here is good, but the fish is spectacular. The best tables are in the private rooms, which generally require a reservation. You’ll find it hard to spend BD3. (17 223 962).
13 Mamy Soup: A little front room affair with great Thai fare, Mamy Soup might be small, but what it lacks in space it makes up for in great som tam. All the regular Thai favourites are served, and people flock here for the friendly atmosphere and great service.
Off Exhibition Avenue, behind the CPR Office. (39 195 343).
14 Kowloon House Restaurant: One of the smallest restaurants on our list, but with bags of character and real home-made Cantonese and Filipino fare, expect your dish to arrive in a casserole dish and come swimming in gravy. The fried rice here is as good as it gets. The wife runs the Gudaibaya branch, the husband the branch on Exhibition Avenue.
Gudaibiya restaurant is found just off Zubara road (36 739 074), the Exhibition Avenue branch is near to Baskin-Robbins(17 295 540).
15 Aroy Dee: Another Thai favourite serving a menu similar to Mamy Soup and just a stone’s throw away, this place lacks atmosphere, but specialises in great Thai barbecue, which can be a welcome alternative to the all-pervasive mixed grill.
Off Exhibition Avenue, behind the CPR Office (39 096 320).
16 Pong’s: Another favourite in this collection of Thai cheapies is Pong’s, the Thai restaurant with the most ambience in this part of town. Fortunately, atmosphere does not come at a price, and it serves great food at rock bottom rates.
Off Exhibition Avenue, behind the CPR Office (17 530 800).
17 Lanna Thai: On Budaiya Highway, this cheapie Thai has become a favourite in this part of town. With a great selection of traditional Thai dishes and super service, this is Budaiya’s little chunk of Chiang Mai.
On the Budaiya Highway just before the Jawad Cold Store (17 593 940).
18 Flamingo: Serving great pancit, Filipinos from across town flock here for the food and iced-tea. If you are looking for live music Flamingo has karaoke on tap, making this one of the liveliest joints in the souk.
Alzainal Plaza, Manama Souk (17 224 357).
Indian/Pakistani19 Maseelee: Our favourite restaurant in the Manama souk, located in a tiny side alley on the corner of the Gulf Pearl Hotel, this little Indian joint servers tandoori and grill with some of the best ramali rotis outside of India. An utter bargain, brilliant service, totally unique. Manama, the road down the side of the Gulf Pearl Hotel (17 210 647).
20 Charcoal Grill: A popular Indian tandoori restaurant with some Chinese and Western fare (fish and chips come in at BD2.7), the branches in both Manama and Umm Al Hassam offer the choice of eating in or take away. Their fish tikka is a bargain at BD2.9, while they do a mean lassi.
Next to Bab Al Bahrain in Manama but also in Umm Al Hassam (17 223 531).
21 Central Cafe: A favourite among the Indian community in Bahrain, this popular Manama eatery serves vegetarian Indian food in the heart of the souk. You can fill up here for a few hundred fils, if you can get a table, that is.
Near the Sacred Heart Church and the Last Chance Supermarket (17 263 271).
22 Al Osra: Reputedly the best tandoori joint on the island, Al Osra’s speciality is chicken tandoori, which it sells by the shed load. A great choice if you’re in the souk and feeling peckish.
In the heart of Manama, behind Bahrain World Trade Centre (17 240 098).
23 Sangeetha: Despite fierce competition from the bottleneck of vegetarian Indian restaurants that surround it, Sangeetha is best known for its thalis and has a great selection of homemade Indian sweets. Order the vegetarian tandoori with a honey jangri for dessert and still come out with change from BD3.
On Zabara Avenue, near the Awal Cinema(17 272 768).
24 Taka Tak: One of the largest budget Indian restaurants in Bahrain, people flock here for the daily buffet, which is a bargain at BD2.9 (children BD1.9). If you order a la carte, nothing on the menu is over BD2.5 (salt and pepper prawns), making feasting out here a budget affair.
On Zabara Avenue, near the Awal Cinema (17 254 848).
25 Tabakh: A Pakistani institution that attracts a clientele far beyond the local Pakistani community, Tabakh has gained a firm following among expats and locals alike. With a range of vegetarian options and great seafood, those with a sense of adventure will want to order the brain masala, which is apparently, er, good for the brain (yours, that is, not the one you’re eating).
On Zabara Avenue, near the Awal Cinema(17 276 386).
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