Where to eat, drink or have coffee in Yerevan? Karifood mapped its own route across 12 outlets of the Armenian capital including coffee houses, restaurants, wine bars and confectioneries.
These places are worth visiting not for just a regular check-in but also for having a glass of Armenian rosé wine or a sip of Artsakh vodka, trying local Lori and Yeghegnadzor cheese, or eating the best Zhengyalov Hats, Zatar and hummus, pahlava or Mutabal (eggplant dip).
What’s the first thing you need to learn about food outlets in Armenia? Tips are already included in the bill; menus are often written in Armenian only; waiters speak either Armenian or English, and no other language is available – this happens quite frequently; and, alas, smoking is allowed everywhere in restaurants, cafés, confectioneries and coffee houses, no other choice there.
Wine. The starting point of any gastronomic trip across Yerevan is Saryan Street — just a couple of years ago it was known only to the admirers of the great Armenian artist Martiros Saryan as his memorial house is located on that street. Now this is one of the noisiest and jazziest streets of the city where wine flows like river, and everywhere you will hear sounds of music coming out from the open windows of local bars and restaurants, people talking in all languages and laughing, and the clinking of dishes.
The new gastronomic culture of Yerevan starts its space-and-time countdown from here. In Vino is a colorful splash on the monochromic picture of restaurant life in the Armenian capital, taking its own niche between flashy and often tastlessly decorated restaurants and homemade cafés with modest and simple but nourishing food.
Wine bars overlooking each other, city restaurants with spectacular outdoor seating space, tapaserias and finger-food outlets — all this diversity started here, at In Vinо.
A rich collection of European wines (over 800 bottles) is complemented with a whole wine chest of Armenian and Artsakh wines — worthy, striking and full of potential.
The restaurant provides snack plates — cheese and cold cuts where parmesan is wonderfully combined with the local spicy cheese served in peppers — Lori, and parma and hamon are served with the thin slices of Sujuk and real Basturma (not purple-red but dark, stringy and wrapped in a thick fenugreek cover with pepper and cornel pits).
This venue is a wine bar, a wine shop, a tasting room, a place for meetings, accidental run-ins, or friendly talks over a bottle or two of some good wine — all wrapped into one. Even if the place is packed to the brim, large common tables still leave you a chance to grab a corner seat and have your glass of wine.
In Vino, 6, Martiros Saryan Str.
Another restaurant of the same family is located near In Vino — Tapastan (“tapas” meaning snacks, and “stan” — country). Vast wine menu is complemented with a cuisine focused on tapas and pinchos types of food but boasting a true Armenian flavor.
For example, the specialty of this restaurant is Dolma in grape leaves, which is a wonderful finger-food dish, and it is served with a whole bunch of snacks: cheese croquette skewers, salad, several sauces and more cheese.
And wine, wine flowing like river or measured in glasses — depends on how much stamina you have!
Surely, the restaurant is packed in the evening, both inside and outside, but the situation is somewhat improved with the help of long common tables and an alternative of high chairs near the counter where you can have a glass of Armenian rosé wine or white Moscato.
Tapastan, 8, Martiros Saryan Str.
Come & Calla
Come & Calla, which means“Eat and Keep Quiet”, is another wine bar with tapas-pinchos snacks located just across the street from In Vino.
Come & Calla is just half a step away from an authentic Spanish tablao (no Flamenco is danced here, and no manton shawls are flapping to the cante jondo rhythm). It is a democratic format of an Andalusian tapaseria offering you a lot of everything and even more wine.
Flamenco music is played here, the menu contains several snack plates, cheese and meat, Manchego and hamon, tortillas de patatas (very delicious!) and, naturally, a corner with Armenian wines — red, white and rosé.
This place serves not just snacks but also quite nourishing dinners, but if you plan to tour around Saryan Street the whole evening trying each bar on both sides of the street, then these baby tapas are at your service!
Come & Calla, 1, Martiros Saryan Str.
Wine Republic,along with In Vino, is one of the iconic facilities that changed the gastronomic image of Yerevan.
It is a wine bar (Europe, New World, Armenia) with a good cuisine and a short menu of snacks, burgers, salads and mussels, a city café format multiplied by a great selection of wines served by the glass and an ancient culture of wine-making and wine-drinking of the Ararat valley.
Getting a free table here in the evening is like winning a lottery.
The notion of “atmosphere” is not just an empty word forced upon you by marketing or PR experts; this place is truly fine, merry, relaxing and cozy, people never crush against you or bother you, everybody knows each other; it is a place for large companies of friends or families, or even for sharing a table with strangers who immediately feel like they are friends. It is never too early or too late here to ask for a glass of wine or some local apricot vodka.
Here you should pay attention to Armenian rosé wines and cheese platters — besides traditional Pecorino and Camembert with thyme and nuts, this place serves famous Armenian Yeghegnadzor cheese made of a mix of goat and sheep milk and spiced with herbs.
Besides, this place serves fabulous lava cake with hot chocolate filling and great pahlava. Lava cakes are a real hit now in Armenia, it is a mandatory component of each dessert menu just about anywhere, so sooner or later you will have to try it — if not in Wine Republic, then in any other place you visit on your trip.
Wine Republic, 2, Tumanyan Str. (near Cascade)
Coffee. Yerevan has not been swept by either the third, or the second, or the first coffee waves yet. Coffee menus are standard everywhere – a set of classics plus cezve coffee often made of cheap Robusta or less often of good commercial blends, and almost never roasted by the outlet. Only in the most exceptional cases (which, unfortunately, do not include Yerevan) you can try speciality coffee (Dilijan, my friends, you need to travel to Dilijan for that!). Still, even in a desert of truly bad coffee you can find some nice oases.
Yerevan has surprisingly very little pure formats, so that a coffee house would have only a roaster, a coffee machine, a coffee grinder and espresso; and a restaurant would have just food and nothing but food (yet, I could say the situation in Kyiv is not much different).
Mirzoyan Library is a multifunctional wine bar, a coffee house, a homemade restaurant, a cultural cluster (having a library and a photo studio, and this restaurant with its patio is more like an open-air museum as it is the only house in the city center which is a hundred years old and perfectly preserved).
This is a perfect place for a quiet cup of morning coffee, and a perfect place to have a really loud evening — music is so loud that it makes windows of the nearby hotels shake. The interior eclecticism is not a designer’s idea but life itself (I remember such unmatching chairs and a cupboard in my Armenian grandmother’s house).
This place serves both continental breakfast with bacon, omelette and beans, and croissants and granola.
My favorite item on the menu is “pastry of the day” when you order your morning coffee and ask what pies they have today — with fruits or nuts.
Mirzoyan Library, 10, Mher Mkrtchyan Str., patio
The Green Bean
This is one of the few places in Yerevan where you don’t have to explain to the staff what a roaster, Chemex and flat white are.
This typical city coffee house had been quite extraordinary for Yerevan for some time. Today nobody is surprised by a wooden-style interior, a roaster in the corner, shelves with craft souvenirs and palette tables. Breakfasts, croissants, tarts, cakes, granola, pasta, pies, freshly roasted coffee, some coffee classics, coffee alternatives, take-away coffee and somehow pretty bad cezve coffee, although this looks like a nice common home-brewing outlet.
Still, their flat white is practically breathing down the neck of perfect coffee — well-balanced taste of milk and coffee and silky smooth foam. I’ve been a great fan of this place for several years now, I love it with all my coffee heart, and I highly recommend it!
The Green Bean Coffee Shop, 10, Amiryan Str. (near Republic Square)
The Green Bean Cascade, 38, Isahakyan Str. (near Cascade)
Speaking shortly, this place has neither the alternatives nor the perfect espresso, and no coffee blends either, but they make superb latte art.
Their famous 3D-cappuccino with a fresh rose made by barista Ando Saakyan is certainly something that makes Coffeestory worth visiting.
Their coffee classics list is pretty short, but they have a large menu of coffee drinks with cream, halva, chocolate candy, caramel, syrups and other sweet tooth dreams.
Coffee gourmets will surely look down on these mixes and stuff as you can’t even feel the taste of coffee behind the strong flavor of chocolate and whipped cream. But if you love sweets, this is the place to be and meet Ando.
They serve homemade cakes with your coffee or tea, they make pankakes, salads and amazing lemonade of fresh citrus fruits, tarragon and mint. And hey, let’s be honest — who wouldn’t wish to give in to some real debauch that takes the shape of a gigantic glass of something looking like coffee topped with thick cream, chocolate crispies, chocolate syrup and some caramel to go with it — and have it just for yourself? So if you want some secret coffee guilty pleasure, Coffeestory in Yerevan is just the right place.
Coffeestory, 98-9, Nalbandyan Str.
Food. Armenian gastronomy still has a long way to go to become so rapidly common like Georgian khinkali houses and be a profitable food case for restaurateurs at least in former Soviet Union countries. Right now, authentic Armenian cuisine can be found only in local homes, while local restaurants mostly ignore their nationality with some contempt and provide a menu that mixes sushi and steaks, pizza, pasta, khinkali and even Borsch, all of this served under the common sign of “European cuisine”. Or they run to a different extremity setting up a restaurant format that was common in the 90-ies — when you eat on gold, sleep on gold, cover yourself with gold to the live music dating back to the same godforsaken years, eating kebab and watching waiters bow just to be presented with an atrociously enormous check in the end. But even then, there is a small and quite cordial amount of places where the “we’re only doing European cuisine” outrage is minimal and smartly combined with national specialities and unobtrusive service.
When you enter Tatik Papik, request Zhengyalov Hats, the “green bread”, immediately, better four or five at once! To try a “more authentic” Zhengyalov, you will have to travel to Karabakh, maybe Shusha or Stepanakert.
Zhengyalov Hats, or “green bread”, is a peculiar Karabakh specialty. These are flat breads with a mix of herbs — no less than 14 different ones — and melted butter.
Finely chopped herbs are rolled into the thinnest layer of dough possible and then baked on a flat brazier. Easy as a pie, and just as tasty! As for the main course, the rest of the menu is quite standard, and you may not be lucky enough to run into a good chef on duty. We had quite mediocre Dolma and even more mediocre nettle soup.
Although the staff in Tatik Papik reacted pretty fast and were perfectly adequate when we complained about overcooked Dolma and insipid soup, still, speaking honestly and not finding any “the chef had a bad day” excuses, Karifood will only recommend perfect Zhengyalov Hats at this place as a must-try. We leave all the rest to your own discretion.
Tatik Papik, 47, Nalbandyan Str.
When Yerevan was swarmed by waves of Syrian Armenians who were trying to escape war, the gastronomic city culture was greatly enriched with Arabic, Lebanese and Western-Armenian flavors, spices and fragrances. Hard-working Syrian Armenians open food outlets one after another: small cafés, bakeries, small restaurants serving simple, delicious and cheap food. Oh hey, did I say delicious? It’s a mouthgasm!
Cuisine at Anteb is a fine and delicate mix of Middle East and Arabic cuisine. The interior is modest: wooden tables and chairs, and that’s all. There are bread balls, Kebbe cutlets, Mutabal, Fattoush, Taboule, hummus, Lamadjo flatbread also called Armenian pizza, and heady thin bread with Zatar spices dripping green olive oil. If you plan a lunch or a dinner at Anteb, better reserve a table in advance.
Yes, the place is quite simple, lacking any pathos, but it has food, more food and food again (oh those crazy Zatar flatbreads!), and this is why it is pretty much always packed. The place also serves amazing Tan – a sour dairy matsoni-based drink and Middle East desserts – naturally, if you still have some place left for something sweet after all these riches.
Yes, do try to save some place for those delights dripping honey and lavishly sprinkled with pistachios and walnuts! Anteb has its own confectionery just across the street which is also a must-visit checkpoint when you come to Yerevan.
This is heaven as we have always dreamed it! I want to live there, no lie! Every twenty minutes or so a severe-looking moustached chef puts out trays of pahlava, Qurabiya pastries, Kadaif rolls and a heap of other sweets with tongue-twisting names.
So you just run from one shop window to another and point your finger to everything, and say, “I want this, this, that, and that too, more-more-more!”
All sweets come with a take-away option, you can take them with you even on board the plane (they will be packed accordingly), or you can buy a luxurious wooden box that holds exactly one tray of pahlava.
Or you can sit at a table right there and spend an hour over a cup of coffee, running back to the shop window time after time and asking to put “that thing with pistachios, and that one with walnuts” on the bill. Say goodbye to your thin waist, farewell to your beautiful slim body, see you healthy nutrition, and hello to the true and genuine gastronomic joy. Isn’t that great?
Anteb Restaurant, 51, Yeznik Koghbatsi Str.
Anteb Sweets, 30, Yeznik Koghbatsi Str.
This is a small Syrian outlet in a side-street near the Republic Square: an outdoor terrace with branded umbrellas, a neon light and the main hall in a cellar — in general, everything that makes it look pretty much like a low-profile joint.
Yet, it is packed to the brim since morning, and the only thing that can save you is the take-away option for the whole menu because a free table is unattainable. This place is cheap even for Armenian salaries — for example, you can have two Zatar flatbreads, a bowl of salad and two cups of coffee for just 4 dollars.
The menu is traditional, same Fattoush, Mutabal, Kebbe, hummus and Falafel, some Middle-Eastern soups, a Mediterranean pizza and an impressive list of Zatar flatbreads with various fillings: cheese, vegetables, salami, olives or tomatoes. If you’re not discouraged by plastic plates, this is the place to be!
Zatar Pizza, 24, Anrapetunian Str.
This is no joint or a simple café; it is actually a decent average with beautiful crockery, fine table laying and lavish Middle-Eastern food.
Turkish coffee is served with small candy, and the menu, complete with the traditional Zatar flatbreads, also has Arabic Saj flatbreads with cheese and tomatoes. The chef will add some hot pepper to your filling if you ask for it.
Just the taste to wake you up! The place serves delicious Mutabal, but their hummus is a bit tasteless, and their Taboule is quite close to the Lebanese version (very sour), while their Falafel is incredible, with lots and lots of greens!
Lagonid, 37, Nalbandyan Str.
Naturally, Yerevan is not all about those 12 food outlets: you can wear your evening dress to Tsirani in Northern Avenue, or to Ad Astra at Radisson Blu Yerevan, or try sour-milk soup with Kofte and kebab at Yerevan Restaurant; or have some coffee at one of several dozens of Jezve network cafes. And please don’t miss out on the local Grand Candy confectionery — I could easily go on foot from Kyiv to Yerevan for their chocolate cake, but remember: true Armenian cuisine is still home-cooked.
Tanapur (Spas) soup, Hash, Khorovatz barbecue, Lavash with cheese and herbs — these things require fresh mountain air, a small patio, a large family at a home table, and the last thing they need are starch napkins or waiters, so if you plan a trip to Armenia, ask some of your Armenian friends if you can drop in for home-cooked dinner — and don’t be shy, they’ll be delighted to have you!
Text: Olga Kari
Photos: Anton Lazutin, Olga Kari