We wanted to gatekeep these…

But we’re not going to, because we love them (and you) and we think you deserve to be enlightened, if you aren’t already. We all know about the big, fancy, Michelin-starred spots, which are great, but there are those criminally underrated places that perhaps don’t get that much show. Team What’s On is all about good food and great experiences, and here we have our list of our best-kept secrets.

Dibba Bay’s licensed oyster shack on JBR

Okay, so you’re proably familiar with the OG Dibba Bay at Jumeirah Fishing harbour (and the plump fruits of their labours served at fine dining restaurants across the city. But for slurping down oysters with beautiful beach views at sunset, you’ll find me at the lesser-known oyster shack the Dibba-based brand has on JBR. It’s frills-free and simply finished, with just a load of picnic benches dotted across the grass for you to perch up on. Here, don’t just serve up oysters – they’ve teamed up with local farms and fishmongers to offer a neat menu of other bites too. Best of all? It’s licensed, so you can pair your oysters (served for just Dhs8 during their sunset happy hour), with a glass of bubbly. – Alice Holtham, Group Editor 


Mercury Cafeteria

A restaurant needs to be on your radar when it’s frequented by those that know the food, and regulars of the no-frills Mercury Cafeteria can attest to it being a hidden gem on the Eastern European dining scene in the UAE capital. Duck into, and dip through the back alleys of the city centre until this spot suddenly sprouts up across the street from the Russian Embassy. The restaurant has a cute, cozy interior with hues of peach, pink and white, making it feel welcoming and authentic. On the menu, expect an impressive variety of salads, traditional soups like shorva, okroshka and mastava, and even elaborate mains like lagman and rolled kebabs that are well under Dhs50. For authentic Uzbek flavours, order the Uzbek plov with salad. Often considered Uzbekistan’s national dish, this dish is prepared with long-grain rice, lamb chunks and veggies in a single pot and is a well-known feature at Uzbek celebrations. The owners and staff are attentive, and always seek feedback when you finish your meal. Just one of those friendly neighbourhood small businesses that will have you frequenting it for its remarkable fare. – Dinesh Ramanathan, Deputy Editor, Abu Dhabi



The word ‘elevated’ is getting thrown around a little too liberally in foodie circles for my liking, but it’s difficult to talk about this new shawarma joint using any other terminology. Mitzumami serves an enhanced and upgraded (I’m trying) version of the regional love language, with their signature offering benefitting from a prime beef cut and lamb fat collaboration, a wood fire grill to a medium-rare finish, craft pickles, and dollops of ritzed-up tahini slapped over the whole pita-hugged mélange. As with all true hidden gems, there’s a hero’s journey required to reap its spoils – located, as it is, in a food truck community in the car park of Aswaaq Barsha South.


Woodlands Restaurant

When people think of South Indian cuisine in Karama, Saravana Bhavan or Venus usually springs to mind. But for me, it’s Woodlands in Al Karama Complex. I have been going to this restaurant ever since I was a kid. Armed with a book by R.L. Stine (I don’t remember actually reading at the restaurant), my family and I were well known by the staff and the owner, and we were always greeted with a huge smile. The owner has since left Dubai and the staff have all changed, but it doesn’t stop me from returning. According to me, it has the best filter coffee in town – a mix of sweet and strong, and I can easily down two in one sitting. My go-to food order? Either puri or a crispy sada dosa (I sometimes have the butter sada dosa) with sambar with the red coconut dry chutney. Pure deliciousness. – Aarti Saundalkar, Online Reporter



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