Abu Dhabi is never short of surprises – from the latest and oddest eateries and cafes to speciality shops, there’s always something new to stumble upon when you take a stroll down a previously overlooked or ignored street or alleyway…
No matter how familiar you think you are with Abu Dhabi (and we’re pretty sure we are among the most clued up in the capital), there’s always something more to discover. Here are just some of the city’s under-the-radar hidden gems that we think are worth exploring.
This tiny coffee shop serves hot and cold brews for people on the go. Its coffee selection ranges from flavoured Turkish coffee with choices like cardamom, saffron and rose to flavoured hot milk and common staples such as espresso and cappuccino. We personally love the cold Spanish latte. Complementing its beverage menu is a tiny selection of bread and sweet treats including croissant varieties – Oreo cheesecake croissant, anyone? – Danish pastries and brownies. New Millennium Trading, 21st Street, Muroor Road. Sat-Thu 10am-10pm, Fri 2pm-11pm. Contact: 050 301 3602
Offering more than a hundred affordable paratha flavours, this small eatery can be found along one of Abu Dhabi’s busiest streets. The varieties to choose from are all vegetarian and with interesting options like Mexican, Italian and ABC – or aloo, beetroot and carrot. For big groups, try the paratha basket featuring four different flavours in one order. For those who want theirs with a little twist, the pizza pocket and the chocolate paratha – perfect with warm chai – are must-haves. Keep an eye on the daily special combo, too. Hamdan Street, behind Sun & Sand Sports. Daily 8am-11pm. Contact: 02 673 4800
Al Yousuf Center
This old building looks pretty unremarkable from the outside, making it easy to ignore as you pass by. But venture inside and you’ll be surprised by the rows of shops selling mostly pre-loved clothing. The selection is diverse, from casual to formal tops and trousers to bags and fashion accessories with prices from as low as AED 10. If you’re on the lookout for affordable jeans and even denim jackets, you might want to check this place out. Aside from the clothing shops, the building is also home to a barbershop and a toy store on the third floor. Hamdan Street. Sat-Thu 8am-midnight.
Healthy but delicious food is what you’ll get at this small café nestled inside Al Falahi Tower. Offering options that are mostly high protein, the restaurant’s menu includes tasty items such as Asian quinoa salad, Mexican minced beef, Persian grilled lemon chicken, peanut butter and date oatmeal and poke bowl varieties. The small outlet also make its own natural peanut butter, which is both creamy and rich but without the usual sweeteners. Corner of Sultan Bin Zayed the First and Dhafeer Streets. Sun-Thu 8.30am-10.30pm, Sat 10am-10.30pm. Contact: 02 666 6240, musclefueluae.com
Global Art for Exhibition Management
There are few sellers of collectible toys in Abu Dhabi so this brand new, tiny corner stall on the second floor of Al Wahda Mall deserves some love. Some of the Japanese anime and comic book character miniatures and action figures for sale include Heath Ledger’s Joker, The Hulk and Suicide Squad’s Harley Quinn with prices ranging from around AED 100 and above. Its Funko Pop items sell for AED 50, which is fairly reasonable compared to other big toyshops. Hazza Bin Zayed Street. Sun-Thu 10am-10pm, Fri-Sat 10am-11pm.
Chic Baby Saloon
Rarely would you come across a salon dedicated to children outside malls or high-end establishments, making this small back alley shop a surprising find. Tots and kids can get a haircut here for AED 40. Putting little ones at ease are the colourful car-shaped seats and
TV screens showing cartoon programmes – a sure way to keep the tiny customers distracted while having a trim. Hamdan Street, near H&M. Sun-Thu 10am-2pm and 5pm 10pm, Fri 5pm-10pm. Contact: 02 632 3030
With a growing following, it’s only a matter of time before this unique shop graduates from the ‘well-kept secret’ category. The nice thing about Local is its unique idea of combining three concepts under one roof: coffee shop, barbershop and sneaker store. The latter oozes hipster cool, with retro and new sneaker models for sale along with an urban clothing line and accessories. All these are hidden from plain view so you’ll have to walk past the barbershop to access its door. Block C, Al Zeina Al Raha Beach. Daily 7am-10pm. Contact:
02 555 3339, localco.ae
Middle East Equestrian
Dwarfed by the rows of cafeterias, laundry shops and grocery stores is this modest shop selling equestrian items. Products for sale include gear for the horse rider like body protectors, socks, gloves, shirts and helmets, as well as gear for the horse like girths, boots and saddles. Simply put, there’s something for casual and ardent riders to purchase here to get them ride-ready. If you’re not sure what to buy, the friendly staff will be more than willing to guide you. Building 9, 21st Street, Muroor Road. Sat-Thu 9am-1pm and 4pm-9pm. Contact: 02 650 0569
Filipino food is on the menu at this modest café. Breakfast staples featuring fried rice,
an egg and an additional ingredient of your choice – we’re vouching for baconsilog, comprising beef bacon, fried rice and an egg – is a certified favourite. Local comfort food like champorado – sweet chocolate rice porridge – can be ordered here, too. The café also serves native Filipino coffee sourced from the country’s northern region. But the showstopper here is the affordable shabu-shabu, good for two people and priced for only AED 19. Najda Street, behind Fresh & More supermarket. Daily 7am-9pm. Contact: 02 633 6311, facebook.com/tribucafeabudhabi
Russian Kitchen House Cafeteria
This eatery was opened by a former Ukrainian musician in 2004 and serves mostly Ukrainian delicacies. Guests can choose from the long list of menu options including certified favourites like the small cabbage pies, pancakes with meat, Ukrainian style beefsteak and chicken Kiev with mashed potato. Top off the meal with curd cheese served with yoghurt, honey and jam. What’s more, the friendly staff are more than happy to answer questions about the food and traditions behind them. Hamdan Street, Al Markaziyah. Sat-Wed 11am-11pm, Thu-Fri 1pm-10pm. Contact: 02 674 4342
Get your hands on an array of fun and educational toys aimed at children of all ages
at Journey Toys. Mums and dads have plenty to choose from for gifts for their little ones – from alphabet and animal puzzles to art materials, wooden toys for babies and toddlers and more. Curious kids will love the 3D toy models and easy-to-assemble objects that let them explore their creativity. Airport Road, Al Mushrif. Sun-Thu 9am-10pm, Fri 11am-7pm. Contact: 02 441 1208, facebook.com/journeytoys
WORDS Ferdinand Godinez