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Vogue: You Haven’t Lived Until You’ve Been to Tbilisi’s Art Cafés

Vogue, a world famous fashion media giant presents another guide-post about Georgia, at this time writer Ashley Schneider visited Tbilisi’s most iconic art cafes. The article is written below.

Tbilisi, the country’s capital, hides a treasure around every corner. Apartments stack one on top of the other in mismatching styles. Wrought-iron balconies with intricate metalwork cling to colorful wooden houses.

An unassuming bakery, marked only by the massive Georgian tandoor ovens, turns out perfect shoti flatbread. And contemporary art cafés welcome progressive alternative culture while nodding to their heritage. With art from local artists, menus that celebrate local offerings, and endless bottles of Georgian wine, these communal spaces celebrate all that is Georgian, lifting up contemporary examples while remaining rooted in the most Georgian of experiences: enjoying a meal.

Geras Bina

Photo: Courtesy of Geras Bina / @bina.tbilisi

Each art café in Tbilisi possesses a distinct personality, much in the way that dwelling spaces adhere to the character of their inhabitants. Some invite guests to remember the essential pieces of local heritage. Geras Bina, for instance, re-creates an intimate Georgian home. Sometimes simply called Bina (“apartment” in Georgian), its lace curtains tied to a wooden trellis shelter the balcony.

Rocking chairs by the fireplace beckon memories of a Georgian grandmother, a symbol of women who have shaped the fire in the proud Georgian soul.

This is a space of the home, in a country where fine-dining restaurants cannot easily replace a home-cooked meal of khinkali, Georgian meat dumplings, and khachapuri, a bread and cheese dish made from the local flatbread cooked in clay pots, alongside friends, family, and, perhaps, strangers. Cafe Leila invites visitors into a different history, where the decor reflects a moorish influence. Different from Bina, Cafe Leila is a vegetarian and vegan café, a perhaps unintentional nod to a time when Georgians reserved meat for special occasions.

Its menu works local staples like pomegranate, eggplant, beets, carrots, and greenery into a variety of classic dishes—pkhali, for example, a pastelike dip of minced vegetables flavored with cilantro and walnuts, served with crispy flatbread.

Art-Cafe Home

Photo: Roma Photelidze / Courtesy of Art-Cafe HOME

In the depths of Tbilisi’s finest art cafés, the decor gets wilder. Canvases line up next to one another to tile the ceiling of Art-Cafe Home in colorful paintings. Framed prints paper the walls of the three-story staircase. The café itself is a living museum of Georgian culture, emphasizing the essential elements of Georgia in each room. From strings of dried peppers above the kitchen counter, to cherries and apples spilling over windowsills and balconies, Home reinterprets Georgian heritage into its abstract contemporary image. The café’s versatile day-to-night menu boasts great soups and inventive cocktails. Guests can spin their favorite tunes from a collection of vinyl records any time of day. Meanwhile, just off the main Tbilisi shopping street at Cafe-Gallery, the art hangs on the walls, the tapestries are painted on the floor, and the evenings let loose. Serving pumpkin soup in the garden alongside traditional Georgian lobio (slow-cooked spiced beans) by day, the popular space often features talented local DJs and musicians when the sunlight leaves.

Factory 27

Photo: Courtesy of Factory 27

Each art café family evokes a different atmosphere while gesturing in the direction of Georgia’s infamous hospitality, offering more than simply a café. O, Moda,Moda, tucked away amid streets of Georgian boutiques, invites the fashionable traveler to pick over goods at a small marketplace for locally designed clothing and craft wares after enjoying a meal in the garden. Factory.27 conjures Roy Lichtenstein and street art with rainbow-color cocktails and an outdoor space decorated by Georgian graffiti artist TamOonz. Inside Moulin Electrique, Parisian Montmartre meets an underground Russian writer in a darkly romantic book–forward decor. Finally, at Linville, Georgia turns through the looking glass, as the café’s creators instigated a topsy-turvy elegant style through vintage furniture and decoration. A fish swims in a television set. Lampshades hang upside down. And an excellent wine list reminds visitors that the art café of Tbilisi is ready to wine and dine the hungry traveler, to let her settle in and take up a post at any table she chooses until skipping town.

Cafe Linville

Photo: Courtesy of Linville