Kathmandu is truly a foodie’s city. Thanks to the influx of tourism in the last few decades (first came the hippies and then the adrenaline junkies), the city offers everything from true Neapolitan pizzas to authentic Tibetan momos. Being obsessed with good food myself, I did plenty of research for the must-eats in the capital city. Here are my recommendations for the best places to eat in Kathmandu!
Best Overall Restaurant: OR2K ($)
Yes, that is a weird name for a restaurant. No, this place is not run by retired Stars Wars robots. It’s an Israeli-run vegetarian restaurant that will have meat lovers licking their fingers. The middle eastern fare includes delicious dips like hummus and babaghanoush, fresh salads like tabouleh and fattoush, and scrumptious mains like their stuffed roasted veggie platter that had my meat-loving trekking friends fighting for the scraps! The ambiance of this place rocks. During the day it’s a great place to grab a pot of tea and enjoy the free wifi and wall-outlets. At night the place comes alive with funky lounge music and blacklight! Most of the seating is on the floor on comfy cushions. The vibe is laid back. And the food, well, it’s awesome. I went to OR2K twice in 4 days. I never repeat a restaurant when I am traveling unless the food is so exceptional that I can’t leave the city without having it again, or it will haunt me in my dreams forever and I will live with the regret of not going back for another serving of the delicious dips or zucchini pie!
Honorable mentions: Another great option is La Dolce Vita ($$). A Thamel institution known for its authentic Italian eats like Caprese salad, pasta, pizza and tiramisu, La Dolce Vita is a great spot for grabbing a meal or simply enjoying a cup of Illy cappuccino and watching the world go by from its second-floor windows.
Cafe des Arts ($$) is a peaceful courtyard cafe tucked away in bustling Thamel. I loved the serene setting but the food was average at best. I think the restaurant is overrated (it’s rated second best in Kathmandu on Tripadvisor), but I would go there to read, drink tea and spend a lazy afternoon.
Best Momos: Yangling Tibetan Restaurant ($)
By far the best momos I have ever had in my life. Period.
Momos are a Tibetan dish that resemble Chinese dumplings. They are packets, a delivery system if you may, for delicious fillings like meat, veggies, paneer (cottage cheese), and potatoes. Yangling is a family-owned restaurant in the touristy Thamel, but is packed full of locals (which is always a good sign). What is lacking in ambiance it delivers in authentic Tibetan and Nepalese fare. Try the buffalo momos! They are topped with a flavourful and spicy sauce that is seriously addictive. They are also known for their noodle soup called thupka (which I was too full to try) and the rich butter tea (which I tried but my tastebuds found too salty and weird). All in all, this place is a “must visit” if you are ever in Kathmandu.
Best Pizza: Fire & Ice Pizzeria ($$)
Kathmandu has a lot of good pizza places. It’s not surprising given the large number of tourists that visit this tiny country. Weary trekkers make their way back to Kathmandu in search of luxuries like running water, warm beds, and comfort food like pizzas and burgers. I went to Fire & Ice based on a recommendation from my friend Carol. After base camp, we had planned for this to be our “splurge” meal. We ordered a Sicilian pizza between us (whole wheat and gluten-free crusts are available), a bottle of red, and ended the meal with a delicious chocolate pie concoction. The pizza was ridiculously good. The wine was perfect. And the dessert was just what we needed to officially declare the trek over! The pizza was true to its Neapolitan roots. The crust was thin and crispy on the outside but soft and doughy on the inside. The toppings were fresh and delicious. If you are in Kathmandu and craving pizza, this is the place to go. Try to get there before 6:30-7:00 pm though. A lineup starts to form around 7 and is relentless until closing time. This was the only restaurant in the city where I actually saw a line out the door and around the corner. So the chefs are doing something right!
Honorable mention: Roadhouse Cafe ($$) (although I didn’t go here, a lot of folks recommended this place to me for good pizza)
Best Live Music & Drinks: New Orleans ($$)
This lush courtyard tucked away in a little alley way in Thamel is intimate and inviting. New Orleans has great live music on weekends that features local artists playing South Asian instruments like the tabla and sitar. The fusion beats were rhythmic and engaging. By the end of the night, everyone is really into the music and there are usually a few folks dancing away. The food is decent, the dessert is excellent and the pitchers of margaritas are a great deal. It was one of the few places in Thamel that had groups of locals and wasn’t packed with tourists only. It’s a great spot for a laid-back evening in a cool, intimate setting.
Best Cafe: Kaiser Cafe ($$)
When you come to Kaiser Cafe it’s not about the food or the coffee or the tea, it’s about the peaceful and serene setting. This cafe is located in Kathmandu’s famous Garden of Dreams. Truly an urban oasis when you forget that you are in a crowded and polluted capital city. I can’t say enough about how beautiful and well-maintained this garden complex is. It’s small but worth the visit. You can grab drinks and snacks at Kaiser Cafe located inside. They are known for their Austrian-inspired specialties like schnitzel (a nod to the country that financed the restoration of the garden and the surrounding buildings).
Honorable mentions: Pilgrims Feed ‘n Read ($) is a great little spot to grab delicious vegetarian dishes and a pot of tea. It’s located above the Pilgrims Book House which is one of the best bookstores in Kathmandu, known for its insanely large collection of books on Nepali and Buddhist history. They also have an impressive selection of fiction and non-fiction from around the world. Both the cafe and the bookstore are worth a visit.
The Green Organic Cafe and Farmers Bar is a great option for healthy, vegetarian meals. The concept of “organic” is still new to this part of the world, so the prices are a lot steeper than other vegetarian restaurants. The food is decent and the atmosphere is bohemian.