Some of Riyadh’s Best-Kept Food Secrets

I probably used the phrase “best-kept secret” a dozen times in the blog and yes, I’ll use it again today in this entry because I can’t help it. Finding these great foods in random spots in the city gives me a sense of accomplishment, hahah. Of course, I have to thank those who first “told” us about them. Most of them I read through various social media accounts like Foursquare and Instagram. Some of them we just chanced upon our own. Obviously, these are not so secret food spots anymore because there are a lot of locals who know them already. But this entry is for expats looking for some hidden gems when it comes to quick snacks and desserts (okay, mostly desserts).

1. Adas and Tamees by Liver, Bean and Falafel

How local is this scene?

Uhmn I’m not sure if that’s the real name of this shop but it’s what it says in Google Maps and I can’t read the Arabic signage of the store so we’ll settle with Liver, Bean and Falafel. Do you know what adas is? It’s the milder version of the more popular ful. Personally, I like this lentil soup more than ful which is made up of fava beans. The adas is more rich and smooth in consistency and its taste is light and satisfying. I love pairing this with tamees, the khubz bread with sugar and sesame seeds. Tamees dipped in adas is both sweet and salty and the combination makes for a great breakfast. The stores where we get our ads and tamees sit side by side in Abu Bakr Ar Razi Street. The store looks old and uhmn, dirty but that’s how “street food” works right? Haha! We’ve eaten their food for years now and we haven’t had any problems, haha. Also, this store is really popular! Their parking lot is always full of cars and people waiting for the bread and soups in the mornings. We have to wait 10-15 minutes just to get our order. I got my colleagues hooked on this too and sometimes, they ask me to bring them adas and tamees for a hearty breakfast in the office. Their tamees is soft and fluffy and best eaten hot. Of course there are a lot of ful and khubz shops in Riyadh and you might have your own best shop that you go to. Feel free to share in the comment section below.

2. Shawarma in Al-Maather

Reina lives in Al-Maather and she frequents a shawarma stall that she has described “where the last SR 3 shawarma lives.” We all know how our beloved shawarmas in the city have raised prices. We see our beloved shawarma transform before our eyes: higher prices but smaller size. Huhu. We shall blame it to globalization and inflation. Anyway, we are so glad that there still lives a shawarma in the middle of the Al Maather area that is sold at SR 3 per piece.  It’s the true testament to Saudi Arabia’s most popular street food. It’s greasy, flavorful and packed full. This shawarma can be customized to just having tasty chicken pieces, fries, and garlic sauce enveloped by a warm khubz bread (the true shawarma in our own opinion: without lettuce and pickles put by other shawarma places). And at SR 3? C’mon, truly a gem.

3. Chocolate Souffle by Sada Al Tahlia

Look for this sign and you’ll find Sada Al Tahlia.

I’ve heard about Sada Al Tahlia from a Filipino friend who heard it from her Saudi friend. They were mentioning this small coffeeshop that is best known for their chocolate soufflé. That’s all it’s really popularly known for and of course, being the curious person that I am, I have to find it. Good thing, it was a bit near to our house in Sulaimaniya. The shop doesn’t have a family section (it barely has a single section!) so my friend and I had to stand outside while a waiter comes out to get our order and we have to wait for 15 minutes for the soufflé (because they heat it fresh). The soufflé doesn’t look grand; it’s actually cooked in a rectangular foil that is used in most households. But inside is one of the most moist, softest and chocolatiest cake I’ve ever tasted. Okay, it is nowhere near the luxurious soufflés and fondants of restaurants but the simplicity of Sada Al Tahlia’s is what I want. Theirs is a milk chocolate inside a fluffy chocolate cake. While the liquid chocolate gets overwhelming after a few scoops, the cake doesn’t diminish in yumminess. I have cravings for this suddenly once in a while. Like now. Haha!

4. Ice Cream by Marwan Ice Cream

What flavor are you craving for today?

I had some dental work done last week so I asked my husband if we can eat a good soup and some good ice cream. For the soup, we went to TSC Signature. Their mushroom soup was awesome! For the ice cream, I didn’t want something commercial or the usual. So I turned to Foursquare and looked for ice cream (or even milkshake) near where we were. There’s one popped up and its name was in Arabic but the comment section took my attention. They were saying this is “one of the best Arabic ice cream places ever!” and that it’s “the best in Riyadh!” Who will not be curious? So we drove to the small, simple store in between shops that are not related to food, haha. I thought their signs were all in Arabic and I was praying I wouldn’t have to resort to pointing at the ice cream without knowing what the flavors are. The vendor was friendly who told me the name of the store is Marwan Ice Cream and they have a huge sign of their flavors with English translation (thank goodness). I wanted to get melon but it wasn’t available so I got the orange and pistachio. Then I saw him take a white ice cream scoop and roll it in what looked like fine biscuits crumbs. Again with the curiosity, I asked what it was and he said Locum (some Googling later and I found out it’s Turkish Delight). I ordered that one too. One scoop is less than SR 10. You can also mix and match flavors in bigger tubs. Their ice cream is nothing like Baskin Robbins or Cone Zone. Theirs is yummier and creamier but melts faster. The flavors are well-infused in the ice cream. The not-too-sour orange flavor is almost like a marriage of sherbet and gelato while the pistachio is mild. The Locum with biscuit has an interesting texture and not too sweet. Ice is available to put in the packaging.

5.Cheesecake by Framboise and Olive

When we first took a bite of the heavenly cheesecake of Framboise and Olive, it was still just an Instagram shop. Nowadays, Framboise and Olive is enjoying a loyal following in their own physical store. We’re so happy they already have their own store (a little bit sad that it’s a little bit far from us). Their cheesecakes deserve it. Most of their flavors are amazing! Their cheesecake is the creamiest and yummiest I’ve ever tasted in Riyadh. I also love how generous they are when it comes to the fruits topping their cake. The prices are a bit steep but totally worth them. We don’t have to settle for other mediocre cheesecakes that doesn’t even resemble and taste like a true cheesecake in restaurants anymore. Enough said, you can check out my review of Framboise and Olive here:

There you go, some food finds we consider are gems in Riyadh. Let us know your secret food destinations in the city so we can try it too. And yeah, let’s make them not-so-secret anymore! 😉


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