While most people wouldn’t think of Albania as a foodie destination, I was quite surprised by the restaurants in Tirana. The capital city of Albania has many trendy international eateries and high-end spots offering local dishes that have been taken up a notch.
Because Albania is an affordable travel destination, you’re able to enjoy incredible meals for a fraction of what they would cost elsewhere. Most meals at high-end restaurants range from $6-8 USD, and street food can be found for less than a dollar.
I recently spent a month in Tirana trying out as many restaurants as possible. My choices include everything from simple local spots to the city’s most exclusive restaurant, where you can spot local celebrities working their way through one of the most affordable tasting menus I’ve ever ordered.
The best restaurants in Tirana, Albania
Rruga Pjetër Bogdani // +355 69 404 1101
Salt became one of my go to restaurants during my time in Tirana. The interior is stylish, trendy even, and features an open kitchen.
The menu focuses on Mediterranean dishes, seafood and sushi, with plates meant to be shared. Some of the highlights from the menu include marscapone macaroni and cheese topped with parmesan lobster and a T-Bone steak cooked in butter.
I loved all the seafood dishes I tried there, including the jumbo grilled shrimp served with a lime dipping sauce
and the seafood ravioli served in a white wine and garlic sauce.
I’m not usually tempted by desserts, but the selections that passed my table almost convinced me to reconsider.
The restaurant features all you can eat sushi on Mondays for 1600 lek ($15 USD).
Rruga Sami Frashëri // +355 69 851 1112
à la Santé is a bit tricky to find (look for it just off the main street, behind the street-facing buildings), but it’s well worth the effort. The menu is small but a lot of thought is put into each dish. The chef prides himself for offering healthful dishes such as truffled quinoa and an avocado mango salad topped with fresh grilled salmon.
If it’s available when you’re ordering, be sure to check out this risotto with cuttlefish.
Rruga Papa Gjon Pali II 9 // +355 67 600 0480
When you’re craving Italian food (and I almost always am) be sure to check out Artigiano. While the restaurant is well known for their pizza, I discovered they also serve a seriously great pasta.
Be sure to check out their seafood offerings. This roasted octopus with potatoes was perfectly cooked and full of flavor. It had been drizzled with a fragrant olive oil just before it was served:
Bulevardi Gjergj Fishta // +355 68 206 5272
This unassuming restaurant offers fresh seafood selections, phenomenal house wine, and the friendliest waiters I encountered during my time in Tirana. Let the guys behind the counter tell you what’s fresh, and order a salad and some wine while they prepare your meal. Simple and straightforward, but it works every time.
Rruga Brigada VIII // +355 4 222 3570
Otium is another popular fine dining option in Tirana. There is no set menu. Instead, the menu features what is fresh each day. The waiter will go through that days options with you when you’re seated. One thing that threw me off — the prices were never mentioned. It’s almost an “if you have to ask you can’t afford it” concept. Other than that, the experience was great, both the food and service.
The presentation was also gorgeous,
and the dishes were perfectly executed.
Next time I return I’ll try the steak, as several people told me it’s the best in town.
Rruga Brigada VIII // +355 69 927 7086
Duff in an American style sports bar. In fact, you can usually find a game playing on the projector out on the patio. Duff is also where I was unanimously told by locals I could find Tirana’s best burger. And they were right!
Big, messy burgers, crisp fries and cold beer — perfection. Duff was even happy to accommodate my vegetarian friend and went off menu to make a burger she said was delicious.
Rruga Pjeter Bogdani Number 19 // +355 4 225 8411
Çoko was another one of my default restaurants. The interior is gorgeous, and a table on the outdoor terrace is the perfect place to people watch on the street below during dinner. The menu has choices ranging from a poached egg burger to beef tongue in a miso sauce. The restaurant also serves some of the best paté I’ve ever had. The fact that they use bacon in the recipe and serve it with cornbread probably has a lot do with that!
Another of my favorite dishes is their roasted octopus over chickpeas with dill:
I ordered this dish several times, and the octopus was always perfectly cooked and the chickpeas were full of flavor.
If you’re looking for a light lunch, I loved their grilled shrimp and quinoa salad:
The quinoa is full of vegetables and served cold and topped with freshly grilled shrimp.
Çoko also has one of the best brunches in town. I had their version of the classic Eggs Benedict, and it didn’t disappoint. Their take includes ham and avocado covered in a homemade hollandaise:
Rruga Papa Gjon Pali II // +355 4 450 4913
Padam is one of the (if not the most) exclusive restaurants in Tirana. The restaurant is set inside the high-end hotel with the same name. You will definitely want to call ahead for reservations, especially if you would like to dine on the gorgeous outside patio.
The menu has dishes such as sea bass carpaccio with gazpacho and marinated zucchini, risotto with stewed duck and orange marmalade and pan-fried calf sweetbreads in a paprika lime sauce.
With so many amazing dishes, deciding on just one dish proved too difficult. I did the only logical thing: I ordered the tasting menu. The tasting menu starts at an incredibly reasonable 4800 lek/$45 USD for six courses, without wine pairings.
On this night, the tasting menu included dishes like this poached egg with yogurt, broccoli cream and black truffle:
Then there was possibly my favorite dish of the night — this homemade hare tortellini with fennel cream and cumin:
The restaurant is a great place to spot local celebrities as well. My friend pointed out several local television personalities and sports figures.
Pjeter Bogdani 3 // +355 69 580 8447
While a bar and not an actual restaurant in Tirana, I felt Colonial was worth mentioning because we ended up here
almost every many nights.
Colonial is the best place in Tirana for high-end, specialty cocktails. Their staff knows the menu inside and out and are happy to suggest something based on your likes. They may even make something new for you.
Which restaurant in Tirana looks best to you? Let me know in the comments section below!
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