Eating well in Dubai can be quite the wallet-buster, but it doesn’t always have to be. These spots will wow you on the cheap for breakfast, lunch or dinner, hooking you up with a top-notch (and filling) meal for Dhs35 or less…
1. Rasa Sayang
What you’re ordering: nasi lemak special
A fantastic Oud Metha restaurant serving the Malaysian community familiar foods from the homeland. Try the beloved nasi lemak breakfast dish served on a banana leaf with fried chicken, coconut-flavoured rice, chilli gravy, egg, peanuts and ikan bilis – fried, dried anchovies. Get a little bit of everything on your spoon and the marriage of flavours and textiles will your warm your heart and blow your mind.
Oud Metha Building, next to Malaysian Trade Centre, Dubai, Sat to Thur 11am to 11pm, Fri 2pm to 11pm. Tel: (04) 3313135. Taxi: Malaysian Trade Centre. facebook.com/rasasayangdubai
What you’re ordering: bun dau
A JLT favourite, Hanoi serves excellent Vietnamese dishes. Order a bun (pronounced boon) bowl. It’s a hearty rice noodle dish with salad, roasted peanuts, and sauté tofu.
Cluster C, JLT, Dubai, daily noon to 10pm. Tel: (04) 4313099. Taxi: Cluster C, JLT. facebook.com/hanoinaturally
What you’re ordering: ginger chicken with black mushrooms
Everything’s made from scratch at Fuchsia, a modestly priced Thai restaurant that favours organic and sustainably sourced produce whenever possible.
Two Towers, Al Khareef Road, Barsha Heights, Dubai, daily noon to 11pm. Tel: (04) 3617117. Metro: Dubai Internet City. facebook.com/fuchsiame
4. Dapoer Kita Restaurant
What you’re ordering: gado-gado
You may have tried the delicious gado-gado at Tom & Serg, but if you want the taste at half the price head to this cheap and cheerful café to try Indonesia’s most famous dish – steamed mixed vegetables, tofu and egg, all slathered with peanut sauce.
43 A Street, Karama, Dubai, Sat to Thur 11am to 11pm, Fri 1pm to11pm. Tel: (04) 3795501. Taxi: Karama Fish Market. facebook.com/DapoerKitaDubai
5. Urban Seafood
What you’re ordering: tom yum
A sizzling pot of fruits de la mer, the soup includes lemongrass, lime and coconut milk.
Ibn Battuta Mall, Dubai, Sat to Wed 11am to midnight, Thur and Fri 11am to 1am. Tel: (800) 7527. Metro: Ibn Battuta. facebook.com/UrbanSeafood
6. 3 Fils
What you’re ordering: Indomie. Yes, Indomie
Here’s the deal. Indomie is a brand of instant noodles, which 3 Fils spruces up and serves. They use the noodles as the base and then add veal chorizo, baby asparagus, beans, garlic oil and chicken stock, elevating a simple idea to a different level. Brilliant concept, and delicious too.
Jumeirah Fishing Harbour, off Al Urouba Street, Dubai, Mon to Wed 7pm to 11pm, Thur to Sat noon to midnight. Tel: (050) 2730030. Taxi: Jumeirah Fishing Harbour. 3fils.com
7. Yeshi Kava
What you’re ordering: kitfo
Rather like steak tartare, this Ethiopian dish is made with rare minced beef. Unlike its French equivalent, though, it’s marinated in a chilli-based spice blend, plus butter and herbs.
4B Street, near BurJuman Centre, Karama, Dubai, daily 10am to midnight. Tel: (050) 4259345. Metro: BurJuman Centre. facebook.com/yeshikava
08. Arab Island Restaurant
What you’re ordering: Burma lamb
A steaming jug of succulent lamb and vegetables is served up at your table, while the remaining broth is poured out as a tasty soup. Accompanied by a mountain of flavoursome rice, this is a feast for two.
Hor Al Anz, Deira, Dubai, daily noon until midnight. Tel: (04) 2621212. Metro: Abu Baker Al Siddique
09. Man’oushe Street
What you’re ordering: manakeesh
The traditional dough-based manoushe snack is given a makeover here. At just Dhs17, you’ll get piping hot flatbread, topped with spiced mince meat, tomatoes and pomegranate molasses, with a melted blend of three cheeses.
10. Sultan Dubai Falafel Restaurant
What you’re ordering: stuffed falafel and hummus
Sometimes it’s hard to find good falafel in Dubai, but this is a diamond in the rough. The premise is fairly simple: take a falafel, stuff it with onion and chilli, and serve it alongside some of the creamiest hummus we’ve ever tasted. Warm and generous service notches this up to five-star territory.
Sultan Dubai Falafel Restaurant, 22 Al Muraqqabat Street, Dubai, daily 7am to 12.30am. Tel: (04) 2283339. Metro: Al Rigga
11. Sandella’s Flatbread Café
What you’re ordering: shawarma quesadilla
Marinated grilled chicken, cheddar and mozzarella cheese, diced tomatoes and pickled cucumber, all drizzled with garlic sauce. How’s that for fusion food?
Ground Floor, Al Ghazal Mall, Al Wasl Road, Dubai, daily 8am to 11pm. Tel: (04) 3463077. Taxi: Al Ghazal Mall. ALSO: Al Barsha and International City
What you’re ordering: koshari
Zaroob remains reasonably priced despite its popularity and location. Middle Eastern specialties abound, and don’t sleep on the surprisingly cheap koshari, an Egyptian dish of rice and lentils with pasta, garlic and tomato sauce with chickpeas and crispy fried onions.
Jumeirah Tower Building, Sheikh Zayed Road, Financial District, daily 24 hours. Tel: (800) zaroob, (04) 3276262, Metro: Financial Centre. zaroob.com
What you’re ordering: sojok sandwich
Love sausage sandwiches? Then visit this Beiruti spot. The sujok sandwich includes Lebanese spicy sausages, hummus, tomato and pickles. Filful is only one of a few restaurants with a terrace there, so head upstairs.
Boxpark, Al Wasl Road, Al Safa, Dubai, daily 24 hours. Tel: (04) 3421221. Taxi: Boxpark. filfulbeirut.com
What you’re ordering: Deluxe pizza
It’s hardly named after the most exciting of vegetables, but don’t be put off. Broccoli punches above its weight with its freshly baked pizzas. The Deluxe Pizza comes with cheese, pepperoni, mushrooms, peppers and black olives.
15. Freedom Pizza
What you’re ordering: Mother Earth
Here’s a delicious pizza for under Dhs35. Mother Earth comes with artichoke, peppers, coriander, spinach, garlic, mushrooms and onions.
Marina View Tower, Dubai Marina, Dubai, Mon to Wed 10.30am to 2am, Thur and Fri 10.30am to 4am, Sat and Sun 10.30am to 2am. Tel: (04) 4534313. Metro: Damac. freedompizza.ae
16. Calicut Paragon
What you’re ordering: chicken malabari dish
Some say that seafood is Calicut’s speciality; we say they are good at whatever they pound their curry leaves into. Take the chicken malabari dish (Dhs20), for example. It’s dripping in roasted coconut and coriander-flavoured curry that’s so pungent and tasty you’ll proudly lick the bowl clean.
Mattar Al Tayer Building, 20B Street, Karama, Dubai, daily 7.30am to 12.30am. Tel: (04) 3358700. Taxi: opposite LuLu Hypermarket. paragonrestaurant.net
What you’re ordering: kasturi aloo
This vegetarian eatery follows the principles of Sattva, an Indian concept centred on all things pure. This potato dish is prepared with fenugreek and cooked in tandoori masala gravy.
Street 4A, Karama, Dubai, daily noon to 3.30pm, 7pm to midnight. Tel: (04) 3211884. Taxi: BurJuman Centre. mygovindas.com
18. Hot ‘n Spicy
What you’re ordering: chicken handi
So tasty are the Pakistani curries Hot ‘n Spicy that you may find yourself hooked. Its popular chicken handi is made using boneless meat prepared in a tomato-based gravy. Add a piece of plain naan for Dh3 and that’s one cheap and tasty meal.
Al Shaiba Tower A, Barsha Heights, Dubai, Sun to Wed 11am to 1am, Thur 11am to 2am, Fri 9am to 2am, Sat 9am to 1am. Tel (04) 3688508. Metro: Internet City. hotnspicy.ae
19. Chef Lanka
What you’re ordering: king fish koththu roti
While lacking in ambience, this popular haunt makes up for with its freshly prepared Sri Lankan fare. The king fish is served from about 4pm onwards
Al Khazana Centre, Karama, Dubai, Sat to Thur 7.30am to 11.30pm, Fri 7.30am to noon, 1pm to 11.30pm. Tel: (04) 3353050. Taxi: LuLu Hypermarket
20. 25 Degrees North
What you’re ordering: paneer makhanwala
Generous chunks of cottage cheese are simmered in a creamy butter and tomato sauce to make this rich, comforting dish from northern India.
Damac Executive Heights, Barsha Heights, Dubai, daily noon to 3pm, 6pm to 11pm. Tel: (04) 4527779. Metro: Internet City. 25degreesnorth.com
What you’re ordering: chicken tikka
In other restaurants you might find a platter of dried-out meat, but here it’s all about juicy chunks of chicken tikka – roughly eight – coated in the creamiest marinade.
Cluster J, JLT, Dubai, daily noon to 11pm. Tel: (04) 4429816. Metro: JLT. twitter.com/memsaabfood
22. Raju Omlet
What you’re ordering: masala half fry (two!)
Half-fried eggs dressed in onion, chilli, garlic, ginger and chopped tomato, spiced with masala. It’s a mess, but a beautiful one. Best of all, you can order two and still be under Dhs35.
Near Noor Islamic Metro, Al Quoz, Dubai, daily 8am to 11.30pm. Tel: (04) 3883355. Metro: Noor Islamic. facebook.com/RajuOmletDubai
23. Saravanaa Bhojan Shala
What you’re ordering: ghee roast masala
The masalas here are almost as long as the table they are served on. The Indian-style pancake is served as a long thick roll with a dollop of mashed potato and little pots of sauce.
Marina Pearl Building, Dubai Marina, Dubai, Sat to Thur 7.30am to 11.30pm, Fri 7.30am to midnight. Tel: (04) 4512525. Taxi: off Al Sayorah street.
24. Taqado Mexican Kitchen
What you’re ordering: large burrito
A burrito so big it could serve as two meals – Taqado’s 30cm-diameter tortillas are loaded with super tasty fillings. As well as chicken and chilli con carne, there’s the option of hand-pulled beef barbacoa, all with big dollops of guacamole. Throw in mixed peppers, onions, lettuce, cheese, sour cream and rice (Mexican or lime-cilantro rice) and you’ll be rolling out yourself.
Best of the rest
What you’re ordering: hook burger
How could we write a list of cheap eats without mentioning the What’s On 2016 Award-winning food truck? If you want wagyu beef for less then Dhs 35 head to our favourite seaside caravan to sample their spicy slider, served with cheese, jalapeño peppers and lettuce, all wedged between a buttered bun.
Kite Beach, Umm Suqeim, Dubai, daily 2pm to 2am. Tel: (050) 7431319. Taxi: Kite Beach.
26. Chef Express
What you’re ordering: BBQ Ranch burger
Premium burgers for not-so-premium prices, this under-appreciated comfort food corner serves up everything from omelettes and burgers to buffalo wings and fajitas. Their BBQ Ranch burgers come stuffed with cheddar cheese, bacon and onion rings – topped with a dollop of barbecue ranch sauce.
Zee Tower, Dubai Media City, Dubai, Sun to Thur 8am to 11pm, Fri and Sat noon to 11pm. Tel: (04) 2753166. Metro: Internet City. facebook.com/chefexpressdubai
27. Wing Stop
What you’re ordering: eight-piece classic wings and fries
As self-proclaimed wing connoisseurs, we’ll be the first to tell you that it’s tough to get some serious finger-lickin’ chicken around the city without having to pay high prices. That’s why we love Wing Stop. This no-nonsense wing wonderland dishes out top-notch wings at pocket-friendly prices. Fussy about your sauce? Choose from one of Wing Stop’s 11 equally delicious offerings.
Jumeirah Centre, Jumeirah 1, Dubai, daily 11am to 2am. Tel: (04) 3442008. Taxi: Jumeirah Centre. facebook.com/wingstopuae
28. Lucky Voice Dubai
What you’re ordering: smoking hot fries
A tasty side dish that could easily pass for a main course, but probably not a balanced meal. While light on nutritional value, it’s heavy on flavour: the fries are crisp and salty, fried to perfection and evenly coated in a mix of creamy cheddar, smoky pancetta, sweet ketchup and sharp American mustard. A generous helping of jalapeños adds a nice, spicy kick.
Grand Millennium Hotel, Barsha Heights, Dubai, daily 4pm to 3am. Tel: (04): 4478010. Metro: Dubai Internet City. luckyvoice.ae
What you’re ordering: the What’s On Special
No two menu items ever had a marriage quite like that of fish and chips. And to celebrate the month of love, we’ve teamed up with the brilliant fish folk at Chippy’s to offer our readers the crispy and golden on the cheap. Call now and order the What’s On Special and you’ll get a princely portion of fish, chips and a battered Mars bar for only Dhs35. Bargain. Available until March 1, 2017.
Chippy’s Secret Menu
What’s On Special – Dhs35
Sausage – Dhs15
Battered sausage – Dhs20
Chips – Dhs20
Chip butty – Dhs25
Potato scallop – Dhs25
Tel: (04) 5147750. facebook.com/chippys.dxb. Delivery areas: Umm Sequim 3, Umm Al Sheif, Al Sufouh, Knowledge Village, Dubai Internet City, Dubai Media City, The Greens, Barsha Heights and The Palm.
What you’re ordering: ramen burger
Bear with us on this one. Let’s just say you had a hankering for a burger and Japanese all at once. Well, you no longer have to choose. In this interesting take on fusion Japanese, a flavourful ground beef patty, cheese and salad are placed between – you guessed it – buns made of ramen noodles. The result is surprisingly delicious.
Yakitate, Ground Floor, Al Ghurair Centre Extension, Al Rigga, Dubai, daily 8.30am to midnight. Tel: (04) 455 1683. Metro: Union. yakitate.co
31. La Mesa
What you’re ordering: stuffed squid
This lively local haunt is well known for its seafood dishes, and it’s easy to see why. Its premier meal is two just-off-the-boat fresh squid, served up on a sizzling hot plate, full to bursting with tomatoes, onions and capsicum and accompanied by rice and a zingy sauce.
La Mesa Restaurant, Ground Floor, Tower B, Centurion Star Towers, Street # 34, Al Ittihad Road, Dubai, daily 10.30am to 11.30pm. Tel: (04) 2979112. Metro: Deira City Centre
What you’re ordering: chipotle grilled chicken and bacon
If you’ve exhausted Subway’s sandwich menu, Potbelly Sandwich’s premium bread-based offerings are one to try. This isn’t your average sandwich counter, though. Their chipotle grilled chicken and bacon is the king of lunchtimes, stuffed with grilled chicken, beef bacon, cheddar cheese and chipotle.
Marble Walk, Building 5, DIFC, Dubai, Sun to Thur 7am to 11pm, Fri and Sat 10am to 11.30pm. Tel: (04) 4550000. Taxi: DIFC. potbelly.com
33. Pitfire Pizza
What you’re ordering: mac ’n cheese
The ultimate comfort food, this filling perennial fave is cooked to order. The portions are pretty generous; you might struggle to finish this one!
Cluster D, Jumeirah Lakes Towers, Dubai, daily noon to 11pm. Tel: (800) 7483473. Taxi: Cluster D, JLT. pitfiredubai.ae
34. Café M
What you’re ordering: avocado on toast
Sometimes served with fresh strawberries and biscuit butter; other times served with a hard boiled egg and tomato. One thing’s for certain, though – this avocado on toast option, served in a handy to-go box, is tasty and filling, not to mention a bargain at Dhs12. Be warned, they usually sell out by noon.
Media One Hotel, Dubai, Sun to Wed 7am to 11pm, Thur to Sat 8am 11pm. Tel: (04) 4271000. Metro: Internet City. mediaonehotel.com
Eat for free
Every last Wednesday of the month, Italian chef Mauro from Cucina hosts a free Italian ingredients class. Afterwards guests tuck in to a three-course meal for free. This month’s ingredient: the mighty artichoke.