Dairy-free in Dubai

Week 5 in Dubai, and I haven’t shared much about the one thing that consumes most of my energy here… FOOD!

Contrary to popular belief, this city has more to offer than simply shawarma, grape leaves and dates. I love Middle Eastern food, but it can be challenging to find amidst all the tourist food chains. And if you thought I had a meal plan here au contraire mademoiselle.

The nice things about this city when it comes to food: (1) this place is meant for foodies, and (2) almost every restaurant delivers. My problem: not many understand the concept of lactose intolerance. But thanks to expat vegan forums, here are my go-to places to get dairy-free food:

1. Urban Bistro

Just a short walk from campus, Urban Bistro is a cute little café in the CNN Building.  For my Fayetteville friends, it’s very similar to Arsaga’s.  They serve coffee for here and to-go, but it’s more of a restaurant.  Their brunch menu is delicious, and the servers happily accommodated my needs with almond milk.  It’s also fairly priced.


Urban definitely has a relaxed, Western expat vibe – perfect for a Saturday morning.  I was able to study there, which is a huge feat when it comes to Dubai, and most importantly, there’s free wifi.  The playlist ranges from the latest pop songs to classic artists like Eric Clapton.  I guess they don’t mind cocaine.


2. Taqado Mexican Kitchen

When I left the US, I left a piece of my heart there with Chipotle.  Surprisingly Dubai has several Mexican restaurants (or at least, Mexican-inspired) with plenty of guacamole to go around.  Taqado is my favorite.  With locations in Mall of the Emirates and Dubai Mall it’s a go-to on-the-go burrito bar.  The friendly servers seem to enjoy their jobs, and they never pressure me into adding cheese and sour cream.


3. Uber + Magnolia Bakery


For Uber Dubai’s third anniversary its drivers delivered free Magnolia cupcakes.  Okay, so these weren’t dairy-free, but they were so worth the pain and the few lactaid pills I brought with me.
4. Freedom Pizza

Freedom Pizza for the win!!  William Wallace would love it.


This place is a game-changer.  Not only is their delivery super fast (for a pizza place), but they also can substitute any cheese for vegan cheese.  Oh and they have vegan ice cream!img_5413

5. A

A little tucked away café in the Asserkal Avenue art district, this place is the perfect stop for espresso in between exhibits.  It’s one of the few places I’ve found (aside from Starbucks) where it’s socially acceptable to buy just a latte and stay.  I hope to make this cute coffeeshop my study hideaway.

6. Pinterest

When the going gets tough, the tough learn how to cook.  With limited reasonably-priced dairy-free take-out options, I’ve resorted to Pinterest recipes for my everyday hunger.  Turns out I can make a mean vegan spaghetti with the help of Divine Healthy Food and Eataly.


P.S. Growing your own basil is a big commitment.


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