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Top Six Chains I Didn’t Expect in Dubai

shake shack dubai mall

Yeah, we all know about Shake Shack’s world domination (I saw three of Dubai’s four without even trying) and at this point P.F. Chang’s, Red Lobster, IHOP, Cheesecake Factory, and even Texas Roadhouse are all a given, but what about the lesser chains and outposts?

I didn’t know Ashton Kutcher was responsible for a restaurant, let alone one called Ketchup. Seriously? There are sliders, potato skins and vodka-free cosmopolitans. According to the American website, what you won’t find: “boring background music and atmosphere on par with a senior citizen’s buffet in a Midwestern shopping mall.” It is not clear if there are any remaining Ketchup locations in the US.

bennigan's dubai

Bennigan’s is one of those heritage brands like Kenny Rogers Roasters and Tony Roma’s (I was shocked to hear one recently opened in the Atlantic Center–why is no one talking about this? And yes, there is one in Dubai) that seem to thrive abroad while all but extinct on its home turf. Having not grown up with Bennigan’s, I’m not even sure what its calling card is. Turkey O’Toole™? Not only is the sandwich trademarked, but also the phrase Crowd Pleasers™ used to describe appetizers.

cafe habana dubai

Moving New York-ward, Cafe Habana exists and actually serves alcohol (indoors only). I know, because I was drawn in by the novelty and had the worst Hemingway Daiquiri of my life and paid $14 for the privilege.

rosa mexicano dubai mall

Also, Rosa Mexicano, which is directly next to Eataly in the Dubai Mall.

Despite not being listed on the website and saddled a distancing prefix, Maison Bagatelle is somehow loosely affiliated with the Meatpacking original. Being un-licensed, though, it bears little resemblance. It’s just a cafe more akin to the ubiquitous PAUL. Alcohol-free probably equals douche-free, at least.

entrecote cafe de paris dubai

Ok, this is Entrecote Café de Paris in the Dubai Mall, which is different than Le Relais de L’Entrecôte in Dubai Festival City Mall, but you know, the same thing as the Le Relais De Venise L’Entrecôte in NYC. I can’t keep all the iterations straight–there are three run by the descendants of the original founder.


I regret missing Hot Dog on a Stick because I would have loved seeing what the uniforms looked like. There’s no way the original striped mod set exposing shoulders and knees would be allowed.


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