In Iraq, eating out can be both enjoyable and intimidating (on account of suicide bombers targeting restaurants in the past). The situation has significantly improved, especially in Kurdistan, and many travelers do enjoy a good meal or two while in town. Baghdad’s Green Zone is generally safe though there are more fast food joints than gourmet restaurants. Some must-try dishes include masgouf and tepsi baytinijan, both which are widely available. Masgouf, made with roast freshwater fish that has been marinated in olive oil, curcuma, salt, and tamarind, and is served with traditional garnishes like lime tomatoes, chopped onions and flat bread, is the national dish of Iraq. Tepsi baytinijan is a baked casserole that consists of potatoes, meatballs, aubergine, garlic, onions, and tomatoes. Bars and clubs can be found in most cities and the drinking of alcohol is legal, unlike many other Muslim countries. Erbil is the best place for a night out as it is dotted with pubs.
Bars and Pubbing in Iraq
Finding a good bar or lounge in Iraq is surprisingly easy. There are many hangouts in the city of Erbil in Iraqi Kurdistan. Meanwhile, nightlife in Baghdad is more restrictive as most bars are members-only and tend to be underground. T Bar Sports Lounge and Grill (Ainkawa, Erbil), open from 5:00 p.m. until late, is a good place to visit. This American-style bar is a typical sports pub where you can enjoy good food while watching your favorite game. The Marina (Erbil) is also popular though the food is on the expensive side.
If you’re craving a gulp of draft beer, The German Bar (Deutscher Hof) (Ainkawa, Erbil) is the place to be. It is popular with expats and features an outdoor bar and stage for live music. Noble Hotel’s Skybar (Erbil) serves good food alongside amazing views. If you want to have fun with friends, the unique Race Track (Erbil) might just fit the bill, with its go-kart track-inspired bar setting.
Dining and Cuisine in Iraq
There are good places to eat out in Iraq though you might easily get tired of the ubiquitous kebabs. The Green Zone in Baghdad is the place to get American fast food, and a wealth of popular chains like Subway, McDonald’s, and Burger King can be found. If you would like a more local dining experience, head to Marsa Al-Zawariq (Abu Nuwas St., Baghdad) which is best known for its kebab grills.
Erbil has its share of restaurant options serving different types of cuisine. Erbi International Hotel (Erbil) has an in-house eatery that is known for its Asian and curry offerings, but local favorites like Sajalreef Restaurant (Kurkuk Baghdad Road, Erbil) and Tarin Restaurant (Saladeen Road) are also worth a try.
Sandwich shops dot the bazaar areas of Iraq, but for a proper sit-down meal, head to Erza Restaurant (Ainkawa, Erbil) or Abu Shabab (60th Street, Erbil). The famous Fairuz (60th St., Erbil) serves excellent Lebanese dishes, and if you wish to taste good seafood, the nearby Al Mahar (60th Street, Erbil) is the best spot in Iraq.