Kathmandu and Pokhara have a variety of affordable restaurants offering international, as well as Nepalese cuisine, pubs, bars and nightlife hubs. During the last few years, Pokhara has latched onto Western nightlife and introduced Nepal’s version of the Full Moon Rave and the Last Resort, set on the Tibetan border, holding Full Moon Trace Parties in the warmer months.

Local cuisines in Nepal vary regionally by the origins of the ethnic population, but the main staples are grains, lentils, meat and fresh vegetables cooked with spices. There’s a resemblance to Indian cuisine with chapattis and dhal served with delicious chutneys. In the areas closer to Tibet, barley is more common than rice and meats are always curried. Fish is popular in areas nearby rivers or lakes, but across the board the dietary laws of Hinduism and Buddhism have influence over how animals can be killed for consumption.

Bars and Pubbing in Nepal

Kathmandu has the best choice of pubs and bars and is less touristy than Pokhara. Rum Doodle (Thamel, Kathmandu) is the traditional trekkers’ stop, crowded in season with Everest and Annapurna hopefuls. Good drinks, good food and good people are a highlight, and dancing is encouraged to blow off steam. Thamel district is the best area for nightlife, although some venues should probably be avoided. The House of Music (Thamel, Kathmandu) does what it says with live Nepali rock, Himalayan blues and jazz, and the Irish Pub (Thamel, Kathmandu) is another watering hole popular with hikers.

The Jump Club (Thamel, Kathmandu) is one of Nepal’s few dance clubs, and the Full Moon Club (Thamel, Kathmandu) is the happening place to be. Tom and Jerry’s (Thamel, Kathmandu) is a fun pub complete with pool tables that serves beers and cocktails to the tourist crowd. Pokhara has a few more upscale bars in the four- and five-star hotels, although local laws enforce midnight closings for all pubs, bars and clubs. A favorite hang-out for expats and visitors alike is the Busy Bee (Lakeside, Pokhara), offering live music from 8:00 p.m., pool tables, local beers and the delicious Himalayan herb wine.

Another lakeside haunt is All That Jazz, (Main Street, Pokhara), a fashionably dark place with an unpretentious jazz vibe, combined with a good choice of beer and spirits. Club Amsterdam (Lakeside, Pokhara) appeals to fans of sports and rock with live bands nightly and international football on flat screen TVs. Bullet Basecamp (Jarebar, Pokhara) is a new bar on the scene with a mixed crowd of bikers, locals, storytellers, listeners and volunteers, as well as WiFi internet and pool.

Dining and Cuisine in Nepal

Kathmandu has a good choice of restaurants at all levels, with the most expensive still being cheap by Western standards and easily affordable if you’re traveling on a budget. For high quality Indian cuisine, Ghar-e-Kebab (Hotel de l’Annapurna, Kathmandu) serves the best in town, with live music nightly. For superb Nepali specialties, the Bhojan Grill, (Dillibazar, Kathmandu) can’t be beaten. It’s set in an atmospheric 150-year-old heritage building that was once the home of the Royal Priest, and is famous for its authentic dishes and good service.

Pizza and other Italian delights are popular here, with the Roadhouse Café (Thamel, Kathmandu) famous for its traditional wood-fired grill and tasty Nepalese snacks. For filling and hearty Tibetan and Nepalese dishes, head to the Yak Restaurant (Kwa Bahal, Kathmandu) and don’t leave before trying tongba, the traditional Tibetan millet beer. Local restaurants serve millet, barley-based dishes, and the strong yak butter-topped Tibetan tea which is a certainly an acquired taste, but worth sampling.

In Pokhara, eating out is taken seriously by its Newari people who love their food. Most restaurants are found in the Lakeside district close to the market. Chinese, Tibetan, Japanese and Indian cuisines can be found and the local dishes are filling and tasty. The Lhasa Tibetan Restaurant (Lakeside, Pokhara), serves traditional entrees and tongba to a background of soothing temple music. The New Everest Steakhouse (Lakeside, Pokhara) dishes up fatty grilled steaks in 34 varieties. For a change, the sophisticated Lemon Tree (Lakeside, Pokhara) prides itself on its fish, caught fresh from the Phewa Lake.