Saj, hummus, karak and camel's milk are all on the menu at the Expo 2020 site in Dubai. The decision to rope in small and medium home-grown cafes and food trucks was a deliberate one, made to give “local institutions the opportunity to make their mark”, while the dozen or so outlets chosen thus far “have been selected for their quality and longevity [and] offer comfort and consistency”.
Here are some of the restaurants foodies can visit at Expo 2020 come October, or sample around the city beforehand.
The hole-in-the-wall karak joint from Umm Suqeim regularly sees cars queuing up for its tea, and also serves biryani, idli, dosa, parathas, Indian and Pakistani curries, plus Indo-Chinese dishes.
The bakery in Dubai Festival City serves Lebanese bread and baguettes, plus fatayer, fattoush, kaftas and keshek.
Al Reef Bakery
Located in Al Karama and Jumeirah 3, this Lebanese bakery offers Arabian sweets, cakes, kunafa and baklava, as well as spring rolls, sausages, manakeesh and shawarma.
Arabian Tea House
Another Umm Suqeim favourite, Arabian Tea House also has a branch in Meena Bazaar. Karak tea and coffee aside, it boasts an extensive food menu comprising Emirati breakfast trays, fattoush and halloumi salads, falafel wraps and other Arabic delicacies.
Dampa Seafood Grill
A Filipino hotspot from Deira, Dampa – as its name suggests – dumps freshly caught shrimp, crab, mussels and clams by the kilo of half kilo straight on the sharing table, and its offerings are best enjoyed by hand.
Boasting four branches in Dubai, Firas is your go-to for “calorie-worthy desserts” – think kunafa, baklava, muhalabiyah and halawet – plus cheese, zaatar, labneh and meat pies.
Saj 2 Go
The Dragon Mart kiosk serves traditional saj and kaak with zaatar, labneh, halloumi, meat and veggies, plus muhalabiyah custard.
Located in Qusais, this fast-food and juice joint does a mean fried chicken “zinker” burger and wrap, plus all manner of porattas.
"Adding colour and texture to Expo's offering, these home-grown brands will shine a light on Dubai's fun and flourishing food scene, and inspire millions of visitors to try some tantalising flavours from here in the UAE and around the globe," says Darren Tse, director – concessions and programming, commercial, Expo 2020 Dubai.
Local food aside, Irish Village – a bona fide culinary and entertainment stalwart in Dubai – will also have a branch at Expo 2020.
“The Irish Village is looking forward to offering an authentic Irish welcome to local, regional and overseas visitors,” says the brand’s vice chairman and CEO Colm McLoughlin.