Budget restaurants in Doha

15 reasons to ditch five-star dining in favour of pocket-friendly food Discuss this article

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New White Oceanic Restaurant
Sri Lankan cuisine isn’t easy to find in Doha, but what New White Oceanic offers is both cheap and authentic. It delivers hoppers (the popular breakfast food consisting of a thin crispy pancake made from fermented rice flour and coconut milk), kotthu (a mixture of stir-fried roti, veg and meat), spicy devilled prawns and curries, as well as a few Indonesian dishes like nasi goreng – and all to a pretty high standard. Impressive, especially when you take the price into account.
Najma Street, Najma (4431 0964).

Turkey Central

The kebabs at Turkey Central are legendary for good reason. They are juicy and tender, and of a much higher quality than you would expect from somewhere with such low prices. In fact, everything here is good, and the menu is huge, covering more than 80 items, and including massive mezze platters for sharing, alongside salads, pies, mixed grills and glorious, fluffy Turkish bread that’s made in-house.
Al Mirqab Al Jadeed Street (4443 2927).

Oriental Kitchen

When a venue is always packed, you know it’s going to be good, like this one, which is why it won our coveted Best Budget Restaurant in the recent Time Out Doha Restaurant Awards 2016. This is where many Chinese expats in the city go for a taste of home – the chefs are from Beijing, and venture beyond the usual suspects of beef with black bean sauce and kung pao. On the menu, you’ll also find surprising delights like marmite chicken, butter prawns, "sizzling tofu" and pickle mustard tofu soup. For the more adventurous diners, options such as curried fish head also abound. Portions are generous, too.
Al Khalidiya Street (3336 3279).

MRA

MRA is all about Indian favourites in a basic setting. There are rows of Indian sweets for takeaway, huge, crispy and fragrantly spiced dosas, a long list of dishes from Kerala and homey-sounding dishes like Grandma’s chicken curry. The lunchtime buffet is unbeatable and the peanut salad is a must, as are the fried papads with homemade chutney. Vegetarian, meat and fish dishes here are all equally as good, while for dessert the spiced rice pudding is a highlight. Bargain or no bargain, this budget spot is always worth
a visit, thanks to the excellent food.
TV Roundabout, Al Markiyah (4442 2073).

Gokul Guajarati Restaurant
The vegetarian thali at Gokul is some of the best around, with nutty dhals and fragrantly spiced potato and vegetable curries. The supremely fluffy dokhla (a spongy and cake-like side made with gram flour) is delightful, and the mango lassi is perfectly creamy with just the right hint of tart, sour yoghurt flavour. One of the best things about dining here, however, is the enthusiastic and cheerful family who run the restaurant and will rush to refill your tray when you’ve barely started eating (and won’t take no for an answer).
Ibn Bin Mahmoud Street, Freej Bin Mahmoud (4480 0373).

Habesha

If you’re not all that familiar with Ethiopian or Eritrean cuisine, this is a great place to start. You’ll be lucky to find a table after 7pm – arrive with the dinner rush and you’ll have a bit of a wait before you, but you won’t be disappointed when your food arrives. Their injera – Ethiopian sourdough flatbread – is well known, and enough of a reason to visit, even if you don’t order anything else. But the meats cooked in traditional, spicy berbere sauce (a spice mix usually containing chilli, garlic, ginger, fenugreek, ajwain or carom seeds, radhuni and an Ethopian cardamom) are equally good. The Habesha special tibs is particularly special, cooked with rosemary and fresh garlic. Feeling adventurous? Order some kitfo. The raw minced beef dish is similar to tartare and is mixed with spices and spiced butter.
Ibn Seena Street, Al Muntazah (5024 0500).

North East
This can be a tricky one to find, nestled in the back streets of Al Salata, and near impossible to track down online. Once you have found it, however, you’ll undoubtedly be back. The food will transport you to Beijing, and vegetarian curries are particularly good. The dumplings, however, are the best bit about a meal here. Perfect, moreish parcels stuffed full of well-seasoned chicken, beef, veg and prawn. Trust us, this one is worth the hunt.
Al Salata, small road between Al Aaliya Street and Al Muthaf Street, behind the new Qatar National Museum (7788 6176).

Shawarma and Kunafa Albisana
The simple menu here needs little explanation: shawarmas and kunafa, two of our favourite Middle Eastern snacks. Granted, these aren’t the cheapest shawarmas around, but what they lack in affordability, they make up for – twice over – in meat quality, fluffy bread and supremely juicy, flavourful filling. There are a few “gourmet” options, too, like Mexican-style shawarma with cocktail sauce. The kunafa is made with Nabulsi cheese from the city of Nabulus in Palestine, though if syrup-soaked cheese isn’t your thing, other dessert options like the creamy milk pudding, mohalabiya, are just as good. The dining experience is made all the more pleasant by the open-air setting in Katara.
Katara Cultural Village, West Bay Lagoon (4408 1200).

Tea Time
This little road-side café serves the usual selection of burgers, chicken fillet sandwiches and juices – all pretty standard in taste and quality. What you should visit for, however, are the drinks. The “special juices” are majestically colourful, fruity concoctions with odd names like Computer, Galaxy and Golden Smoothy, as well as a Red Bull with Fruit. The karak, however, steals the show. For just QR1 you’ll get a cup of some of the best chai in the city. You can even ask them to mix in a little bit of rosewater. Service is speedy and efficient, too, so you can run in and grab a cup to go from any of its many locations.
11 locations, including: Behind Lexus Stores, Al Nasr Street; Ramada Junction, Salwa Road; Mattar Qadeem Street, Old Airport; next to Hamad Al Malky Grocery, Othman Bin Affan Street, Al Aziziya.

Sara
A little hole-in-the-wall joint that’s been around for years and built up a loyal following. The menu mainly covers Pakistani cuisine with fantastic vegetarian options (aloo gobi and aloo palak, for example, which are made with potato and cauliflower or spinach). Meat lovers, try pretty much any of the mutton dishes — mutton kadai is the most popular and has a fragrant, homey quality. They also have a rotating menu of lunch and dinner specials throughout the week such as dishes with meatballs and egg in masala sauce. We can’t attest to the quality or taste of the lamb brains, but they are on the menu should you wish to give them a go. Mop up the sauce with one of the fluffy and crisp naans or biryani.
Freej Abdul Aziz, between B Ring Road and Rawdat Al Khail Street (4442 7024).

Asiana Express
This spot offers a medley of Chinese, Filipino and Indian dishes. The Filipino varieties are particularly good, such as the Bicol Express, which is made with tender beef and a rich, creamy and slightly spicy, coconut curry sauce. The Lumpiang Shanghai – a Filipino version of spring rolls – are also worth ordering, as they're light, crispy and filled with fragrantly-seasoned minced chicken. The main dining room is divided up into cosy little lantern-lit private booths, which go a long way to creating a pleasant atmosphere. We perhaps wouldn’t go so far as to call it romantic, but it’s certainly more intimate than almost any other casual eatery we’ve visited.
Al Difaaf Street, behind Royal Plaza Mall, Al Sadd (4442 6969).

Royal Bafiliyon
This comically-named eatery in the back of a petrol station is simple and canteen-like with some half-hearted Chinese décor accents (a few lanterns and a pagoda). Food, however, is packed with authentic flavours. The price range is broad, with vegetarian dishes like the popular mapo tofu coming in below QR30, but wok-fried crab with dried chilli or poached cuttlefish still won’t set you back more than QR60. The menu is almost totally Chinese, but fans of Korean food will be pleased to see a couple of fiery kimchi dishes make an appearance. Finish off the meal with a traditional baked egg tart – thus far, it’s the only place we’ve found them in the city.
Al Jazeera Petrol Station, Salwa Road (4411 4458).

Yamani House
You could feed an army here for next to nothing. The huge platters of mandi (each portion is piled high with rice and meat, and big enough for at least three) are served as meals with a delicious veg and meat soup, salad, spicy tomato salsa to mix in with the rice and a cup of tea at the end. We’d also recommend trying the rice-based dish chicken Zurbian, which comes cooked in a pot of rich soupy sauce and potatoes. The highlight? The huge, hubcap-sized discs of Yemeni bread are a delicious, buttery cross between naan and paratha.
Al Kinana Street, Al Sadd (4488 1588).

Hot Sandwich
This little Egyptian hole-in-the-wall is probably the cheapest of all, and you can get a pretty hefty falafel sandwich for just QR4. The whole menu is in Arabic, so ordering might be a bit of a gamble, but you can’t go wrong asking for “one falafel”. The wrap will come stuffed with lettuce, tomato, pickled veg, chips, eggplant and tahini sauce.
Umm Ghuwailina Street, Umm Ghuwailina (4436 9503).

Nepali Kitchen

A wonderfully charming little place serving up Nepal on a plate. Add a side of momos (choose from steamed or fried, stuffed with mutton, chicken, veg, or all three) to whatever you order, whether that’s the bottomless thali at lunch – with lovely, light lentil dhals – or a samay baji set, which is traditional to the Newari people of the Kathmandu Valley. The baji, beaten rice not dissimilar to a dry cereal, is served with marinated meat, black soybeans, green vegetables and pickles. This place is perfect for meat lovers and vegetarians, as there are ample options for both, and everyone loves the humble venue.
Abdullah Bin Thani Street, Al Asmakh (7758 4376).

By Sofia Vyas
Time Out Doha,

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