Now that summer is finally upon is, I’ve made a short list of favorite places to wine and dine, not to mention venues to hear excellent music. Not all of these places are fancy by any means, some are as basic as they come. But you won’t go wrong by checking them out.
Café Central, Abovyan Street. If you are a lover of fine coffee and teas, visit this place, which is not far from the intersection with Moscovyan Street. They certainly have the best ice cream sundaes in the city, and if you want to eat a superb continental European meal, Café Central is an excellent stop. The presentation of the drinks is very impressive—it’s the only place I’ve been in Yerevan where Sambuca was served to a customer in a cognac glass on a special rack so that it was tilted at a 45-degree angle convenient enough for heating the drink. Try the Café Glassé, which is strong iced coffee with vanilla ice cream. The tortes are fabulous.
Ulikhanyan Club, Moscow Alley, intersecting Isahakyan Street. This music club is fairly new—it only opened at the end of 2009. It can easily be considered the most serious place to hear excellent jazz in the city. They also have folk music artists there as well.
“The Soviet Café,” Mashdots Street, on the Vernisage Park. The true name of this café continues to escape me, but it’s been there for decades. It was one of only a few cafés open during Soviet times, and was mostly visited by students. Those same students now aged 40 and up keep going there after all these years. It’s a café in the truest sense—basic tables and plastic chairs assembled along a patio under a canopy of wide shade umbrellas. It’s currently my favorite place to drink a bottle or two of beer outdoors.
The Club, Tumanyan Street. This restaurant, which has a hybrid menu of French and Western Armenian cuisine, is probably the most laid back place to dine in the city. There are three sections—a no-frills dining room, a lounge area strewn with uncomfortable bean bags, and a pub-like area with old wooden chairs and tables that look like they were manufactured a century ago, which is where I sit. The best-kept secret of the Club is its thin-crust pizza--in my opinion it's the best in town without question.
Our Village, Sayat Nova Street, across from the Opera House. Although this restaurant is mostly suited for tourists, it is the only place I can think of where you can listen to classic, traditional Armenian music played on authentic instruments in a laid-back, unpretentious atmosphere. When ordering stick with the food that is not common in other restaurants—in other words ignore the barbecue. The homemade wine offerings from the villages are great. But the focus here should be on the music. You may not be hearing phenomenal performances, but you won’t care once the musicians start playing and singing.
Pub Ché, Bayron Street, near the Opera House. This tiny pub, run by an Armenian from Beirut named Shahan, is a great place to meet local Armenians, those from the Diaspora, and Europeans or Americans working in or visiting Armenia. Almost all of the music played is Mexican or Cuban-influenced. Suggested cocktails are the Bloody Mary—the best I have had in Yerevan outside of my own apartment—and the Mojito.
Gusto, Abovyan Street, near the intersection with Tumanyan Street. This place has a great selection of Italian food, including various pasta dishes and pizzas, prepared in an open kitchen with a huge plate glass window facing the sidewalk so you can see what’s cooking there. I usually take guests from out of town there since the menu is fairly diverse. Outdoor seating is available.
Caucasus, Hanrabedutyan Street, near the Sayat Nova Street intersection. This tavern has some of the best food samplings from Georgia and Armenia that you can savor in Yerevan. They also serve great wine, written on the menu as “Wine Bar” for some reason. The downside is that the service is mediocre at best, or else terrible. I haven’t been there in months because I became fed up with the waiting—once a few years ago 45 minutes passed before the waiter showed up with the bill, and the manager refused to come to the table in all that time no matter how often I asked the wait staff to notify him. But the huge selection of comfort food kept tempting me back there. Traditional folk music is played downstairs, but I think you have to pay on demand for it.
Karma, Deryan Street. This is currently the only Indian food restaurant in Yerevan. It’s a great place to eat, and a popular spot for expatriates. The obnoxious disco music can be annoying, however. If that crap is playing over the speakers when I walk in, I usually turn around and leave immediately, but that’s just me, too uptight for my own good.
You’ll be sure to find a place where you’re most comfortable in no time. Personally, I recommend that you stay away from the places in the Opera park since they are generally ostentatious and boring. Go for the more unobtrusive spots—you’ll have more attention paid to you and the proprietors will be very grateful for your patronage.
Labels: Food and Drink