One of the first things you’ll notice about Ayubowan is the amazing smell – scents of curry and fresh spices greet you as soon as you walk through the large wooden doors. The restaurant is small but welcoming, and you’re guaranteed top service. The Sri Lankan dishes are authentic and excellent, and most importantly – wallet-friendly. Curries start from as little as Dhs20 and are on the large side, so bring your appetite for a cheap and delicious meal.
Open daily 10am-11pm. Lake Point Tower, Cluster N, Jumeirah Lake Towers (04 452 1007).
HIGHLY COMMENDED: Hanoi Naturally
Looking for pho? Look no further. Cheap, cheerful and authentic. Tasty dishes, cooked well at a good price.
Open daily noon-11pm. Cluster C, Jumeirah Lake Towers (04 431 3099).
HIGHLY COMMENDED: The Meating Room
This spot in Karama specialises in, as you’d imagine, meat cuts. However, the veggie food is also very good. A hidden gem that we love.
Open Sat-Wed 12.30pm-11pm; Thu 12.30pm-midnight; Fri 1.30pm-midnight. Al Wasl Hub Building 3, Karama (04 331 2567).
SHORTLISTED: Aappa Kadai
Head here for the bargain – and downright brilliant – chicken biryani. Also try the special vegetarian meal (thali), served on a banana leaf.
Dhs150-250. Unlicensed. Open daily 10am-3.30pm, 6.30pm-midnight. Discovery Gardens (04 334 8030).
SHORTLISTED: Al Mallah
A stalwart on the Satwa dining scene, visit for the superb shawarma and fresh juices, and stay for the people watching.
Dhs150-250. Unlicensed. Open Sat-Thu 6am-4am, Fri, 12pm-4am. 2nd of December, Satwa (04 398 4962).
SHORTLISTED: Bu Qtair
A Dubai institution serving fresh, simply prepared seafood on the beach. Expect to queue, then wait for your food. It will be worth it.
Dhs150-250. Unlicensed. Open daily 1.30am-11.30pm. Umm Suqeim Fishing Harbour, off Jumeirah Beach Road, behind Umm Suqeim park (055 705 2130).
SHORTLISTED: Café Isan
A down-to-earth spot with a menu inspired by the flavours and culture of north eastern Thailand.
Dhs150-250. Unlicensed. Open daily noon-11pm. Waterfront Cluster M, JLT (04 513 5289).
SHORTLISTED: Calicut Paragon
An authentic (and very popular) Keralan restaurant offering a selection of outstanding fish curries and biryanis.
Dhs150-250. Open daily 7am-12.30am. 16th Street, Karama (04 335 8700).
SHORTLISTED: Raju Omlet
Entirely egg-based menu serving a delicious and ingenious range of omelettes.
Dhs150-250. Unlicensed. Open daily 8am-11:30pm. Near Noor Islamic Metro Station, Sheikh Zayed Road, Al Quoz (04 388 3355).
SHORTLISTED: Ravi Restaurant
One of the most beloved Pakistani restaurants in Dubai, and cheap to boot.
Dhs150-250. Unlicensed. Open 24-hours. Satwa Road (04 331 5353). Other locations: Karama, Al Nahda, Al Qusais.