Now, in England, one's nearest watering-hole, most likely a pub, is referred to as one's "local." My "local" in Tbilisi is the marvelous Iranian chaikhana, where I am charged an arbitrary sum for some arbitrary food (no menu - I sit in front of the fire and hope today is baklava day!). But, while I've waxed rhapsodic about said chaikhana in the past, I've neglected to mention three other places within a stone's throw of my apartment, which deserve rather more profiling - especially as none is featured on the normally-comprehensive Info Tbilisi.
Known more commonly as the "Ossetian restaurant," this basement cavern is one of the best-value options in the city. Extraordinarily cheap, especially considered that it's steps from Chardini St and the 15-lari cocktails there, Alani serves platterfuls of Georgian food (my mother swears by the chicken shekmeruli; I prefer the khinkali, although I thought the kuchmachi a bit too rich).
Things I can't get in England
It has no windows, which makes it a bit depressing in summertime, but it's the closest traditional restaurant in the area (with the exception of Bread House, which I find enormously overpriced and far less good), and a wonderful wintertime escape. It's also the only place near my house I can afford.
Apparently there's a very trendy bar in Sololaki called Salve. This is not that bar. Salve is, rather, an elegant French restaurant next to the baths that, like its next-door-neighbor L'Accent Francais suffers from being both extremely pricey (by Georgian standards, maybe 20 lari for a main course) and extremely good. (therefore, it's where I go whenever my mother decides she wants to take me out to lunch! She has, alas, moved back to New York, rendering these visits less frequent). Decor-wise, it's the closest thing in Tbilisi to an Old World Central European Cafe, and as such, lures me in with its promise of mushroom pastries and proper coffee! Salve also has the advantage, unlike Alani, of being more welcoming to customers dining alone - so I can bring books and feel only mildly awkward!
Apparently Saakashvili loves this place, and it's become the most popular venue in town (i.e., secret service cordoning off Abanos Qucha). This is, clearly, because I started the trend: I'd like to take the time to point out that I've been eating at this French wine bar since it opened this summer, and that the necessary conclusion to be drawn here is that Georgia's political elite take their fashion cues from me!
Now, I tend to come here for lunch/an afternoon snack, so I miss all the apparent social frippery (preferably, really), but the prices are something of a testament to the place's clientele. (Nice bottles of wine on the menu can easily reach 3000 lari/1000 gbp). Not having 3000 lari to hand, I content myself with a very excellent 10-lari glass of wine (and I do mean excellent!) and some of the most decadent, glorious tapas known to man (duck and fig skewers, melted camembert cream with ham and crackers, bite-sized poached pear brioche!). They too are pricey at around 12 lari for a small plate (you'll need 2-3 to make a meal), but given that they seem to have been cooked with a combination of divine ambrosia and hallucinogenic lotuses, they're oh-so worth it!
Now, the fact that two of the three closest restaurants to my house are terribly pricey is rather trying, but the 7 lari tea+baklava+fruity things at the chaikhana more than makes up for it! And I can always walk across the river to Cafe Flowers...