Dubai is in my travel bucket list not only because it is a gorgeous Middle Eastern country with palm trees, desert, tall shiny buildings, and *cough* handsome sheikhs *cough*… but also because it is the place for Muslim foodies to be.
As one of the seven emirates in the federation known as the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Dubai imposes a strict halal import policy, which means all the meat and chicken in Dubai are halal.
Here’s the best part. Dubai has TONS of American food chains operating in the city (and they're all halal ?).
So instead of just ordering the usual seafood or vegan option, we finally get to try meat-based food from American chains in Dubai!
1. The Cheesecake Factory
The name might sound like it’s a dedicated cake shop but apart from the amazing cheesecakes, The Cheesecake Factory also serves hot food from its kitchen. The business started off selling only cheesecakes in the 1940s when they just started. However, in 1978, the first Cheesecake Factory restaurant opened its doors, where they started serving hot meals to go along with their extensive dessert selection.
With all the mouth-watering images of the food circulating online, imagine how excited I was being able to try The Cheesecake Factory when I was in the United States! However, since they did not have halal options in the States, I could only go with their seafood selection.
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How do you choose only one from this extensive selection of cakes??
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There are more than 200 options on the menu to choose from including pizzas, pasta, salads and burgers. I bet I would have a tough time deciding what to eat.
Address: Mall of the Emirates, Sheikh Zayed Road, 4th Interchange, Al Barsha, Dubai.
Opening hours: 11am – 11pm (Sunday – Wednesday) and 10am – 12am (Thursday, Friday and Saturday).
2. Shake Shack
Shake Shack is a burger joint with a humble beginning. In 2001, it was a hot dog cart stationed in Madison Square Park, Manhattan. Three years later, it became a permanent kiosk in the park and now Shake Shack has evolved into a global brand.
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Due to health reasons, I strive to eat almost all natural, organic and antibiotic-free meat. Reading these on the menu made me shed tears of joy…
“100% all-natural Angus beef. Our proprietary shack blend. No hormones and free from antibiotics.”
“Our vanilla and chocolate recipes use only real sugar, no corn syrup and milk from dairy farmers who pledge to not use artificial growth hormones.”
“Chicken - No hormones ever and free from antibiotics.”
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A fast food joint that has burgers, milkshakes AND uses only meat and dairy that are free from antibiotics and hormones…
…. can we have Shake Shack in Malaysia already?!
Address: Mall Of The Emirates, Al Barsha 1 (First Floor, Next to West Food Court), Dubai
Opening hours: Open daily from 10am – 12am
3. Texas Roadhouse
A meat lover’s heaven in Dubai would have to be Texas Roadhouse, a Texan-themed restaurant that boasts of legendary food at reasonable prices. Diners are treated to freshly baked bread and nuts to munch on while waiting for your mains to arrive. The best part about this restaurant is that the steaks are hand-cut in-house and the side dishes are made from scratch!
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There is a huge selection of side dishes that you can choose from to go with your mains - from baked or mashed potatoes to steak fries, seasoned rice, house or Caesar salad, buttered corn, coleslaw, among others. Texas Roadhouse slow cooks its ribs, guaranteeing you a fall-off-the-bones experience as you devour your meat. Be sure to try their ribs and homemade Texas Red Chilli as they've won awards in the USA!
Address: LG112-2, The Dubai Mall, Downtown Dubai
Opening hours: 11am-11pm on Saturday - Wednesday; Thu-Fri 11am -12am
4. P.F. Chang’s
Don't be fooled by the Chinese name! This is definitely an American chain right here. It all started when co-founder Philip Chiang met restaurateur Paul Fleming and from there, this Asian-themed casual dining restaurant is born. There are seven P. F. Chang’s outlets in Dubai, located mainly in malls such as the Mall of the Emirates, The Dubai Mall and Al Ain Mall.
My choice at any halal Chinese restaurants would definitely be the duck, and P. F. Chang’s has it. ?
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Some other dishes that you could get over there includes dim sum, hot dishes from the wok such as fried rice and noodles. You will definitely be able to satisfy your Chinese food cravings here!
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Address: Lower level, Waterfall Promenade, The Dubai Mall, Dubai. There are six other locations in Dubai that you can check on the official website.
Opening hours: 11am - 12am (Sunday to Wednesday), 11am - 1am (Thursday to Saturday)
Pancakes. What better place to have your fix of pancakes than at the International House of Pancakes, or better known as IHOP. Imagine that soft, fluffy round thing stacked up one after another, right in front of you. I'll never be able to resist a plate of hot fluffy pancake! ?
Back in the States, I would order something safe like pancakes with banana, but over here in Dubai, we can have bacon with our pancakes, yo!
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Apart from pancakes, IHOP also serves waffles, french toasts and crepes among others. For those who prefer savoury over sweet, options such as omelettes, breakfast steaks, and even Philly cheese steak would surely satisfy your palate.
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Address: 1st Level, Unit K01C, Mall of the Emirates, Dubai
Opening hours: 8am – 1am (Friday and Saturday), 8am - 12am (Sunday - Thursday)
Applebee’s is an American brand from Kansas that serves good ‘ole American dishes like shrimp, chicken, pasta, ribs, steaks and salads.
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In 2013, Applebee’s former president Mike Archer said in an interview that the food they serve in the UAE and the USA is consistent so you can be assured that if you order a quesadilla burger, it would taste the same anywhere in the world.
Applebee’s in the US has pork in the menu but fret not as Dubai’s Applebee’s is 100% halal and the sauce does not contain any alcohol.
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Address: Sheikh Zayed Road, Dubai
Opening hours: 10am - 1am (Sunday to Wednesday), 10am - 2am (Thursday to Saturday)
7. Din Tai Fung
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The only Asian chain on our list, Din Tai Fung specialises in steamed dumplings and noodles. Its Hong Kong branch was awarded a Michelin star in 2010, cementing its status as one of the premier Chinese cuisine restaurants.
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Din Tai Fung is definitely well known in many parts of the world. However, there are very few places that have halal versions of it.
It's pretty hard to find a halal version of Din Tai Fung on our shores but thanks to Dubai’s halal import policy, Din Tai Fung in Dubai is halal!
[P.S. Since this article was written, we note that DIN by Din Tai Fung, which is a pork-free version of Din Tai Fung operated by the same management, has opened 2 outlets in KL (at Suria KLCC and Nu Sentral), as well as one in Johor Bahru (Mid Valley Southkey). Based on our checks with management, DIN by Din Tai Fung uses ingredients sourced from halal-certified suppliers and alcohol is used in the preparation of food, though please note that they serve alcoholic beverages.]
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If you're ever in Dubai, do try out this place, especially, if you're a dim sum lover like me. One of the house specialities is the xiao long bao (soup dumplings) so be sure to try that one.
Address: Level 2 Expansion, Mall of the Emirates, Dubai
Opening hours: 11am – 10pm (Saturday to Thursday), 11am - 12am (Thursday and Friday)
8. Uno Chicago Grill
While pizza originated from Italy, American chain Uno have reinvented pizza with its signature deep dish pizza. So...What is a deep dish pizza? It’s basically pizza but with a tall-edged crust, like a fruit pie! Deep dish pizza reminds me of quiche, only without the eggs.
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Deep dish pizza is the highlight of this restaurant but like any other American restaurants, they also serve steaks and seafood among others.
Address: Ground Floor, Dubai Mall, Financial Centre Road, Dubai
Opening hours: 11am – 11pm daily except for Thurs and Friday (11am – 1am)
9. Five Guys Burgers and Fries
Americans definitely love their hamburgers just like how Malaysians love their nasi lemak. If you love burgers, you got to try Five Guys when you're in Dubai.
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Burgers at Five Guys are hand-formed and cooked to perfection on a grill. Its fresh-cut fries are cooked in pure peanut oil (heads up to those with peanut allergy, you can avoid this place). They serve burgers, hot dogs, sandwiches, fries and milkshakes. A place not to be missed by burger fans!
Address: Lower Ground Level, Dubai Mall, Dubai
Opening hours: 10am – 1 am daily
10. Pots, Pans & Boards
Strictly speaking, Pots, Pans & Boards isn’t a restaurant chain. It’s the brainchild of celebrated British chef Tom Aikens. The restaurant presents a mixture of casual English, Mediterranean and French dishes, with starters, main courses, all-day breakfast, soups, salads, among others.
The restaurant's name denotes the exact way you’ll be getting your food – in pots, pans or on boards.
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Address: Beach Mall, Jumeirah Beach Residence Walk, Dubai
Opening hours: Sun – Wed (8am – 12am), Thurs – Sat (8am – 1am)
So there you have it, all 10 foreign restaurants that Muslim foodies wouldn’t be able to explore elsewhere if not in Dubai.
Looking at the food photos, I would say that Dubai is definitely worth the plane ticket. As mentioned in my bio, I travel far and wide for good food… Be right back, guys. Checking my bank balance now.