Translated as “traditional eating house,” Sofrekhaneh Sonnati is located just along the east side of Imam Square. Thankfully, its popularity with tourists doesn’t diminish the quality of food or the ambiance. The colourfully tiled walls, arches, and stained glass windows create a wonderful atmosphere. Enjoy traditional Iranian cuisine here while sitting on authentic takhts (carpeted and cushioned eating platforms).
East side of Imam Square, Esfahan, Iran, +98 31 32200729
Sadaf Hotel Restaurant
Situated on Hafez Street, the Sadaf Hotel is less than a five-minute walk away from Imam Square and offers traditional Iranian dishes. What makes this place stand out is the rooftop restaurant which is open during the summer months. Guests that manage to get a table are rewarded with unparalleled views of Esfahan’s unforgettable cityscape.
220 Hafez Street, Esfahan, Iran, +98 220 2988
Shahrzad Restaurant is popular for being one of the few dining places in town that pulls off the Qajar aesthetic to a high standard. With stained-glass windows and intricate mirror work, the restaurant is tastefully furnished, light and airy. Reliably busy and perhaps a little noisy, Shahrzad has a lively atmosphere and an agreeable selection of traditional Iranian dishes; try the delicious joojeh kebab. It’s also good for vegetarian options, something that isn’t always a given in Iranian restaurants.
Abbas Abad Street, Esfahan, Iran, +98 31 3220 4490
Khangostar is a restaurant on the ground floor of the Jolfa Hotel in Jolfa – Esfahan’s Armenian district. Its décor is unpretentious and the restaurant is clean, efficient, and most importantly, serves generous portions of excellent Iranian food. The chelo kebab is a highlight. It has the laid back dynamic of a cafeteria, with a self-service salad bar which is great for vegetarians.
Hakim Nezami Street, Jolfa Hotel, Jolfa, Esfahan, Iran, +98 311 627 8989
Khayyam Restaurant (Restoran-e Khayyam) in Jolfa is a cheap and cheerful kebabi which is popular with the locals, Try a juicy joojeh or koobideh and wash down with a non-alcoholic beer. The traditional Iranian teas on offer are also worth trying.
The Abbasi Hotel occupies the remains of a 17th-century caravanserai, and if the rooms are out of your price range, it’s worth visiting one of the several restaurants based in the hotel. The rooftop restaurant Cheshm-Andaz is particularly enjoyable for its views of Imam Square and the mountains that surround the city. It has options to dine inside and outside and a menu with a good selection of both Iranian and Western meals.
Amadegah Street, Esfahan, Ira, +98 31 3222 6010
Beryani is an Esfahani delicacy made from mutton or lamb which has been minced, skewered, and grilled over an open fire. Usually served with freshly made nan-e taftoon, a delicious Iranian flat bread, it’s worth experiencing before you leave Esfahan. Wash it all down with a glass of Dugh, a refreshing yoghurt drink with dried mint. The restaurateurs at Azam Beryani specialise in this dish, and they have two branches; one by the river, and one further north.
If you pride yourself on your strong stomach and adventurous palette, Kaleh Pacheh may be the ideal culinary tale from Iran to impress your friends back home with. Essentially, it’s boiled sheep head, brains, tongue, eyeballs and all. Sheep hooves are also often included. The testimonies of many Iranians will try to convince you of its tastiness, but there is only one way to find out. Various food stalls around the bazaar sell Kaleh Pacheh, and its best eaten first thing in the morning (apparently).
Fereni Hafez are the masters of Esfahani speciality fereni, a mixture of rice flour, milk, sugar, rosewater, and sometimes dates, served in a bowl and popular for breakfast. It’s sweet, cheap, and perfect for vegetarians, although its not a big dish and you might need a couple of bowls to keep you going until your next meal.
Picnicking in Imam Square
Esfahanis flock to Imam Square most evenings to enjoy the cool weather and lively night-time atmosphere. Many bring food along for picnics, or buy street food around the square. If you have any food left over from the massive portion at lunchtime, or simply want to pick up a corn on the cob from a street vendor, picnicking in the square during the evening is great way to see another side of the city and its people.
Watch out for: The lively atmosphere