Essaouira, Morocco’s bohemian haven by the sea, has long been a melting pot of alternative cultures and lifestyles. The city’s cobbled medina and breezy beachfront provide the infrastructure for a thriving arts scene, a chilled getaway for those escaping the country’s often crowded cities and a wide range of dining options.
From cheap eats to high-end Asian and European cuisine, Essaouira has food choices as diverse and eclectic as the people who visit, and many expats have joined locals in setting up eateries here. Whether you’re after a tasty tagine or authentic Italian, Essaouira’s restaurants have your cravings covered. Here's some of the best food on the menu in Morocco’s ‘windy city’.
Go authentic at Adwak, one of the best spots in Essaouira for traditional Moroccan dishes © Chris Griffiths / Lonely Planet
In a city where tagine and couscous are omnipresent, it can be difficult to sort the best traditional Moroccan food from mediocre fare. Adwak is among the top options for travellers who wish to sample the best of Moroccan cuisine. Located down a quiet side street in the medina, this cosy eatery has a homely ambience, and the decor looks like you’ve just stepped into someone’s home. The menu includes traditional dishes such as tagines (don't miss the veggie version), and couscous and similar vegetarian options are on offer. Prices are reasonable and vary depending on which set menu you choose. Forget creative fusion dishes; this is Moroccan traditional food at its best. Spaces are limited in this ultra-cosy restaurant Rue Touahen, so get there early.
Soak up the sun and the sea views at Taros © Chris Griffiths / Lonely Planet
A favourite among well-heeled locals and tourists, this restaurant and bar doubles as a gallery space and is known around town for offering one of the best views of the city’s famous port. Turn up at sunset to take selfies on the often breezy upstairs terrace or simply enjoy a beer or wine while taking in the view. The cuisine is Moroccan with a French twist, and musicians take to the stage most nights until the wee hours.
You won't get closer to the sand than a meal at Essaouira's Beach and Friends © Chris Griffiths / Lonely Planet
Beach and Friends
If Taros is all about selfies by the harbour, then Beach and Friends will get you even closer to the water because it’s one of the best places to grab a bite and a drink right on the town beach. This hipster hangout on Blvd Mohamed is a popular sunbathing spot by day. Super-friendly staff serve up a selection of international and local dishes accompanied by a chilled reggae soundtrack. At night, funky artwork and regular live bands entertain the beach bar’s well-to-do foreign and local clientele. The daily specials board usually includes fresh locally caught fish, best washed down with a homemade cocktail – they serve some of the best in town.
Swap the Essaouira's seaside sights for a touch of kitschy decor at Silvestro © Chris Griffiths / Lonely Planet
If you’re willing to sacrifice a view of the Atlantic for fine Italian dining, seek out Silvestro, a popular restaurant tucked away on Rue Laalouj in the city’s artistic quarter of the medina. The decor is eclectic, but the ambience is straight out of Roma. This authentic Italian-run eatery is a favourite among the city’s expat community, who come to enjoy the delicious and filling pizza and pasta dishes, where taste is matched by presentation. All are served with a chat from the owner and washed down with imported Italian wines.
Tokyo Bangkok Wok
If you’re craving Thai instead of tagine, try the Asian delights at this newly opened hole-in-the-wall restaurant on Rue Hajjali in the medina close to the main square. Just a couple of tables are dotted outside a tiny kitchen, and space restrictions mean that taking your food away to one of the atmospheric tea cafes dotted along nearby Moulay Hassan Sq is a good option. You’ll be treated to the best sushi in town along with a small but tasty selection of stir-fry favourites. No alcohol is served, but Tokyo Bangkok Wok’s culinary prowess makes up for it.
Seafood is the catch of the day at The Loft, one of Essaouira's best restaurants © Chris Griffiths / Lonely Planet
The ultra-modern wooden decor, futuristic seat designs and steeper-than-average prices may be off-putting for some, but don’t walk past: The Loft has some of Essaouira’s best eats. The menu is simple, with just a selection of meat, chicken and, of course in a port town, fish. The monkfish fillet with rosemary is our pick from the menu, and it comes served with a delicious fresh bread and salad. The restaurant is open for lunch and dinner, but pre-book or arrive early as it fills up quickly.
Sometimes the simplest ideas really are the best when it comes to food. This family-run restaurant is off the tourist trail in city’s Ville Nouvelle, and its location, nestled between a beauty salon and a convenience store, offers a snapshot of everyday Essaouira life in this predominantly residential neighbourhood. Despite being a little out of the way on Lotissement Al Bouhaira, it is well worth seeking out if you fancy delicious homemade cuisine at reasonable prices. While not every dish on the menu is always available, you are guaranteed a slice of delicious home-cooked goodness. The wonderful tuna pasta is what we keep coming back for.
For a special night out in Essaouira, La Table by Madada is just the ticket © Chris Griffiths / Lonely Planet
La Table by Madada
While Essaouira has countless dining options, La Table by Madada stands head and shoulders above the rest on the fine-dining end of the spectrum. From the moment you enter this swish eatery, you can expect to be impressed, thanks to the exquisite combination of top-quality seafood, fabulous decor and excellent service. The dimmed lighting creates a romantic atmosphere, which wouldn’t seem out of place along the banks of the River Seine. The food is fresh, and while the prices may be a little steep for a backpacker’s budget, this restaurant is undoubtedly among the best in town. Don’t forget to save room for dessert as the restaurant offers a varying but always eclectic mix of ice cream flavours.
Triskala Cafe is a must-visit for vegetarians in Essaouira © Chris Griffiths / Lonely Planet
If you’re veggie and have grown a tad tired of vegetarian tagine, then look no further than Triskala Cafe, a backstreet hub on Rue Touahen. From the outside, the restaurant is a real blink-and-you-miss-it outfit. Step inside and enjoy the ramshackle selection of offbeat wooden furnishings and fairy lights, which give this place a cosy, laid-back feel. Both lunch and dinner are on offer, and the menu changes daily depending on what fresh ingredients are available at the time. Prices are very reasonable and the quality is excellent, so you won’t leave disappointed.
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