Bab Guissa Fez el Bali
Tel: 55 634331
Open for dinner inside the Sofitel Palais Jamai, Al Fassia remains one of the most beautiful restaurants in Fez and promises a classic Moroccan dining experience. Beneath elaborately painted ceilings, the scent of fresh rose petals fills the air, and low blue-velvet banquettes are piled with pillows, allowing guests to relax and recline after multicourse meals. Traditional dancers and musicians put on a great show, but keep in mind that diners are charged extra for the performance.
55 Boulevard Zerktouni
Tel: 212 24 43 40 60
Moroccan à la carte is a rarity but it can be found at this family-run restaurant in Guéliz, the new city quarter northwest of the Medina. Al Fassia is also unique because the chefs, waiting staff, and management are all female. The spacious light-filled restaurant dishes out classic tajines and couscous as well as specialty dishes like lamb shoulder slow-cooked in spices and topped with caramelized onions and grilled almonds.
Open Wednesdays through Mondays noon to 2 pm and 7:30 to 11 pm.
Rue Ahmed Chouhada Chawki
Off Avenue Echouhada
Tel: 212 24 43 83 60
The bougainvillea-shaded front garden of this pretty little Hivernage neighborhood restaurant is one of the most pleasant places in town for dinner. The food is mostly Italian (excellent pizzas and pastas), but the main culinary reason to come here is the fish, from a niçoise-like salad with tiny fillets of red mullet (an appetizer that's big enough for a light main course) to a sole en papillote (wrapped in foil), to a sole and salmon roulade with spinach. In winter, the dining room has the feel of a country restaurant in France, with a crackling fire; in summer, it's an air-conditioned alternative to the garden. One of the reasons Alizia is so pleasant is its charming Moroccan proprietor, Madame Rachida, who spent five years living in London, speaks excellent English, and greets everyone (Hivernage denizens, members of the local diplomatic community, and tourists referred by their riads) as if they were old friends. Prices are reasonable; figure $70$80 for two with wine.
Open daily noon to 3 pm and 7 to 11 pm.
Route de l'Ourika (3.5 kms.)
Tel: 212 24 38 80 12
This glamorous roadhouse two miles south of the city is the favorite watering hole of the French and Moroccan A-list. Owner Cyril Durand carefully created and choreographed Bô & Zin to live up to its name (a phonetic spelling of the French and Arabic words for "beautiful"), installing camera-ready staff, minimalist dining areas divided by billowy curtains, and dramatic see-through fireplaces. For the full effect, ask for a table in the back garden, which is set with oversize mattresses, open fires, torches, and private tents. The menu mixes Moroccan and Asian dishes, but aside from the sushi appetizer (the usual tuna, salmon, caviar, etc.), you're best off sticking with the former, especially the succulent roast lamb and the classic poulet au citron (chicken with preserved lemons) tajine. A resident DJ keeps the music appropriately lounge-y early in the evening but cranks things up around 11, when the big bar area turns into an impromptu disco. Dinner for two will run you about $100 with wine.
Open daily 8 pm to 2 am.
81 Rue Dar El Bacha
Tel: 212 24 38 64 00
Since 1998, the former home of designer Pierre Balmain in the Medina has played host to what is one of Marrakesh's finest restaurants. The nouvelle Moroccan menu includes warm flaky pastilla appetizers stuffed with veggies, pigeon, fish, or meat; spiced monkfish with a compote of zucchini and tomatoes; tajines of lamb, seafood, or chicken; and couscous with vegetables from chef Mohamed Fedal's country hotel, Le Bled, just outside the city (Douar Coucou; Oasis Hassan II; 212-24-38-59-39; www.lebled-marrakech.com). The 19th-century riad setting only enhances the experience, especially if you are lucky enough to nab a table in the walled garden around a mosaicked pool surrounded by banana palms. There are gnawa musicians nightly. Book well in advance for Friday and Saturday nights.
Open Tuesdays through Sundays noon to 3 pm and 7:30 to 11 pm.
79 Derb Sidi Ahmed Soussi
Tel: 212 24 38 29 29
One of the first (and still one of the most spectacular) fantasy palaces in Marrakesh, Yacout is not merely a restaurant. It's a legend. In the 1990s, visionary American architect Bill Willis turned a cluster of mansions into a labyrinth of secret salons and patios, most sporting carved cedar ceilings, mosaic floors and fountains, exotic columns, and countless lanterns. Even the bathrooms have sculpted tadlakt fireplaces. The drama begins with the journey through a narrow Medina street to a nondescript door off an alley. Once inside, aperitifs on the rooftop terrace (or in a fireplace-warmed lounge when the weather's chilly) and a sensual serenade of Andalusian music precede a massive banquet in a grand chandelier-lit room. No less than three waiters serve each table pickled and spiced vegetable salads, lemon and almond chicken tajine, tender shoulder of lamb, vegetable couscous, and ultimately, gooey pastries, tiered trays of cookies, and mint tea. Despite being a major tourist destination and costing $85 a head, Yacout is an unforgettable experience and few go away disappointed. Reservations, as far in advance as possible, are a must.
Open Tuesdays through Sundays 8 pm to midnight.
Corner of El Mansour Eddahbi and Avenue Imam Malik
Tel: 212 24 43 30 38
With a vast terrazzo veranda shaded by bamboo blinds and cooled by a battery of ceiling fans, this grand Marrakesh brasserie feels more Southeast Asian than North African. It opened in 2006 in a French colonialera (1925) post office and since then has been pulling in all the right Marrakshis from 8 am till late evening. The food is light, and mainly French. Shoppers tuckered out from a morning of trolling the chic shops of Guéliz recharge with marinated chicken salad with avocado, tomato, and Parmesan; complimentary hors d'oeuvres sate the late-afternoon cocktail crowd; and the catch of the day (grilled, steamed, or sautéed) is a good dinner option. Check, too, if fresh oysters from nearby Oualidia are available. Everything is served by a troupe of superattractive, totally charming young Moroccan men and women. Reservations are recommended for lunch and dinner. For lunch, expect to pay $50 for two people with a glass of wine and bottle of mineral water; double that amount for dinner, including a bottle of wine.
Open daily 8 am to 1 am.
3 Rue de la Liberté
Tel: 212 24 42 25 32
This cool little café with molded plastic furniture, gleaming terrazzo floors, and a rotating gallery of works by local artists is Marrakesh at its most downtown. It occupies a prime spot on Rue de la Liberté (home to some of the city's smartest boutiques and antiques dealers), and peaks at lunchtime, when the people who actually work in booming Marrakesharchitects, real estate agents, developersdo lunch or take meetings here. The food is simple, inexpensive, and very French: salades niçoises, croques monsieurs, tartes aux citron. The roof terrace is the place to be on sunny winter daysbut for people-watching, snag a table by the front windows downstairs or on the sidewalk. The name, by the way, is a play on Marrakesh.
Open Mondays through Saturdays 7 am to midnight.
47 Route d'Imouzzer Ville Nouvelle
Tel: 55 641687
For those who are unable to snag an invitation to dinner at a Moroccan home, this restaurant is the next best thing. Located in a chic private dwelling on a residential mansion-lined street in the Ville Nouvelle, L'Ambra serves fine traditional fare to visitors. Service is excellent, and a stunning collection of antiques decorates the space. Reservations are highly recommended.
Fes el-Bali, near Bab Boujeloud
Tel: 55 741533
At this budget restaurant, a prix fixe menu includes soup or salad, a couscous or tagine entrée, fruit, mint tea, and a dessertand only costs about $7. Try the harira soup, Morocco's version of minestrone, a flavorful broth rich with lentils and vegetables. Chewy flatbread accompanies flavorful cold salads, and piles of couscous are topped with tender sweet-and-savory chicken, seasoned in a sauce of caramelized onions, raisins, and local spices. Finish with a few sips of the fresh and sugary mint tea.
22 Derb Moulay Abdallah Ben Hessaien
Tel: 212 24 44 40 52
In typical Marrakesh fashion, the food at Le Tobsil just keeps on coming, course after course after course. But far from being a test of endurance, the experience is more like unwrapping presents at Christmas: You can't wait to see what's next. Aperitifs (included in the price, as is the wine) are followed by a swarm of vegetarian meze dishes, a flaky pastilla, a tajine, and a couscous dish. Finally, there is fruit accompanied by cakes or pastries and tea or coffee. The setting is equally rich: a gorgeous old house deep in the Medina where guests are seated on two levels around a courtyard and entertained by gnawa musicians playing a trance-inducing Moroccan form of blues. Though not as dazzling as the famous Dar Yacout, for an intimate Moroccan dining experience this is a better and somewhat less expensive bet.
Open Wednesdays through Mondays 8 am to 11 pm.
6 Derb Mernissi, near Bab Boujloud
Tel: 55 633430
Next to the bank outside Bab Boujloud, this pleasant café is a perfectly safe stopping point for women traveling solo. Open daily for lunch, the sunny and modern Moorish eatery serves up potent mint tea and pastille, a savory pie of meat and vegetables wrapped in filo pastry dough. Diners are also invited to puff from a hookah-like contraption called a sheesha, or water pipe.
5 Makhfia Ech Cif
Tel: 55 761590
Prices here are extremely high by Moroccan standards, but some say this exquisite restaurant serves the best food in Fez. Portions are huge, and live music at dinner enhances the dining experience. For about $35, adventurous eaters opt for their famous pigeon pietender meat soaks up an aromatic sauce and is layered with vegetables, raisins, and native spices beneath a pastry crust that is sprinkled with cinnamon and sugar.
Jemaa El Fna
As the sun sets on the central square of Jemaa El Fna, about 100 open kitchens are swiftly assembled in tightly drawn rows along with long tables and benchestransforming the public thoroughfare into one of the world's biggest open-air eateries. Most stalls specialize in one particular dish. Novices can play it safe with familiar-looking grilled brochettes of the spicy sausage known as merguez, or harira, the local broth of lentils, chickpeas, and vegetables. Anthony Bourdain disciples can test their mettle with boiled sheep heads, deep-fried eel, and mounds of snails cooked in an herb-rich sauce. Disks of bread often take the place of cutlery. Language isn't an issue: Some menus hanging above the stall are in English and most staff members will gladly translate when they're not; otherwise, just point at what you want.
Open daily until midnight in winter and as late as 2 am in summer.