Samarkand’s Best Restaurants: Where to Eat in Uzbekistan’s Tourist Hub

Trying to find the best restaurants in Samarkand during my time in the city was a constant process of digging and filtering through seemingly never-ending search results of 3.5-star restaurants.

Restaurant in Samarkand with a view of the Registan.
Emirhan Restaurant in Samarkand has one of the best views of the restaurant.

That’s right—unfortunately, restaurants in Samarkand don’t quite reach the same impressive heights as the city’s tile-clad landmarks. Those that do are often meat-heavy (thus is the way with Uzbek cuisine), which doesn’t quite work for a vegetarian like myself.

Despite subpar headwinds, I managed to track down plenty of wonderful restaurants in Samarkand for all diets, and am here to spare you time spent looking at your phone for dinner options in the city instead of looking up at its impressive monuments.

The best restaurants in Samarkand, Uzbekistan.

1. Shokhrukh Nur

Restaurants near Registan Square are usually synonymous with being priced at a premium that reflects the location, but not Shokhrukh Nur.

Shokhrukh Nur is solidly traditional Uzbek fare, and one of the top spots for it in Samarkand. Kick back with a local beer and tender lamb, some of the country’s best lagman, juicy shashlik, and plump manti.

Needless to say, Shokhrukh Nur is not a restaurant for vegetarians and vegans.

Prices are reasonable for the outstanding quality and avoid the dreaded tourist tax.

2. Merci Restaurant

Blue walls and plush, bright pink seating welcome diners at Merci, an international restaurant in Samarkand with European and Japanese influence.

The cafe has become known for its trendy—albeit slightly gaudy—atmosphere, though that doesn’t stop diners from raving about its European fare, and sushi—steak dishes are among the most lauded.

Adjaruli khachapuri at one of the best restaurants in Samarkand.
Adjaruli khachapuri, a staple of Georgian cuisine, is a gooey cheese bread boat topped with a yolky egg.

3. Like Cafe

After spending a morning at the Registan, I needed a late lunch, so I headed over to Like Cafe. At 3 p.m., the cafe was surprisingly bustling, filled with the chatter of locals catching up over tea.

Delighted to see adjaruli khachapuri, a Georgian cheese bread boat, on the menu, I immediately knew what my order would be.

My favorite Georgian dish, gooey and cheesy, did not disappoint, especially for 65,000 som ($5.20 USD). I also ordered a pot of tea because, well, no meal in Uzbekistan is complete without one.

The food at Like Cafe bridges cuisines. Expect to find moderately priced plates, including pizza, pasta, salads, and various entrées, mostly influenced by Uzbekistan, Russia, and Eastern Europe. There are also plenty of options for vegetarians.

4. Kokandskaya Somsa

Somsa, a savory baked pastry filled with meat or vegetables, is a must-try dish in Uzbekistan. Though plenty of traditional Uzbek restaurants in Samarkand have them on the menu, the best somsa in Samarkand are to be found at Kokandskaya Somsa, according to locals.

The family-run cafe serves up flaky somsa straight from the tandoor and flavorful barbecue. Prices are affordable—one piece of somsa is 7,000 som ($0.50 USD).

For the best ambiance, skip Kokandskaya Somsa’s dining room and head to the terrace, filled with locals.

Lebanese food in Samarkand, Uzbekistan.
These crispy, cheesy rolls known as binzhak were one of the best things I ate in Samarkand.
Emirhan, the best restaurant in Samarkand with a view of the Registan.

5. Emirhan Restaurant

Emirhan Restaurant is, without a doubt, one of my favorite restaurants in Uzbekistan. Part of Emirhan Hotel, the Uzbek restaurant in Samarkand features two levels of indoor dining and a rooftop with an amazing view of the Registan. The rooftop—paired with fabulous traditional cuisine—is what makes Emirhan so special.

Salty eggplant rolls known as baqlajon urama gazak (36,000 som, $2.80 USD) are a must, as are the binzhak (20,000 som). Overall, the food at Emirhan is heavily centered on Uzbek and Russian flavors, incorporating mild international influence from Italy and Eastern Europe.

Service sealed Emirhan as the best restaurant in Samarkand for me. Dining alone, I never know how I’ll be treated, but the service at Emirhan went out of their way to make my experience special. The manager even sent over a paper rose he folded by hand and a glass of rosé.

Make a reservation in advance to ensure your spot on Emirhan Restaurant’s rooftop. I could do so by visiting the restaurant on my first day in Samarkand.

6. Restaurant Karimbek

Located in Samarkand’s Iranian mahalla (neighborhood), Restaurant Karimbek is one of the most famous Uzbek restaurants in Samarkand.

The traditionally designed restaurant is expansive, boasting several halls for diners and a full menu of national Uzbek cuisine, including several shashlik options (grilled kebabs). Pair your shashlik with one of Karimbek’s salads, which range in variety.

Food at a Russian and Uzbek restaurant in Samarkand.
Food at a Russian and Uzbek restaurant in Samarkand.

7. Sirius Restaurant

Sirius Restaurant was a shot in the dark for me. When I was in Samarkand, the brand-new restaurant had phenomenal reviews, but only a few of them. Fresh out of better dinner options, I decided to try it anyway.

Now, Sirius Restaurant is becoming one of the most popular restaurants in Samarkand and has retained its strong praise.

It’s easy to see why—from the moment I entered East Star Hotel, where the restaurant is located, I received some of the best service I had in Samarkand. I was led past a mildly tacky, trendy dining room to a table on the restaurant’s terrace, where businessmen lingered over tea and cocktails.

Food at Sirius keeps up with the high standard of service. Burrata, served atop flatbread, is fresh and creamy. The fried eggplant is bursting with flavor, and the mashed potatoes are smooth and creamy.

Sirius is undoubtedly geared towards Russian tourists and businesspeople in Samarkand. The menu is heavily contemporary Russian with some Uzbek and broader European influence if not just made evident in its clientele, staff, and decor.

8. Hleb House

Coffee is elusive in Uzbekistan, where tea rules menus at cafes, restaurants, and bars. If you find yourself craving a cup, head to Hleb House, known for having some of the best coffee in Samarkand.

Hleb House isn’t just coffee—the coffee shop’s pastry case, filled with muffins, pies, and robust loaves of bread, makes for a quick breakfast.

9. 아리랑 Arirang

Arirang, one of the best restaurants in Samarkand, isn’t Uzbek at all—it’s Korean.

The restaurant has become known for serving authentic Korean barbecue—some diners compare it to what they ate in Seoul. In true Korean fashion, barbecue is done tableside, and side plates are refilled when devoured.

When you’re ready for a break from central Asian cuisine, Arirang awaits, just steps away from Registan Square.

10. El’ Merosi

El’ Merosi isn’t just a coffee shop. Sure, the beloved coffeehouse is known for its drinks and desserts, but its real appeal is its theater, where dancers and actors highlight traditional Uzbek performing arts in elaborate costumes.

Even when shows aren’t in full swing, diners fill up El’ Merosi for its flaky baklava, cheesecake, and Afghan Napoleon Cake. Word to the wise—skip the coffee shop’s international breakfast dishes, like waffles, which tend to disappoint crowds.

Breakfast at one of the best restaurants in Samarkand, Uzbekistan.
Menemen is a popular Turkish breakfast made of tomatoes and eggs available at Mone Cafe & Bakery in Samarkand, Uzbekistan.

11. Mone Cafe & Bakery

Breakfast restaurants in Samarkand are few and far between. Mone Cafe & Bakery leads the way out of those that exist.

The quaint, all-day European cafe does it all—sugary pastries, cakes, and desserts; cold ice cream; and hearty plates.

I visited the cafe in Samarkand’s Russian neighborhood. Laptops are welcome, and no one is in a particular rush. Service is reliable, and food is above average by Samarkand standards.

Though you could opt for a sweet crêpe, I recommend the savory breakfast plates, which include several Turkish favorites, such as shakshuka.

12. Menresa

Menresa is fun—it’s not quite traditional Uzbek, but with dishes like Samarkand pilaf on the menu,  isn’t not Uzbek, either. Like many of the best restaurants in Samarkand, some Uzbek cuisine is on the menu, in addition to popular international dishes.

Live music often echoes through the restaurant, varying in style by the musician that night.

Lights cover the exposed rooftop, which is of course, where the most coveted tables at the restaurant are. During peak travel season, make a reservation in advance to ensure you’ll have one.

13. Platan

Platan is one of the most well-known restaurants in Samarkand. Like Karimbek, the country-style hotel and restaurant is known for serving Uzbek cuisine and a few European plates in a romantic space filled with traditional decor.

To indulge in plov and imbibe with local Uzbek wine, make a reservation. This restaurant fills up quickly, and has become known for having one of the best atmospheres in the city.

Platan is not for those in a rush—service can be hit or miss, and food is known to have lengthy waits.

14. Samarqand Osh Markazi N1

Halfway between Shah-i-Zinda and Samarkand International Airport is Samarqand Osh Markazi N1, often regarded as having the best plov (pilaf) in the city. Tender, juicy meat is loaded on top of a bed of rice, along with sweet carrots.

Plov is priced per portion (40,000 to 70,000 som per half portion, $3.20 to $5.60 USD). A half portion is recommended per person. Waiters bring around trays with a selection of pillowy, freshly baked bread and a selection of salads—take what you wish.

Plov is truly the main event at Samarqand Osh Markazi N1. If you want anything else, you’re better off heading to a different restaurant.

Manti at a restaurant in Samarkand, Uzbekistan.
The vegetable manti and Old City Restaurant are warm and comforting, especially when dipping in a cream sauce.

15. Old City Restaurant

Old City Restaurant is a cozy, casual Uzbek restaurant that welcomes diners with a warm smile. Stop in before seeing the unmissable light show at the Registan, which is only a short drive away.

Uzbek cuisine is not known for being vegetarian-friendly, which makes Old City Restaurant’s robust vegetarian offering a bit of an anomaly. Plov, manti, and borscht are bestsellers here. My dish of choice is the pumpkin manti—soft traditional Uzbek dumplings that made for a perfect pick-me-up.

16. Bellis Premium Restaurant

Bellis Restaurant is among the closest Samarkand comes to having a true nightlife restaurant, mostly for the hookah and alcohol that keeps the restaurant crowded.

Aside from adult indulgences, the energetic spot often has live music and serves and an international menu loved by Samarkand’s well-to-do  that includes sushi, Italian, and Russian, among others.

Due to how quickly Bellis fills up, making a reservation in advance is highly recommended.

17. Yaponamama Rudaki

Rattan lights flood the ceiling at Yaponamama Rudaki, one of Samarkand’s most stylish spots to dine.

The Japanese fusion restaurant isn’t without substance—the chain is known for delivering on sushi with decent quality by Uzbek standards, and baked flatbreads that diners love.

Though the Samarkand outpost is relatively new, the chain has several additional established outlets in Tashkent, Fergana, and Bukhara, among others.

18. Avesto

This high-end European cafe is making a name for itself in Samarkand for its incredible baked goods and savory plates.

Come for breakfast and start your day with a pan of shakshuka or fluffy pastry, or stroll in for rich pasta and fresh salad at dinner.

If you’re short on time, Avesto’s bakery awaits, filled with house-baked bread, flaky baklava, pillowy cake, succulent fruit tarts, and the like.

Fresh salad at one of the best restaurants in Samarkand, Uzbekistan.
Salads are taken seriously in Samarkand, consisting of fresh produce and cheese.

Restaurants in Samarkand: FAQ

What food is popular in Samarkand?

Samsa (baked stuffed pastry), plov or pilaf (rice dish), shashlik (kebabs), and manti (Uzbek dumplings) are among the most popular dishes in Samarkand.

What are the best vegetarian-friendly restaurants in Samarkand?

Emirhan Restaurant, Old City Restaurant, Sirius Restaurant, Like Cafe, and Avesto are some of the best restaurants in Samarkand for vegans and vegetarians.

Where is the best plov in Samarkand?

The best plov in Samarkand can be found at Samarqand Osh Markazi N1, outside of the city’s tourist center.

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