Illustration by Rock Hyung Kang.

We Asked 85 people on Hamdan Street About Their Favorite Restaurant. Here’s What They Said.

In this edition of AD Secrets, we flip the script and ask Hamdan Street’s residents about their favorite restaurants in the city.

May 9, 2022

For eight years now, The Gazelle has had an AD secrets column, whose very existence is often surrounded with some rightful controversy. The implication that there are secrets to “discover” in Abu Dhabi, and that relatively privileged NYU Abu Dhabi students are the ones to discover them, is a jarring and, according to its most strident critics, an orientalist one. So on this occasion, The Gazelle decided to flip the script and instead ask the residents of the areas that we visit about their favorite restaurants.
Like with so much else in Abu Dhabi, I decided to start with Hamdan Street. The street and its numerous eateries have been the subject of many an AD Secrets column; with featured restaurants varying from the Syrian eatery Bab Sharqi to the Gujarati Anand Al Saeed. This time, however, I asked the area’s many residents, employees and visitors about their own preferences on the Street. To minimize the inconvenience imposed on the people I spoke to, I asked a very simple question: what nearby restaurant would you recommend to someone?
This is no scientific study. I was typically recommended restaurants that were extremely close to where I walked, and I spent more time on some particular corners of Hamdan Street than others. I did not venture ahead of Sultan Bin Zayed the First Street, and thus did not receive any restaurant recommendations, such as Bait Al Khetyar, which were adjacent to this section of Hamdan Street.
The interviewees for this analysis were fairly representative of the population that tends to inhabit Hamdan: an eclectic mix of mostly young men whose passports would describe them as Pakistani, Indian, Filipino, Bangladeshi, Jordanian, Lebanese, Syrian, Sudanese and much much more. The Indians who spoke to me were primarily Malayalis, though at least a few North Indians were included in this work. I primarily looked for people that did not seem to have any affiliation to a restaurant nearby; many of my respondents were employees at stationery shops, hairdressers and computer repair stores. I also heavily leaned on the people who arguably know Hamdan’s food scene best: the Talabat and Deliveroo drivers who help bring it to the rest of the city.
So without further ado, here are the results.
Made with Flourish
In the above visualization, the size of the circle represents how many people recommended the restaurant to me. I received a range of answers, from curiosity to bemusement. Most people wanted more details on what I would like, for the diversity in a street like Hamdan is such that asking for broad recommendations felt like a difficult question. Others had no answer, not because they did not want to answer, but because they were themselves exploring Downtown Abu Dhabi for the first time. Indeed, the most common response was no response, which only very rarely came from a sense of annoyance — even though this would have been extremely fair.
The answers open up a plethora of new restaurants for NYUAD students to try, as most of the responses differed from NYUAD students’ favorite spots in Hamdan . The most popular response, after no preference, was Shawabal cafeteria, a small Bangladeshi restaurant that was universally recommended by people of all nationalities. Even at 4 p.m., not peak hour by any stretch of the imagination, the restaurant was chock-full with people who had come to try the restaurant’s biryani and its incredibly varied offerings of fish.
Another surprising option that was recommended by several people I spoke to was Fat-Free Chicken, a relatively new eatery whose name belies the food that is offered there, from shawarma to biryani to a section that seems to be inaccurately titled “Traditional Chinese Cuisine” . The restaurant was recommended to me by, among others, a Sudanese septuagenarian who had lived in the city for fifty years, a Filipino woman and a couple of young Malayali gentlemen.
Another favorite was Al Fujairah restaurant, an old Abu Dhabi staple, that serves all variants of Mughlai Cuisine from Kabul to Karachi to Kanpur, spanning the entire north-western section of the subcontinent. Unsurprisingly, Punjab Flower and Iqbal, both similarly loved Pakistani restaurants, received a lot of votes, with respondents particularly recommending the brain masala and aloo paratha at both places. Vegetarian classics, such as Evergreen restaurant and Bhavna, also received multiple voters.
The visualization also includes a range of eclectic options that received one or two recommendations, from the Afghani Pamir restaurant to Tamil Chat Cafeteria. We hope that next time you go to Hamdan, you do not go searching for secrets, but instead visit the places that have already been “discovered” by the people that most spend time in that corner of Abu Dhabi.
Abhyudaya Tyagi is Editor-in-Chief. Email him at
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