Nairobi, Kenya’s metropolitan capital, has a vibrant food and restaurant culture backed by boundless local energy and a fusion of culinary contrasts from all over the world. Get ready to indulge your inner foodie on a budget with these top 10 cheap eats from the African city that never sleeps.
Roadhouse Grill: A taste of Kenya's favourite barbecue
A trip to Kenya’s capital would be incomplete without a taste of nyama choma (Kenyan barbecued meats), and the Roadhouse Grill offers Nairobi just that, with the right pairing of taste and reasonable pricing, making it an ideal stopover for someone looking to indulge in Kenya’s favourite treats.
Mama Oliech Restaurant had the honour of hosting former US President Barack Obama earlier this year. He stopped by to try their world-famous local ugali (cornmeal porridge) and tilapia, a delicacy from his father’s hometown roots. Mama Oliech restaurant has grown into one of Nairobi’s hidden gems for locals craving cheap local delicacies. It’s a must-visit for fresh-fish lovers.
Don’t be deterred by first impressions – Maharaja Restaurant doesn’t have much of an ambience, but the food is incredible. Nairobi’s best-kept secret promises that even meat lovers get to leave with sated taste buds and happy bank balances. They have quite a selection of dishes to choose from on the menu. The food is flavoursome and the portions are reasonable.
Nairobi’s first funky (and pale pink) food truck has its home within the communal compound at the Yard, Westlands, which is also known as the Alchemist Bar. Mama Rocks recipes combine Western American traditional foods with an African twist. Inspired by East Africa, with mango and red bell peppers, the Mango Masai Mama is a huge favourite with locals, followed closely by the veggie burger. Despite being a food truck, Mama Rocks also produces delicious salads and drinks.
Wasp and Sprout is not your average Nairobi café. Everything here is custom-made, from the furniture made from recycled wood to the textiles inspired by African kitenge fabrics. Showcasing a mix of African tradition and modernity, it has been credited with the revival of the once-sleepy Loresho shopping centre area. Wasp & Sprout is split into sections, including guests’ seating space, a local farm shop, an outdoor backyard and an artists’ spot, where guests can view clothes made by various designers, paintings, jewellery, pottery, handbags, dolls, a rustic display cabinet and even a whole bicycle hanging on the wall. Guests can also grab a book to read from the bookshelf as they enjoy their meals. Wasp & Sprout is a wonderful choice for a weekly sundowner, a relaxed weekend brunch or a different kind of lunch meeting.
Known as Nairobi’s coolest gastro-cafés, the Tin Roof Cafés present healthy cuisine in quiet, green spaces away from busy malls and Nairobi’s frenetic pace. The original café within Nairobi’s Karen area blew locals away with its rustic farmhouse feel, adorable artistic pillow covers and stylish décor – the milk buckets for lamp shades and homey, low-key metal tables lend it an instant relaxed vibe. They are open for breakfast and lunch and offer an impressive range of healthy salads, toasted sandwiches, burgers, pizzas and delicious sweets. Each menu section offers vegan and gluten-free options and they are always open to new suggestions if you can’t find what you’re looking for.
Point Zero cafe in Nairobi | Courtesy of Point Zero
Pointzero Coffee sits within the Nairobi Gallery, where visitors can browse through Nairobi-themed exhibits and art collections and participate in the ‘Take Nairobi for a Day’ tour, whose aim is to educate Kenyans on historically significant streets in the city. What better location to indulge your java craving than in a café located at the true centre of Kenya’s 119-year-old capital? It derives its name from the fact that this is the exact spot from which all distances to all corners of the country are measured. It was once the office of the provincial commissioner and it now hosts a book club. The café menu is simple, and heavily focussed on showcasing Kenya’s finest homegrown hand-roasted coffees along with simple sandwiches and light snacks.
Diamond plaza food court | Courtesy of Diamond Plaza
If you are in the mood for scrumptious, casual Indian cuisine in Nairobi, your search ends here. The food court caters to a range of palates: vegetarian, meat loving, sweet-toothed or the mildly peckish. There’s always something for everyone, with affordable bites ranging from warm, filling shawarma sandwiches from the Shawarma Corner to fresh curries or chicken tandoori with naan. Get ready to be swarmed by aggressive but well-meaning waiters angling for your business – no doubt something to remember Nairobi by. Locals swear by it for the sights and sounds, cheap eats, varied flavours and socialising potential.
There’s a reason Burger Hut has been in business since 1986. You can find it within Westlands, known as Nairobi’s thriving business and entertainment locale. This café wastes no time with frills or grand gestures. However, locals will insist that you haven’t eaten a real Nairobi burger until you have sampled some of the greasiest, juiciest and deceptively simple burgers that are served here. The Double Hut Burger, in particular, has been known to change lives forever.
Locals and visitors alike are often in agreement that Furasato is one of Nairobi’s best restaurants for satisfying a need for sushi, Japanese or Korean cuisine. The restaurant is spacious, including six teppanyaki tables. The décor follows the cuisine theme, giving off a warm ambient energy. The menu is quite extensive; you will definitely be spoiled for choice!