A few meals at the right places will leave you purely convinced: Tirana is the next foodie destination.
Over the years, the art of traveling has gradually evolved into uncovering up-and-coming gems. Ever since discovering Budapest a decade ago, I’ve fallen in love with cities that may not glimmer with the tallest skyscrapers or thriving in the newest technology. They may not be the London or Paris of the world, but their authentic originality radiates through genuine smiles rather than relentless bartering. Wandering the streets of clandestine capitals requires a slower pace, acute observation, and most importantly, a deep gratitude for its very existence.
Food is often a telling indicator of a rising city’s amalgam interlacing history and creativity. It’s no surprise that Tirana will soon be hailed as the next “foodie destination,” with its emergence of farm-to-table approach which respects not only sustainability but also the diligence of small farmers. In addition, don’t be surprised to witness an early introduction of hotel restaurants that aim to transport Albanian cuisine to the forefront of a traveler’s palate.
Funny enough, there’s no shortage of sushi restaurants in the city. Similar to the rise of stylish Japanese hotspots in downtown San Francisco twenty years ago, Tirana views sushi as a fashionable trend. Pizza is another common type of eatery seen around town, thanks to Albania’s close proximity to Italy.
Here’s a list of the best restaurants in Tirana, it’s a combination of my own personal food journey and a list of recommendations from a local friend. Follow along, you simply can’t go wrong.
@jetsettimes Best restaurants and top places to eat in #Tirana, #Albania!! 🤣🇦🇱 #food #travel #foodie #restaurant #fyp #balkan #albanian #tiktok ♬ Lo-fi hip hop – NAO-K
Shëtitorja Lasgush Poradeci Hyrja e Parkut tek Diga e Liqenit Artificial Tirana, 1019, Albania
Dedicated to his philosophy of supporting a sustainable ecosystem that circles right back to local and independent farmers, Chef Bledar Kola leads his humble laurel on the edge of Grand Park Tirana. Mullixhiu, meaning “miller”in Albanian, is an ode to the oldest occupation in agriculture. Kola’s farm-to-table interior exudes the intimacy of a wooden cabin yet romantic via dim lights and quiet chatters. Hailed as Tirana’s ultimate Michelin experience, Mullixhiu’s vibrant menu is symbolic of gastronomic democracy with a 5-course menu at an incredibly accessible 3000 lek (USD $25.) Don’t miss Trahana dish (fermented grains with fermented mulberries, purslane sauce and sunflower seed powder,) or a personal favorite Ali Pasha Soup (veal meat ball with rice inside and stock with herbs.) For those who don’t mind Quail, it’s braised on a bed of polenta with plum sauce.
Padam Boutique Hotel & Restaurant
Rruga Papa Gjon Pali II, Tirana, Albania
Situated in a beautiful villa in downtown Tirana is the Padam Boutique Hotel. Its renowned restaurant though, is one of the best in the city with live music and twinkle lights dangling from the ceiling. I highly recommend the 5-course tasting menu for USD $44, you can indulge in duck carpaccio, sea bass carpaccio with fresh kiwi and pears. The egg confit is the ultimate star with divine taste of truffle and gorgeous gooeyness of a half-cooked egg. The tortellini dish oozes lemon zest combined with crushed nuts. The finish line with a hearty steak was spectacular, luxurious also with layers of truffle.
Restaurant Piceri Era “Blloku”
Rruga Ismail Qemali, Tirana 1000, Albania
Era is an affordable restaurant serving delicious Albanian cuisine. The entire menu is a combination of traveling throughout various regions of Albania and indulgence from a grandmother’s kitchen. Albanian cuisine is renowned for its traditional mezes: flatbreads, flat pancakes, hummus, over peppers stuffed with cheese and herb. Meanwhile, Era is known for its homemade cooking dishes: dolma as prepared from grandma, fried sausage with beer, Tirana’s traditional casserole “as in the old times.” Menu is filled with cute puns. I personally loved the baked cheese (seasoned feta cheese, cherry tomatoes, fresh basil, extra virgin olive oil) and stuffed eggplant (spring onions, meat, garlic, marinade, mashed potatoes; baked in oven.)
Rruga Pjetër Bogdani, Tiranë 1001, Albania
Salt Rest is a restaurant, a bar and lounge in the heart of Blloku neighborhood that serves up a global menu but best known for its eclectic, signature Japanese sushi rolls. Expect to taste the world, from pasta, mac & cheese to shrimp tacos. The glass widow and multi-floor interior is a nod to Asia, perfect during the day as a posh café for digital nomads and a buzzed-about lounge at night.
Oda – Traditional Albanian Cuisine
Rruga Luigj Gurakuqi 3, Tirana, Albania
Oda is on every list, so I had to give it a try. Its outdoor patio is lovely, delightful under luscious lemon trees. Oda’s version of traditional Albanian cuisine comprises of lamb, intestines, insides of animals. For the less adventurist eaters, stick to vegetable dishes on the menu: pies, stuffed peppers or eggplants. This spot is purely popular among tourists, do not expect to see locals indulge by themselves since traditional dishes are already eaten at Albanian homes, as one can imagine.
Mado Fusion Restaurant
Rruga Dervish Hima 6, Tirana, Albania
Mado is the epitome of stylish Japanese cuisine celebrated as a hip trend in Tirana. Coined as the “hidden gem” restaurant in the city, the menu includes: a wide variety of sushi, salads, noodles, wagyu beef…and much more. The modern and cozy décor hosts Tirana’s young professionals looking for a savory and snazzy evening.