The Travel Guides: Eating in Dar es Salaam
Here’s what you need to know for eating in Dar es Salaam, from traditional Tanzanian food to the best restaurants in Dar.
Foods to try
- Baobab seeds
- Coconut water
What to try in Dar es Salaam
A type of nyama choma — which means “burned meat” in Kiswahili — mishkaki is essentially East African shish kebab. Whether it’s made from ng’ombe (cow), mbuzi (goat) or kuku (chicken); served roadside or under a tree, nothing brings people together in Tanzania like a plate of charred meat.
One of the staple carbohydrates of Tanzanian cuisine, ugali is cornmeal or cassava flour mixed with water, and turned into a stiff circular sphere. Wondering what’s the best way to eat a plate of steaming hot ugali? With your hands.
The local name for snapper, changu is a meaty white fish.
Another starchy staple, chapati became a part of Tanzanian cuisine following the Indian diaspora in the 1800s. Locals eat the filling, flakey and (sometimes) greasy bread for breakfast (often with soup) or lunch.
The seeds of this iconic African tree are high in vitamin C, calcium and antioxidants. Considered a superfood, the fleshy outer covering is edible and used as a natural remedy for smoking cessation. You can find the seeds in local markets and shops — natural or colorfully dyed and coated with sugar.
Marketed as “the spirit of the nation,” knoyagi is a Tanzanian sugar cane spirit with a taste similar to gin. Sip it straight or try it in a dawa — a sweet yet powerful cocktail of honey, sugar, lime, konyagi and lots of crushed ice.
Every morning, vendors on bicycles travel from Kigamboni to downtown Dar selling freshly picked coconuts. Incredibly, coconuts cost less than one US dollar. And for no additional charge, you can have the coconut cut in half to snack on the meaty middle.
Tanzania is one of the top coffee-producing countries in Africa exporting millions of pounds of beans every year. It’d be a shame to leave Tanzania without having a cup of kahawa, or coffee. Just make sure you ask for the good stuff. If not you may get a cup of instant coffee instead.
Eating in Dar es Salaam
Dar es Salaam is not a “culinary destination” by any stretch of the imagination, but that does not mean a decent meal cannot be found. The Msasani Peninsula is home to the majority of restaurants catering to foreigners. Tanzania Now maintains a directory of every restaurant in town but here are some specific recommendations on where to refuel.
Best restaurants in Dar
Breakfast and brunch
Epi d’Or is a French-Moroccan bistro known for its pastries and coffee, while Makuti café serves smoothies, wraps, and other healthy options next to an art gallery. Olive Bakery off Chole Road is another go-to for the smoothie and sandwich crowd. For rich poached eggs, fluffy pancakes and other breakfast favorites check out Salt Restaurant in Oysterbay Shopping Center. Salt is also favored for a decadent weekend brunch, as are Karambezi Café in Sea Cliff Hotel and The Hyatt Kilimanjaro downtown.
On the peninsula, Jackie’s and Didi’s on Haile Selassie Road serve local dishes for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Lukas’s Bar on Chole Road also serves nyama choma and other local bites. Options at all three are usually limited to meat (dry or with a sauce), banana (ndizi), beans, rice, ugali and a vegetable. For a wider range of Tanzanian dishes, Break Point Bar (opposite Millennium Towers on Bagamoyo Road) has wild, grilled meats — like antelope from Arusha — stews and other delicacies from around the country.
Restaurants with a view
Even in Dar seaside property comes at a premium and there are only a handful of restaurants with a view of the ocean. Cape Town Fish Market (CTFM) is an open-air seafood and sushi restaurant popular for sundowners (cocktails at sunset) and live music. The Waterfront Restaurant at Slipway is another favorite among the sundowners crowd, as are The Beach Club at the Best Western Coral Beach Hotel and Karembezi Café. Meanwhile downtown, Akemi serves Asian-continental is a revolving glass restaurant located in one of Dar’s tallest buildings.
Shooters Grill and CTFM are quick, open-air options for grilled seafood on the peninsula. As the Kiswahili name implies Samaki Samaki (Fish Fish) serves primarily seafood dishes and is known for their live music and dancing at night. The covered rooftop restaurant at Alexander’s Hotel prepares a stellar seafood platter. Non-guests are welcome to dine, as long as you have a reservation. Hamu Restaurant is newer to the Dar food scene and has quickly become a favorite for seafood and cocktails.
Dar es Salaam has a large Indian community and, as a result, Indian restaurants are both plentiful and delicious. Shangri La Bar and Restaurant (arguably the current favorite), Flames, Copper Pot and The Alcove Restaurant are options on the peninsula. In the Indian neighborhood of Upanga, the Upanga Club (on Ali Hassan Mwinyi Road near Alliance Française) serves dinner and hosts a packed, Friday night bingo popular among the Tanzania Indian community and Expats. The sharing-style plates are tasty and affordable, and the 2,000 shilling bingo cards can earn up to 100 times their worth.
For a taste from the north, Addis in Dar and Rohobot are the two Ethiopian restaurants in the city. Both serve a similar range and variety of traditional dishes. The outdoor, candlelit Addis has more “atmosphere” but Rohobot is popular for its home-style cooking.
There are some damn good Chinese restaurants in Dar. The Great Wall Restaurant on Haile Selassie is popular among both Tanzanians and Expats, with authentic Chinese hot pot prepared with prior notice and minimum of two people.
On the peninsula, Zuane is considered the place to go for pizza while Bella Napoli is best known for its pastas and gelato. In Mbezi, Mediterraneo is dhow-decorated, beachside Italian restaurant and hotel. The seafood dishes are some of the best in Dar and the hotel throws an outdoor party the third Saturday of every month.
… And a few more
For modern Swahili 305 Karafuu is like no other restaurant in Dar. Book in advance and make sure you have clear directions before departing. In the Hyatt Kilimanjaro, the Oriental is the most upscale (and expensive) dining experience in Dar. The cuisine is an eclectic mix of Thai, Japanese and Chinese, with an extensive list of wines for pairing.
George and Dragon is the only English pub in Dar and has a back garden, weekend DJ and all the football and rugby matches you can watch. Sports enthusiasts can also stop by The Slow Leopard, another popular restobar known for its build-your-own burgers.
Diana Zalucky is a photographer and director from St.Thomas, US Virgin Islands. Follow her photographic journeys and infectious energy here.
Last updated January 2019.