Pokhara is a gastronomic paradise for anyone who's had their fill of dal bhat. In fact, it's almost hard to find Nepali fare here, which is okay; Pokhara has grown from a small town to Nepal's second largest city mainly thanks to tourism.
Key areas for dining are Central Lakeside and North Lakeside (the former is more commercialized while the latter is more bohemian). That said, any spot along the actual lake or with lake views is where you'll want to have at least one meal or drink during your stay (better yet, have a beer on a boat as you catch the sunset).
What should you try? Fresh fish (generally tilapia or Himalayan trout) is available at many restaurants, either grilled or in a curry, but perhaps the best places to have it are in Pame, an area beyond North Lakeside. Coffee is locally grown, sourced from farmers around Pokhara (learn more about it in Best Cafés in Pokhara.) Thukpa and other Tibetan dishes are widely available in the three Tibetan refugee enclaves, and there are several Thakali restaurants, which makes sense given Pokhara's proximity to Mustang.
Chinese food is edging in, as evidenced by Pokhara's new Chinatown, and there are also a number of authentic Korean restaurants. You’ll find plenty of vegan and vegetarian options as well; the farther north you go on Baidam Road or Lakeside, the more frequently you'll encounter kombucha, hemp milk, fresh juices, and other hippie delights.
It's worth noting that there are a number of restaurants and cafés that have locations in Kathmandu (Pho 99, Café Evoke, OR2K, Roadhouse Café, Himalayan Java, and Newari Kitchen) so if you're planning to spend time in the capital, you may opt to skip these—not that there’s any harm in visiting them more than once!
The Juicery Café serves cold-pressed juices and smoothies using housemate soy, coconut, and hemp milks for around $2 each (Summer Breeze, a mix of watermelon, mint, lemon, and pomegranate, is very refreshing). It also has açaí and matcha smoothie bowls, and an incredibly delicious brunch menu featuring veggie- and fruit-packed sandwiches, salads, porridges, and egg dishes. There are only a few tables, so get there early to grab a seat if you're planning to eat there. Otherwise, you can order your beverage of choice to go.
Baidam Road (near Freedom Café), North Lakeside
Sun Welcome is a no-frills restaurant that serves the "best cheap meal" and the "best cheap and tasty breakfast" according to two different locals. The food is fresh and the owners are friendly. Bring a book or laptop with you, or better yet, strike up a conversation with fellow patrons.
Baidam Road, North Lakeside
Old Mike’s Kitchen
Best post-trek breakfast
Old Mike's Kitchen is famous for both its idyllic lakeside location and hearty breakfasts, which hits the spot after a trek. Similar to a couple of other restaurants on this list, it has an organic vegetable garden. Try the nachos, burritos, quesadillas, and enchiladas.
Hotel Fewa, 17 Pardi, Central Lakeside (next to the Kayak Shack by Paddle Nepal)
Chat with a local specialist who can help organize your trip.
Relatively new to Pokhara's eclectic dining scene, Fresh Elements is a crowdpleaser. Fresh and welcoming, the restaurant, which is located below a lovely spa called Middle Path Spa (also recommended), has a wide-ranging menu with lots of international options. Recline in one of the cushioned wooden chairs inside (once you sit down you won't want to get up), or find a nice spot in the outdoor courtyard from which you can dine. The quiet time between meals is also perfect for writing postcards and catching up on social media as you sip on a coffee or avocado smoothie (read: the Wifi is good here).
Try the fish curry, anything from the grill, coffee drinks, smoothies, and the great selection of European wines by the glass and bottle sourced by Kathmandu-based Vesper House.
Middle Path Street, Central Lakeside
If you're craving pad thai, or cuisine with a little heat, head to Krishna's Kitchen in North Lakeside, a superb Thai restaurant with a mouthwatering menu (there's papaya salad, various curries, tom yam soup, galangal chicken soup, rice and noodle dishes, plus homemade chocolate mousse for dessert, among many other dishes). Krishna's quiet spot on Khapaundi Cove also comes with a little entertainment: from the garden dining area, you can watch paragliders make their final descent of the day onto the shores of Phewa Lake. Topping this is the restaurant's bathrooms — the most unique in Pokhara, if not Nepal — and fresh drinking water, which is sourced from the mountain behind (and is of course purified before being served). Spoil yourself and ask for a glass with ice.
Khapaundi Cove, Sarangkot-2 (North Lakeside en route to Sarangkot)
Krazy Gecko Bar & Rest
A visit to Pokhara would not be complete without checking out Krazy Gecko Bar & Rest, which is perhaps this author's favorite spot in Pokhara. Down a short pathway off the main road in North Lakeside, Krazy Gecko is a very cool, secluded hangout that serves food and drinks. The best time to go is during the day — there's even a rope swing for plunging into the lake! — but evenings are beautiful and romantic. It's a surprise there aren't more places like this.
Baidam Road, North Lakeside (down a long driveway, near Waterfront Hotel)
Bajeko Macha Mahal (Bajeko Fish Palace)
Bajeko Maccha Mahal, aka Bajeko Fish Palace, is a hole-in-the-wall ayurvedic fish restaurant that is totally worth the visit, particularly if you're craving fresh vegetables. The entire menu is free of "maida (white flour), white sugar, and ajinamoto (MSG)," and is even categorized by the presence of oil (or lack thereof), i.e. "zero oil recipes," "less oily fish recipes," and "oily recipes". There are a number of interesting and unusual dishes that you won't typically find in Nepali restaurants, such as an algae fish soup, ayurvedic herb soup, sprouted beans tossed with black salt, lemon and herbs, and so on. It's easy to order too much, but at least everything you're eating is good for you. Open for lunch.
(If you like the sound of this, check out Ayurvedico Café, which opened in late February 2018, and is located on Baidam Road, North Lakeside.)
Bishal Marg (off of Nagar Chowk), Pokhara-7 (about a 25-minute walk inland from Central Lakeside; easier to reach by cab or motorbike)
Best Middle Eastern
Craving hummus? Look no further than OR2K, a fantastic Middle Eastern restaurant with plenty of vegan and vegetarian options, and where you eat while sitting on the floor. Although there's an OR2K in Thamel, the Pokhara branch has outstanding views of Phewa Lake, which could keep you happy for an entire afternoon. It's also quite huge, and occasionally hosts live music and movie screenings.
Center Point Building (upstairs), Baidam Road, Central Lakeside
Vegan/Vegetarian (plus yoga)
Given the hippie vibe of North Lakeside, it's no surprise that Umbrella Café left its home in Goa for a new one here in 2010. The Russian-owned cafe and bar recently reopened after undergoing post-earthquake renovations, and now offers yoga each day (classes are 500 Nepali rupees or about $5) and singing bowl meditation in addition to awesome vegan and vegetarian food. According to local singer Eden of Suneden, Umbrella Café is the best restaurant for anyone who is vegan, vegetarian, or gluten-free. (That said, Eden will direct you elsewhere for the "best organic breakfast," which she says is at Flying Spirit Organic Kitchen, just a 3-minute walk south on Baidam Road.)
Baidam Road, North Lakeside
A meal at Caffè Concerto will have you thinking you're on Lago di Pokhara. Enjoy the rustic vibe and outdoor fireplace as you give into healthy indulgences like cioccolata calda at the best Italian restaurant in Pokhara.
Caffé Concerto sources its organic lettuces and vegetables from its own garden and even makes homemade gelato! It also has great thin crust pizzas and even better pastas. While it's Italian owned, the chef is Nepali (not to be confused with Napoli) and has been working there for over 13 years.
Lakeside Road (at the corner of Durbar Marg), Central Lakeside
Like Caffè Concerto, Moondance sources its food from its own farm and has remained of the most popular restaurants in Lakeside since its establishment in 1991. The family-run eatery is passionate about freshness and doesn't use preservatives or additives. On the menu, you'll find a bit of everything, from tandoori to burgers, pizzas and even large salads. But what sets this place apart are its "Superfood Specialties," which all feature stinging nettle. Try the pasta with nettle pesto, when in season.
Barahi Chowk, Central Lakeside (across from V.N.Y. Park)
Newcomer Sherpa Kitchen is the best Sherpa restaurant in town (you can tell by all the Sherpa guides who go there). The menu has traditional dishes, such as momos, thupkas, and more. Inside, check out the contemporary Tibetan art that hangs on the wall from the comforts of your booth.
Pahari Marg, Central Lakeside
El Bocaíto Español
Pokhara's only Spanish-Nepali restaurant, El Bocaíto Español is co-owned by a woman from Alicante and serves traditional Spanish dishes like tapas, bocadillos, and paella (the paella requires one hour to make and is for a minimum of two people, so best to call or stop by in advance) and drinks like sangria as well as wine from Spain — in addition to Nepali counterparts. While the two-story restaurant is very charming, it's hard to beat the lakeside dining. Open Tuesday through Sunday from 10 am to 8 pm.
Baidam Road, North Lakeside
Run by a Korean couple, Natssul is one of the best Korean restaurants in Pokhara since opening in 2008. Enjoy a cup of tea upon arrival at this south-central Lakeside eatery as you peruse the menu, which has enticing dishes like kimchi jjigae and bulgogi. On a warm sunny day, be sure to order the "Colourful Bibimbab," which is bibimbap served cold.
The restaurant itself is located on the upper two floors of a building, with the top floor featuring open-air dining. The decor is simple and contemporary: wide wooden tables and benches rest atop brushed concrete floors, with bursts of color coming from flowering plants. The only flaw is that the view overlooks the lake from Baidam Road. (For Korean lakeside dining, try Zero Gallery Café in North Lakeside instead.)
Baidam Road (near Ammat Street), Central Lakeside
The recently opened Roadhouse Café (the latest from Nepal's most successful restaurant group) is spacious and impeccably designed. Everything is good, although it's hard to not order the pizza, which might be the best in Pokhara.
Baidam Road, Central Lakeside (near Hallan Chowk)
Godfather's Pizzeria is the other "best pizza in Pokhara" contender. But unlike Roadhouse, Godfather's is native to Pokhara and even has two locations because it's so successful. So while you might be inclined to support the home team, why not try them all, and report back? (If you don't like pizza, the menu has plenty of other choices, such as pasta, salad, mains — and even breakfast!)
Baidam Road (one location by Hallan Chowk and another by Barahi Chowk), Central Lakeside
Affiliated with Moondance and New Orleans in Thamel, Olive Café is a nice restaurant in Central Lakeside that claims to have the best burger in Pokhara (made from real beef, not buff!) But perhaps even better is the whole rainbow trout, which is one of its specialties.
Baidam Road, Central Lakeside
Undoubtedly the best creperie in Pokhara. Both sweet and savory options are available at Metro Crepes, which is located down the alley right next to Adams Tours & Travels. In addition to crepes, the restaurant serves coffees, ice cream, slushies and has free Wifi.
42 Devistan Path, Central Lakeside
Two words: homemade gelato! See full entry under 'Dinner'.
See our picks here: Best Cafés in Pokhara.