It used to be that to get good Georgian food—really to get any Georgian food—in New York, you had to spend an hour on the subway going to deepest, darkest Brooklyn. You can still do that, as there are a lot of great Georgian eateries in that borough. But now there are a small handful of excellent Georgian restaurants in Manhattan too. Here are the best spots for Georgian food in NYC.
What is Georgian Cuisine
There’s an oft-told tale that links the cuisine of the Republic of Georgia with the origins of this Caucasus region country. As the story goes, when God was distributing portions of land to give to people, the Georgians turned up late, saying they’d been feasting great food and drinking wine. God angrily informed them that all the land had already been given away. But when the Georgians told him that they were having the feast in his honor, God was so pleased he gave them a swath of land he’d reserved for himself.
Georgians make God the Great Enabler in the sky. This is why if you haven’t had Georgian food, you have a full license to try it. And if you’re unfamiliar with the Republic of Georgia, it’s time to pull out a map. No, it’s not a state in the Deep South of the United States. Georgia is a former part of the Soviet Union. Located in the Caucasus Mountains, wedged between Turkey, Armenia, Azerbaijan, and Russia. And the cuisine of this relatively off-the-radar country is one of the world’s best.
Most Common Ingredients of Georgian Food
Since Georgia has been at the crossroads of the Silk Road, the cuisine is diverse. Borrowing a little bit from its neighbors to produce rich and delicious cuisine. There are some ingredients that make recurring appearances: walnuts, eggplant, pomegranate seeds, grapes, and various fresh herbs. It’s almost like Mediterranean cuisine without the Mediterranean Sea.
And, of course, bread. Lots and lots of bread. Khachapuri, the ubiquitous baked cheese bread, is a must at any Georgian table. The version of the region of Adjara, located on the Black Sea, has the shape of a boat with molten cheese and a raw egg in the middle. It is pretty much the face of Georgian food around the world.
And if you needed to know anything else about Georgian cuisine it is this: Georgians have a word called “shemomechama” which is used to describe a state of being uncomfortably full while being simultaneously unable to stop eating. It’s not your fault you’re having these gluttonous desires—the food is just too good to resist.
With that said, it’s time to explore the best restaurants in New York to tap into this divine bounty of food that is Georgian cuisine.
Our Top Picks for Georgian Food in New York
Named after the huge traditional oven that Georgians bake bread in (and a distant sibling to the Indian tandori oven), Toné Cafe (265 Neptune Ave)—as the name would suggest—specializes in all things gluten. There are six different khachpuris on the menu, but it’s not completely bread here. Also excellent here are khinkali, the broth-holding dumplings, and the garlicky kashi soup. Making at one of our favorite cheap eats in Brooklyn too!
Located on East 8th Street, Cafe Delia is probably the most casual of the collection of Georgian restaurants in New York. Despite being diminutive, the restaurant has a long menu of traditional Georgian delights, including five different types of regional khachapuri, the delicious baked cheese bread, as well as various stews, soups, and fresh salads.
With two locations, one 0n the Chelsea/West Village border and one on the Upper West Side, Chama Mama is one of the best Georgian restaurants in the city. The sleek space with a leafy back garden is a great place to linger over a steaming khachapuri or one of the regional stews on offer. Chama Mama is also one of the few Georgian restaurants that change their menu based on the season. Which brings back regulars to try new regional specialties.
Novice Georgian food eaters often refer to the cheese-filled boat-shaped Adjaruli khachapuri as a “cheeseboat.” We reject this linguistic lunacy. And yet, the badly named Cheeseboat restaurant, which is located in Williamsburg and Hell’s Kitchen, is just too good to dismiss. Yes, they churn out the namesake baked cheese bread here—and it’s pretty good—but the restaurant also does some tricked-up versions of khachapuri that comes topped with stuff like meatballs, different types of cheeses, mushrooms, prosciutto, and such. Purists would pull their hair out at the pizza-fication of khachapuri. That is, until they actually tried it and realized it’s quite good.
One of the newest kids on the Georgian restaurant block, Chito Gvrito made a great first impression with New York diners, as word spread about this Gramercy restaurant quickly. Elegant but relaxed and casual at the same time, Chito Gvrito has the usual Georgian staples but takes it a step further by adding some varieties to the genre. For example, there are traditional khinkali, the dumplings that hold meat and soup broth inside. But the kitchen also makes them with cheese or lamb and tarragon. The juicy, tender grilled meat here is also worth some stomach space.
It may have one of the least creative names around—why not go a step further and just call the place “Restaurant”?—but the cuisine at Georgian Cuisine is anything but ordinary. Like Cheeseboat, this Bay Ridge, Brooklyn restaurant offers doctored Adjaruli khachapuri that’s topped with things like bacon, red beans, grilled chicken, or eggplant. Particularly good here is the shkmeruli, a dish from the Racha region that is a tender chicken baked in a garlicky milk sauce. They have a good selection of Georgian wine here as well as well as some of the best Georgian food in NYC.
Named after Niko Pirosmani, a very famous naïve painter in Georgia, this Sheepshead Bay, Brooklyn restaurant opened in 2001 and changed ownership in 2017. The new owner restored the Pirsonmani replica paintings on the walls. And then went about digging through 19th-century Georgian cookbooks to find recipes that got lost in the daze of the Soviet period (1922-1991). He then resurrected the dishes here. Sure, there are plenty of Georgian classics on the menu but you’ll also get off-the-radar stuff like chanakhi, a claypot-cooked eggplant and lamb stew. Even better, Pirosmani (2222 Avenue U) is BYO. The unique dishes served at Pirosmani is why it’s a must visit spot for Georgian food in NYC.
David Farley is a West Village-based food and travel writer whose work appears regularly in the New York Times, National Geographic, BBC, and Food & Wine, among other publications. He’s the author of three books, including “An Irreverent Curiosity: In Search of the Church’s Strangest Relic in Italy’s Oddest Town,” which was made into a documentary by the National Geographic Channel. You can find Farley’s online homes here and here.