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Food, Dining, & Drinks in Georgia

Culinary Influences

Georgian Food - Khachapuri

Georgia's mountainous terrain has made the country isolated for centuries and even today some valleys are nearly inaccessible. This has made Georgian food unique in many ways, but their access to flatter lands in the south has still allowed a number of influences to give the country new twists on their food.

In their mountainous terrain, the animals and crops that could be grown became what sustained the people. The mountains only allowed hearty grains to be harvested, but also gave the people dozens of natural herbs for seasoning. Plus meats and dairy were always available, but not often consumed. Even today their foods are built on a foundation of breads and herb-infused meats.

The greatest outside influences were from the Persians, Turks, Lebanese, and to a lesser degree, the Russians. These influences are most pronounced with the presence of spices like saffron and fresh flavors like lime, parsley, onions, and tomatoes.

Staple Foods

Bread: the most common variety is a flat bread called lavash
Meat: many traditional meals are based around a meat; lamb, chicken, beef, and pork are the most common

Regional Variations & Specialties

Kebabs: typically lamb, beef, or pork marinated and grilled; often served with lavash (thin bread)
Khachapuri: bread topped with various ingredients, most commonly with cheese
Khinkali: thick dough stuffed with beef or pork spiced with herbs, onions, and garlic

Dining Etiquette

Georgian Food - Mtsvadi / Shashlik
Mtsvadi / Shashlik

Georgian dining can be quite divided (by sex that is) and extremely informal, especially among a group of men eating without the supervision of any women. However, dining in Georgia is a social affair, particularly when a group of men or women go out to eat (and drink). These same-sex gatherings can last for hours and by the end, if you're not careful, the alcohol may block out any memory of what you ate hours earlier at the same gathering.

Ideally your meal will begin, end, and be interrupted multiple times by the tamada or toastmaster. This position is a great honor in Georgia and those new to the position may make full use of their power by constantly topping off glasses and proposing toasts. For most meals though there will be no tamada, but this doesn't change the intent of dining: socialization.

Begin on the correct foot and, if dining in a local's home, be sure to bring a gift of chocolate and don't overdress since the Georgians are quite informal (but also conservative so don't wear anything provocative). Your host will most likely smother you with attention and food, especially if you are the only foreigner, so come hungry. Your host will also offer you more than one helping so don't overindulge on the first offering. It is common for hosts to offer seconds and to bring out multiple courses or multiple sweets and you are expected to try each of these, which is a welcomed and delicious gift for most visitors.

If in a more formal setting, such as at a restaurant for a business dinner, dining rules are similar to that of Europe, but more relaxed. The only two necessities are that your hands should be in view at all times so rest your wrists on the edge of the table, and eat with your knife in your right hand and your fork in your left.

Tipping isn't common in Georgia, but at higher end restaurants, it is appreciated. In these locations tip what you feel is appropriate; rounding up is usually sufficient.


All common drinks can be found in Georgia and their best known non-alcoholic drink is carbonated mineral water, which is at times slightly flavored. In addition to this all popular drinks are available in Georgia, including tea, coffee, soft drinks, juices, and milk.

However, Georgia is more well-known for their alcoholic drinks and some people believe that wine originated in Georgia. While others dispute this claim, drinking the wine yourself will help you notice that their wines tend to fall on the sweet side. For something a bit more unique, try chach, which is a locally made alcohol similar to vodka. In addition to these beverages, popular international drinks, including beers, wines, and hard liquors are also common.

There is no consensus on the cleanliness of the tap water in Georgia. Near the mountains and in the major cities the water is generally clean, but this is more of a tendency than a rule. In other areas the water quality is poor, and perhaps unsafe, so should be avoided. The best course of action is to check with locals for the cleanliness of the local water or be cautious and avoid the tap water entirely. If you do decide to drink the tap water, remember that many people may have troubles adjusting to the local water, as it will most certainly be different from what your system is used to.

This page was last updated: March, 2013