Zanzibar, Dar es Salaam, and Nairobi


Sara and I just got back from visiting Tanzania (Stone Town and Paje Beach, Zanzibar; Dar es Salaam) and Kenya (Nairobi and Nanyuki). Here is what we found! I posted it to the CHOWhounds forum, where I had found some previous useful reviews.

Zanzibar, Stone Town

Hotel breakfast

As a preamble, we stayed there 9 nights, originally it was going to be 7 but we decided there was no reason to rush back to Nairobi given that Zanzibar was cheaper, nicer, warmer, safer, more charismatic and more fun. Coincidentally, we arrived there 2 days before Ramadan, when muslims fast every day for a month from dawn to dusk.

ZANZIBAR PALACE HOTEL, STONE TOWN: We stayed at this tastefully decoradted hotel. It has a small restaurant for its guests, and we only ate the free breakfast there, but it deserves special mention because it includes eggs, omelettes, crepes, or french toast made to order. It was a great and easy way to start the day.


LAZULI, STONE TOWN: we ate there 3 times. This restaurant felt both high-end and locally-sourced, and at the same time is very inexpensive. The most remarkable things are the drinks: everything cold is served as a blended slushy, and they are amazingly delicious (from iced coffee to fruit juice to sodas to the mint/lime mocktail). We got several salads, the “bunny chow” curry/bread loaf-bowl, shrimp, and wraps. Do not miss this place! But be prepared to wait: it’s only got about 20 seats and the wait for each order can take half an hour or more depending on the workload.

THE SILK ROUTE (indian), STONE TOWN: given that zanzibar is full of spices, maybe it’s not too surprising that they have such a great indian restaurant. It’s pretty typical northern indian restaurant food: biryanis, tandoori chicken, naan, lamb and vegetable curries; everything we got was tasty and well-executed. They make kulfi (cardamom-pistachio ice cream) soft-serve!

stone town cafe coffee

KIZIMBANI SPICE TOUR: it was amazing to try fresh fruits and spices off the plant, and the included lunch of spiced rice pilau, greens, and curry was a unique and delicious experience with local food. Even though it was during Ramadan, they did a great job feeding the tourists.

EMERSON SPICE/STONE TOWN CAFE/ZANZIBAR COFFEE HOUSE, STONE TOWN: we ate at these places each one or two times, and would have eaten there again if we had been there longer. At Emerson Spice we ate on the rooftop (the kitchen was there too). The mains were fantastic (spiced fish cake, babaganoush) but the “zanzibar beignets” were pretty forgettable.

jaws corner

Barazas at JAWS CORNER: great fresh coffee prepared in the traiditional style, with sketchy sanitation. They’re only open after dark during Ramadan; it’s a great place to hang out with everyone breaking their fast.

MERCURY’S/TEMBO HOUSE HOTEL, STONE TOWN: we ate once at each of these places and really enjoyed the atmosphere — dinner at Mercury’s with shisha on the waterfront, good (instant) coffee and chocolate pie at sunset at Tembo.

MARU MARU rooftop restaurant, MONSOON, OLD FORT CAFE, DHOW PALACE HOTEL, BEYT AL CHAI: these are the places we can’t recommend, they were kind of crappy and felt like tourist traps. The Dhow Palace

the indian restaurant at maru maru didn’t know what a lassi was, but we got one

Hotel has a nasty burger to offer in which Sara found a bonus strand of hair, gross! Old Fort Cafe’s pizza (with carrots) was not terrible in a pinch, being one of the few non-hotel restaurants open during Ramadan.

**Zanzibar, Paje Beach**
“Thai/Sushi Fusion” restaurant attached to the KINAZI UPEPO hotel: very tasty kingfish in tamarind sauce and excellent cocktails with vanilla seeds. This also seemed like the nicest beach to us, compared to very touristic Nungwi.

**Dar es Salaam**
EPI D’OR (Msasani peninsula): a ridiculously awesome experience! We had a 12-hour layover in Dar and arrived there at about 10 AM very hungry and Sara even had a bad headache. She felt a lot better when she saw the place. It was a better cafe than we would normally be able to find in many North American cities. We got a breakfast platter with eggs and bland “lebanese sausage” and pastries (cinnamon twist, opera, chausson aux pommes) to share. The coffee was good but not amazing. Note: the location is a bit ambiguous, it’s at the northermost intersection of Chole and Haile Selassie.

Airport: unexpectedly tasty falafel burger at the single cafe in the waiting area for 7 US dollars though which is expensive in Tanzania scale.

a zanzibar market

HABEESHA (ethiopian): delicious, great variety, taste and presentation. Got the mixed vegetartian platter and spiced stirfried beef.

BURGER HUT: claimed by some to be the best burger in Nairobi… it was indeed very delicious, and the best one that we tried in the whole continent. You only need one order of fries for 2 people. The masala fries were extremely tasty!

CAFE BRASSERIE by Artcaffe at Village Market: Great freshly baked bread, beef bourginon, halloumi salad, and “100%” chocolate mousse cake. Nice Hennessy mojito and draught beer. Maybe the most expensive meal of our trip, which was still affordable by North American prices.

NAIROBI JAVA HOUSE downtown: good, although we didn’t feel it was worth revisiting.

We almost went to AMAICA, which was the only mid-level restaurant we could find featuring Kenyan cuisine. We’re very curious about this place!

LILY POND: secluded beautiful cafe in a lily pond with a selection of 3 special dishes per day and a bar, and an art gallery. We got tasty carrot-ginger soup and goulash.

DORMAN’S cafe: the national chain was alive and well, we got some good sandwiches here.


Sara was in Nanyuki for work. We got to try Mandaazi which were the local deep-fried doughnut!

There are yet more photos here (including ones not related to food) that I have shared online from the first half of the trip. We are happy to be back but it was really an amazing experience which we hope to repeat!


2 Responses to “Zanzibar, Dar es Salaam, and Nairobi”

  1. Sara didn’t look impressed with the Lassi (or was that the stray hair?)

  2. She was indeed unimpressed! It was an indian restaurant, and the waiter didn’t know what a lassi was. After our first request he came back a second time emphasizing that he still didn’t know how to order a mix of yogurt, water, and salt. Finally the chef, who was Indian, came over and said he would make us one. It was a good lassi in the end! The food overall was pretty good but not worth its price. No hairs there, though.

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