Factory 27 Review: Something Out of the Ordinary

Tbilisi doesn’t do much manufacturing these days. But in Mtatsminda, at least one factory is open for business. That’s Factory 27 at Zandukeli 27 (the café’s name comes from the industrial concept; the number, you can figure out for yourself). The basement location means it doesn’t get a lot of attention from passersby, but once inside, you’ll notice that both the décor and menu are unique in Tbilisi.

“The idea is to bring something from Berlin and mix with new American,” says Maiko Burduli, the PR manager for Factory 27. Walking in, the first thing I notice is the restaurant’s visual aesthetic: 1960s pop art from Roy Lichtenstein, graffiti by Tbilisi-based street artist Tamuna Oz, a modernist image of the New York City skyline, and a Christmas tree that looks right out of American suburbia.

The décor is “industrial style,” says Burduli. “When they [the owners] were in Berlin and New York they were inspired by these kinds of places.” The owners originally intended to open a shop at Zandukeli 27, but ultimately realized the visual concept would work better in a café.

Factory 27 opened about a year ago. According to Burduli, a large chunk of the clientele is younger people and foreigners. It has a loyal following, but ownership feels it hasn’t yet reached its potential.

“It has a concept, but not many people know about it,” Burduli explains. “We want to make it more popular.” The café now hosts meetings and cultural events, and soon the kitchen will start offering a special lunch menu.

As for the food, it’s almost as good – and just as modern – as the ambience. The menu is a blend of European, American, and Middle Eastern dishes, with things like bruschetta, burgers, pita with hummus and falafel, a sizeable vegetarian menu – “for foreigners and for fasting,” Burduli says – and even a few Tex-Mex offerings.

I notice that the bar is well-stocked with wine – Georgian and Italian varieties – and beer, as well as an impressive selection of whiskeys (Scotch, Irish, and Bourbon). There are plenty of liquors and cocktails. In the warm summer months, patrons can enjoy the outdoor seating while sipping homemade lemonade.

Trusting the waiter’s recommendation, I order the restaurant’s namesake burger: The Factory 27. It comes topped with mozzarella, bacon, tomato, lettuce, and pickles. While a bit too well-done for my taste, I’m not disappointed. The waiter also brings a heaping pile (enough for two people) of perfectly-seasoned fries. Plus, the food is served on a block of wood rather than a plate. Yes, even the dishware is part of the concept.

On Burduli’s recommendation, I pair the burger with Tvishi, a semi-sweet white wine from Telavi Wine Cellar. I don’t know my Cabernets from my Rieslings, but I do know that the sweet wine goes well with a burger and fries.

Bombshell: They serve mulled wine. A welcome after-dinner treat on this cold December night, the wine is served with orange and just the right amount of spice. The tasty dessert drink takes the edge off my burger-swollen stomach and warms me up for the chilly walk home.

Overall impression? Factory 27 isn’t the cheapest restaurant in Tbilisi (an entrée will cost 18-25 GEL, including VAT), but it’s definitely worth an evening out. The Euro-American menu is a welcome change of pace from standard Georgian fare, the bar is impressively stocked, and the concept is unlike anywhere else in Tbilisi.

It may not be for everyone, but it’s certainly for me. Next time, I think I’ll try the highly-recommended chicken quesadilla.

Joseph Larsen

21 December 2015 21:23