If there’s one thing food lovers know about the Black Sea country of Georgia, it’s that they are the creators of khachapuri. The fantastical melted-cheese-and-egg-filled bread, invariably served outside Georgia in a style best described as a cheese boat, has captivated international social media for years.
In Georgia, it’s almost impossible to find a restaurant, café or roadside eating establishment that does not serve the national dish, beloved by locals and the first thing ordered by most tourists who visit the country.
The pastry, which comes in different forms, but which is often stuffed with cow’s milk cheese and that sunny-looking fresh egg yolk, is made to order and served hot, to be eaten with a knife and fork sitting down at the table. In 2019, it was listed as “culturally intangible” by the Georgian National Agency for Cultural Heritage Preservation.
The dish is so popular that even the local International School of Economics at TSU (ISET) tracks the “Khachapuri Index” of inflation using a basket based on the dish’s ingredients: flour, cheese, yeast, milk, eggs, butter. (In November, it rose an eye-opening 27.3% year-on-year; the cost of flour increased almost 20%, and cheese was up over 35%.)
Now, the Georgian centerpiece is getting a significant modern update. Gunda, a new bakery and cafe in Tbilisi, is changing the dish’s fundamental concept by turning it into fast food. They are doing this while also working around the constraints of the Ukraine war by sourcing non-Russian flour. Gunda, which means “ball of fluffy dough,” is located in the historic section of Tbilisi, behind a pair of eye-catching mint-green ornamental doors at the top of an ancient, cobbled hill. The bakery’s interior is a mix of vintage and modern European touches, with velvet benches and an antique-styled brick oven alongside a modern coffee machine and open kitchen to watch the chefs in action. The bakery serves mini desserts including…