I wanted to do a series of “The Bests”, but I realized that referring to my absolute favorite lobiani (Georgian bean bread) as “The Best Lobiani” could be interpreted as an insult to traditional lobiani. As I spend more and more time in Tbilisi, I’m developing go-to places for particular Georgian foods, so I’ve expanded my series of favorites. Once again, my favorite khachapuri is a bit off the beaten path, so calling it “The Best” is a little unfair. (But I do think it’s among the best)
Alani’s Ossetian Khachapuri
I absolutely love this Ossetian-style khachapuri from the resturant Alani in Abanotubani. It’s the only place I’ve seen Ossetian khachapuri on offer, but it’s really delicious. The defining characteristic of Ossetian khachapuri is tlhat the cheese is combined with mashed potatoes. My friend G pointed out that this was probably initially a money-saving technique, but I find that it makes the cheese gooeier and creamier, while simultaneously cutting some of the cloyingness and saltiness of regular Imeruli khachapuri.
Alani is located at 1 Gorgasali Street, very near the baths, making it a popular post-bath watering hole. The restaurant is divided into two separate areas that share a kitchen. Downstairs is the restaurant proper, which features a DJ and dancing (a more traditional Georgian restaurant experience). Upstairs is the “Beer Bar” which serves the full menu, and is quieter. It also has a nice series of “coupe” private dining compartments that are great for a small group. Prices are reasonable (an Ossetian khachapuri with 8 slices costs 6 GEL), and the food is good, though the service is decidedly Georgian.
I wanted to do a series of “The Bests”, but I realized that referring to my absolute favorite lobiani (Georgian bean bread) as “The Best Lobiani” could be interpreted as an insult to traditional lobiani. I love traditional lobiani, and can tell you many good places to pick some up, but in my opinion the best lobiani is at the Café Literaturuli chain. Traditional lobiani looks much like khachapuri, and is just filled with beans rather than cheese, but as you can see, Literaturuli does things a bit differently—and isn’t it pretty!
Cafe Literaturuli’s lovely lobiani (and latte)
In my opinion, all the top-shelf lobianebi will have a flaky pastry-like crust. Literaturuli’s version accomplishes this beautifully and the final result is a well-nigh croissant-like pastry filled with beans. Literaturuli also pays a bit more attention to the filling than many places do. A bit of coriander is traditional in the filling, but many places just moosh up some beans and coriander, perhaps throw in a bit of onion, and call it a day. This can result in a rather dry piece of bread. Literaturuli’s bean filling is always a good consistency, with the added bonus that they seem to caramelize the onions first, making the flavors meld together very nicely.
Literaturuli is a chain of cafes locatedin cities throughout Georgia, with branches on Pekini and Chardeni streets in Tbilisi (and maybe others). They combine a bookstore with a coffeeshop/cafe—the coffees are good (they can even make some drinks decaf!), the cakes are pretty, and the lobiani is excellent. They carry an excellent selection of Georgian and Russian books, a passable selection of English books, and the odd book in other European languages, too. Overall, the atmosphere is lovely. The prices here are more expensive than a street vendor (the simplest place to procure lobiani), but far lower than at other similar European-style cafes. A piece of lobiani will set you back 3 GEL, and a latte costs 5.50. Enjoy!