While you are traveling in Morocco, for sure you will also be eating out in Morocco! After all, Morocco is known for its delicious cuisine, and it would be a shame to not experience all that it offers. But if you’re not familiar with the Moroccan restaurant culture, it can be difficult to navigate through your options for eating out in Morocco and what to expect for cost and overall experience.
What is the local restaurant culture in Morocco?
The local restaurant culture in Morocco differs than that in other countries. The average Moroccan will likely state that when eating out in Morocco, the best Moroccan food is found… at home! When Moroccans dine out, they most often choose something different than what they would have at home. Typically this means fried fish platters, rotisserie chicken, panini sandwiches, pizza and grilled or steamed meat. There are a couple of times when Moroccans may seek out traditional Moroccan cuisine, namely eating couscous on Fridays, or grabbing a tagine at a roadside stand when traveling.
Menus are most commonly written in French, so if you don’t speak French, you’ll want learn at least some of the basics or have Google translate handy on your phone. When eating out in Morocco in restaurants that are more geared for tourist groups, you will likely find menus written in several languages. Very casual snack stands may only have a menu board or menu written in Arabic.
What are the best restaurants in Morocco?
First of all, what does “best” mean to you? Restaurant choices in Morocco, and really anywhere is the world, are very subjective; it can be challenging to anticipate what someone may appreciate more than another guest, or consider good value for the price. If we’ve never eaten together, it may be very hard to predict what you will like!
Meals are not typically included in Mint Tea Tours services, and we encourage our guests to research and explore restaurants which best fit their dining preferences. When eating out in Morocco, you will find all different price points, all different qualities, and all different service levels.
But how can you know which restaurant might be a good choice? We recently came across an interesting theory in a Buzzfeed article, which said to choose restaurants with reviews rated at 3.5 out of 5. The reason? The food was often great, which would have resulted in 5 stars, but the service was different than what typical Americans might expect, hence the “just-above-average” rating.
When eating out in Morocco, you might also encounter different service than what you are used to back home, so please keep an open mind. In general, wait staff does not tend to be as attentive, so your water glass may not always be magically replenished, they may leave you alone to enjoy you meal rather than checking in often, and after they may not inquire if you enjoyed your meal.
Your Mint Tea Tours private driver or your city guide can recommend places, based on local favorites or where past guests have enjoyed meals. Please let them know your budget in terms of local currency and what type of meal – full menu or light fare, casual or fine dining, local, traditional Moroccan food or international, allergies and other dietary concerns – you might be interested in, and they will do their best to accommodate all of your requests.
Riads in Morocco can be a great way to discover exceptional cuisine!
Generally-speaking, riads in Morocco can be great places to discover great food. In Morocco, women have traditionally ruled over kitchens versus a more Western male-dominated chef area, and many riads employ women with strong cooking skills and with a more personalized touch for their guests. Some riads reserve their restaurants for guests of the riads; others are open to the public. We do suggest eating at your hotel or riad on days of long travel, and your driver can assist in making a reservation, since riads typically shop the day of for fresh and seasonal ingredients.
Which city has the best food in Morocco?
Hmm, asking us which city has the best food in Morocco is a loaded question! We love food, and we love trying new flavors, so what we will say is, when you are eating out in Morocco, each city or region has its own local specialty that is best to eat… locally!
For example, Marrakech is known for “tangia” which should not be confused with “tagine”. Tangia has been known as a bachelor’s dish – the base is meat with spices, herbs and other flavorings, and then it’s is slow-cooked for hours in a clay jar.
Fes has always been held as the gold standard for traditional Moroccan food, and pastilla (also written as b’stilla) is one of Fes’ specialties that is a welcomed addition to any fancy wedding table. You could maybe call it a sweet-savory “pot pie” made with delicate flaky warka dough (similar to filo dough). Pastilla was traditionally made with pigeon but these days is most often made with chicken, which is then shredded and added to stewed spiced onions which is all bound with eggs. The sweetness comes from a light topping of almonds, powdered sugar and cinnamon.
The local specialty in Merzouga is called “Medfouna” which translated to “buried”. Sometimes medfounda is called stuffed Berber pizza, and you really need to try it to make your tastebuds so happy! The common version is a stuffed bread dough filled with meat, onion and spices and usually eaten while drinking mint tea, but you can also get a vegetarian version of medfouna which is equally delicious.
Fresh fish and shellfish are best to eat in any of the coastal cities in Morocco. Of course, you can find fish restaurants in many places in Morocco, not just along the coast, but you’ll find the most variety and freshest options here. One very simple lunch is grilled fresh sardines, and even this dish has regional variations. The taste of grilled fresh sardines has absolutely nothing to do with canned sardines, and for this Moroccan specialty, we recommend to go to the port or fish market to get the freshest ones. There is almost always an area set up to have your catch of the day cleaned and then cooked for you.
We have had prior guests state that although delicious, they sometimes need a break from Moroccan cuisine; international cuisine or fast food chains are easiest to find in larger cities in Morocco, such as Casablanca, Rabat, Fes, Tangier and Marrakech.
Do restaurants in Morocco serve alcohol?
You might be surprised to learn that Morocco is not a “dry” country, despite it being majority Muslim. In fact, Morocco even produces local wine and beer! However, the majority of restaurants do not have a license to sell alcohol, so if it’s important for you to have a glass of wine with dinner, you’ll need to know where to go. More often than not, restaurants in upscale hotels will have a liquor license, and some riads will as well. Of course there are stand-alone restaurants who also serve alcohol – this is more common in large cities – but family-friendly restaurants in Morocco will rarely serve alcohol.
Are restaurants in Morocco smoke-free?
One thing to keep in mind when eating out in Morocco, cafes and restaurants in Morocco are rarely smoke-free. And even if the restaurant has a smoking section, it is quite likely that there is no special ventilation or separation between smoking and non-smoking sections.
What should I wear to dinner in Morocco?
If you’re wondering what you should wear when going out for dinner in Morocco, this will depend on the level of restaurant. Moroccans do tend to take care to dress well when going out in the evenings, so even for a casual restaurant in Morocco, you will probably want to freshen up after a day of driving or touring and change out of shorts and flip-flops or athleisure wear.
Fancier restaurants, bar/lounges and some riads/hotels in Morocco might have a dress code, so make sure to ask ahead to avoid being rejected at the door! Sometimes a Moroccan restaurant’s dress code is on-line; one popular restaurant in Casablanca is Rick’s Café, which has a published dress code and is very specific on what you cannot wear to dinner. 5* hotels in Morocco may say “elegant dress code”, one riad may say “smart casual”, so it can be a bit confusing to know. In general, it’s best to avoid wearing flip-flops, tennis shoes, shorts, ripped jeans, and baseball hats when eating out in Morocco at upscale restaurants.
What time is dinner in Morocco?
Moroccan hospitality is often shown through food, and the typical Moroccan will eat 4 meals: breakfast, lunch, tea-time and dinner. Since tea-time is often served between 5-7 PM (17:00-19:00), it should not come as a surprise that dinner in Morocco starts late. When eating out in Morocco, expect to eat dinner no earlier than 7 PM (19:00) and more likely, around 8:30-9 PM (20:30-21:00).
Is eating out in Morocco expensive?
In Morocco, you will find just about anything and everything at various price points, whether this means accommodations, buying traditional Moroccan handicrafts, and for sure, eating out in Morocco.
The cost of eating out in Morocco is going to vary largely, whether you choose to eat at a neighborhood snack stand, an upscale restaurant or something in between. It’s also going to depend on the type of food you choose, for example, meat or international cuisine.
It shouldn’t come as a surprise that a neighborhood snack stand will probably be the cheapest option but also, you need to consider the food item or meal, as well as quality and quantity of food you will be eating, along with the ambiance and hygiene to decide what is a good option and value for its price.
Please don’t think for a minute that a tagine which costs 35 dirhams tastes the same as a tagine which costs 80 dirhams! The cheap tagine for 35 dirhams is likely to be a tagine with more bone than meat, a lot of oily sauce and the bread served alongside will be there to help round out the portion, while the 80 dirhams tagine will be more substantial, a generous portion of meat and better quality.
For some tourists, they may prefer to have a fixed price menu in a comfortable setting with traditional Moroccan decor. Depending on the type and number of items, as well as location, you might pay between 120-280 dirhams for such a menu, which will likely include a starter, main entrée, dessert, Moroccan mint tea and pastries. Again, if you compare between menus in this price range, you will notice a difference in quality and quantity! Some tourists may want to avoid eating in “touristy restaurants” but really, there are some great ones which serve delicious food at a good value for money.
If you do want to “eat local”, we suggest to avoid very inexpensive places and instead ask your driver, guide or riad where THEY eat or where they would take their family. When eating out in Morocco in family-friendly restaurants, you will likely pay 60-100 dirhams for just an entrée; expect to pay more for drinks, starters and desserts.
Tourists who think Morocco is a budget destination paradise will probably be shocked at the prices in upscale restaurants. The cost of eating out in Morocco at high-end restaurants will be similar to restaurants at the same level in your own hometown.
Do you tip waiters in Morocco?
Morocco is for sure a service-oriented country, and it is expected that you will tip your waiter in Morocco. You should tip 10-15% of your total bill, and if you are eating in a less expensive restaurant, you will want to leave a minimum of 10 dirhams.