Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Fleur Flaneur's Quest: Breakfast in Tbilisi

Tartine - with real cafe au lait!
Like many a native New Yorker, I cannot function properly without my morning coffee. This is not merely  - as my Very English Boyfriend is wont to believe - some filtered brown liquid emerging from a purpose-built pot, but rather a very elaborate ritual: the coffee must be procured from some external source (ideally, a greasy-spoon diner), accompanied by pleasant banter between myself and said proprietor of external source, and eaten alongside an elaborate foodstuff of some description (ideally, an "everything bagel with nothing on it," which apparently confuses the hell out of Oxford's baristas). Coffee absolutely cannot be made at home (and - are you listening, Very English Boyfriend? - certainly cannot be accompanied by a bowl of cold cereal eaten while standing in the kitchen!) It is acceptable to go outside, get some coffee (and breakfast sandwiches) "to go", and return home, as long as the experience constitutes suitably respectful awareness of the Morning Breakfast Ritual, which must last at least an hour.

The only viable rival to an everything
 bagel with nothing on it.
And while I love many things about Tbilisi - there is one facet of the city that I simply cannot abide. The culture of "breakfast out" simply does not exist. Most cafes (including my go-to locals, Konka and Literaturuli) don't open until eleven at the earliest, leaving me with scant breakfasting options in my vicinity (Abanotubani). Yet nearly eighteen months' worth of Abanotubani-dwelling has given me a sensible run-down of the available options - ones that I hope will prove invaluable to other transplanted New Yorkers (and Parisians) for whom cold cereal simply will not do.

Breakfast Options Near Meidan

Tartine, Meidan
This recently-opened French bistro is indicative of Meidan's slow descent into boho gentrification: its main branch is in Vake. Yet hipster snobbery aside, Tartine does have extraordinary food (!), even if it's too pricey as a regular lunch place. Breakfast around 10 lari.
Pros: Cafe au lait that comes in enormous porcelain bowls, fresh croissants, opens at 9, laptop plugs
Cons: Expensive, slightly staid. No lobiani.

Machakhela, Meidan
Sure, it isn't breakfast food proper, but what could be more delectable than lobiani at seven in the morning?
Pros: Cheap, enormous portions, open 24/7, the closest thing to a greasy-spoon feel in Tbilisi. MORNING LOBIANI.
Cons: They don't seem to have milk for coffee (or cappuccinos/etc available), who can eat an entire lobiani on one's own?

Luca Polare, Leselidze Street
Technically an ice-cream parlour, they also do takeaway coffees and a variety of pastries
Pros: Cheap, open early, ice cream or fruit smoothies (or muffins), opens at 8
Cons: Getting on to a ten-minute walk from my house, minimal indoor seating. No lobiani.

The Hidden Bakery Beneath the Seminary
The bakery is located in the basement.
Only in Tbilisi would the best bakery in town be located underneath the seminary opposite to Sioni Cathedral. A single sign leads the way to the aromatic depths of paradise and carbohydrates.
Pros: Insanely cheap selection of lobiani, khachapuri, and "potato khachapuri" (or as we say in New York, knishes), baked before your very eyes.
Cons: No coffee. Takeaway only. One possibly takes the bread to a confusing icon-filled canteen right around the corner (where coffee seems to be available), but the one time I tried to order a coffee there I was ignored for about twenty minutes before I got confused and wandered off...I may have possibly crashed the seminarians' refectory?

Why, God, why can I not find a place in which both lobiani and coffee-with-milk are freely available?
Other, of course, than my grocery store.


Anonymous said...

If you give more importance to the elegance of the material despite the price, you can opt for kitchen countertops which involve stone materials like granite, marble, and ceramic tiles.

Shawn Basey said...

For decent atmosphere, 24 hour service, including coffee and lobiani, give Art Cafe a shot off of Dadiani Street, from Tavisupleba. Not exceptional anything, but it gets a Good Enough Degree.

And you're absolutely right about the morning ritual. Coffee MUST be procured outside of the wakeup premises.

Fleur Flaneur said...

Shawn, thanks for commenting. I've been lurking/following your blog for a few months now and enjoy reading it. Art Cafe's a bit of a trek from me for a morning coffee, but may be worth it. Which side of the street is it on?