Food & Restaurants in Damascus
The famous vegetarian falafel sandwich (15-30 SP), chicken shawarma (30-50 SP) and manakeesh (10-20 SP), bread filled with zatar, spinach, meat, pizza-style tomato and cheese or other fillings are widely available and cheap. Less common but still widely spread are places which sell foul (boiled fava beans with sauce) and hummus.
A typical Damascene dish is fatteh, made up of soaked bread, chickpeas and yogurt. Delicious and extremely filling, it is excellent on a cold winter's day. Try it with lamb or sheep's tongue, or plain with the typical garnish of a little pickle and nuts.
There is a foul restaurant on Souq Saroujah, the same street as hotel Al-Haramein and one at the bab touma square. Also in this "backpacker district" on Souq Sarouja is Mr Pizza serving good pizzas, sandwiches, burgers and fries. A large plate of fries is 50 SP, a sandwich filled with chicken is 75 SP and a pizza for one person is 110 SP.
Shawarma is, of course, popular in Damascus. It comes in different varieties, including chicken and beef. Station One (near the Noura Supermarket in Abu Rumaneh) is one of many restaurants that serve shawarma throughout the city.
In order to really experience local Syrian cuisine, be sure to visit a section of Damascus called Midan. It lies south of the old city and can easily be reached by walking south from the western entrance to Souq al-Hamadiyya or from Bab Saghir. There is a main street there called Jazmatiya which offers an unlimited amount of shawerma & falafel stands, butcher shops/restaurants and plenty of Syrian pastry shops which are clearly marked by 2.5 metre high towers of sweets stacked on top of each other. Be sure to try Shawarma from "Anas," which makes some of the best sandwiches in Damascus. This main street is best to visit at night and doesn't close till around 03:00. The street is very safe and is always very busy.
Another unusual treat is a camel kebab, available tasty and fresh from the camel butchers outside Bab Saghir. As they typically advertise their wares by hanging a camel head and neck outside the premises, you're unlikely to miss them.
Fresh juice stalls are available all over the city. Orange juice (aasir beerdan) starts at 30-50 SP, other fruits are slightly more expensive. Many fruit stalls also have a range of dishes like hot dog, sojouq (Armenian sausage), liver (soda) and meat (kebab etc.). These may not always be the safest to eat.
Fruits and vegetables which are not peeled might cause infections, but are still very good. Select places that have a steady stream of customers.
The area around Martyr's square is polluted with pastry shops selling sweet, tasty and cheap baklava.
Do not try to eat in empty places only crowded restaurants and food places are safe otherwise you may get food poisoning from Shawerma sandwiches or any other product (especially in summer) so beware!
- Al-Sehhi Restaurant, Sharia al-Abed, Central Damascus, .This restaurant offers the basics in Middle Eastern cooking, including mezze and a variety of grilled meats. There is a separate family section for diners and women. Alcohol is not served, and credit cards are not accepted.
- Pizza Pasta, sharia medhat pasha, at the turn to Bab Kisan. This place serves descent pasta and good pizza, and also antipasta and alcohol. The service is often less than good, but it's worth to put up with for some of the real stuff. No menu, just ask for whatever Italian dish you fancy and chances are they will have it.
- Nadil, a little closer to bab sharqi than pizza pasta, this place serves up typical Arabic meat dishes and very good broasted, and does it well and cheap. Takeaway.
- Beit Sitti, close to beit jabri in the old city (the street that runs parallel to the street of al-noufara down from the ommayad mosque). Opinions are diverse on the food. But there is no doubt that they have the best lemon and mint juice in damascus and it’s OK just to drink.
- Inhouse Coffee, at the airport, in the bab touma shopping street on the way to sahet abbasin and in the shopping street of abu romanih (souq al-kheir, close to benetton shopping centre). This is the place for great coffee. They have everything, including pressed coffee, for those with European cravings. Heavy with smart looking people and bluetooth in the air (in Syria, it’s an acceptable way to flirt).
- Cafe Vienna, close to cham palace, follow the street towards Jisr-al-rais, turn right in the alley opposite of the Adidas store. This place is great. They do sandwiches on brown bread and apfelstrudel!
- Vino Rosso, in bab touma walk up the stairs beside the police station and ask your way. You can have food fried at the table and they got French cheese. Rather cheap, very cosy. Alcohol is served.
- Chinese Restaurant, opposite of Cafe Narcissius close to Beit Jabri. Mom and Pop operation, although the chef's wife is back in China to raise their baby. Does standard Americanized Chinese food. Reasonably priced and good Chinese food, usually full of foreigners or Chinese students. The sweet and sour chicken and beef "hot pan" are highly recommended. Alcohol is served.
- Fish place, bourj el-roos. This place is more or less male only, a little rough and does very good fish. about 500 SL per person. Not cheap, but it’s Damascus, it’s fish and it’s good. The same place runs a good place for foul and hommous next by. Alcohol is served.
- Spicy, at the abu-roumanih side of jisr al-abiad, first street to the left if your back is faced to the bridge. Daily dishes, "home-made" style Arabic food. Excellent. No alcohol.
- Caffe Latte, a small, warmhearted cafe with the best coffee in town. Serves great muffins and pancakes. A very nice escape from the hustle and bustle of Damascus. Located near the Italian hospital.
- Scoozi. It’s close to Noura Supermarket in Abu Rumanneh, if you walk from jisr al-rais towards jebel qasioun it is on your right. Best pizza in Damascus, the rest of the dishes are excellent too. No alcohol.
- Haretna (bab touma area, take the stairs beside the police station and follow the sign) serves excellent mezze No alcohol during Ramadan.
- Nadi al Sharq, close to hotel Four seasons, this is the best Indian in Damascus. They do an excellent set meal for 600 S.P.
- Rotana Cafe, a theme cafe built at the end of Damascus Boulevard by the Four Seasons. It is part of the Rotana Audio Visuals company which is probably the most famous music records company in the Arabic world. The head of Rotana is Prince Walid bin Talal. The food is good, as well as the hookah The view from this cafe is great, Mount Kassyoun is visible and the rest of Beirut Street. There is also a souviner shop and a music store located on the first level.
- Cafe Trattoria is located right by the United Colors of Benneton in Abu Rummaneh. It is a beautiful pavement cafe that offers Italian food, hookas, and western coffees, as well as the traditional Turkish Coffee.
- Leila's Restaurant and Terrace, Souq al-Abbabiyya, Central Old City, . Leila's Restaurant and Terrace has rooftop seating with a gorgeous view of Umayyad Mosque. The restaurant serves traditional Arabic cuisine. Alcohol is served, although noted listed on the menu so ask the waiter for availability.
- Beit Jabri Restaurant, 14 Sharia as-Sawwaf, Central Old City, . A favourite with both locals and tourists, and offers the Syrian classics. It is located in the courtyard of a beautiful Damascene house.
- Arabesque Restaurant, Sharia al-Kineesa, Central Damascus, . The restaurant offers a combination of Syrian and French classics. While alcohol is served, credit cards are not accepted. Arabesque is on the more elegant side, so semi-formal dress may be more appropriate.
- Downtown, Sharia al-Amar Izzedin al-Jazzari, Central Damascus, . This contemporary restaurant offers a wide array of sandwiches, salads and fresh fruit juices. French is more likely to be spoken than Arabic. The interior is filled with Scandinavian decor.