Fans of "Casablanca," the 1942 film set in Morocco's largest city, know that much of the action takes place in an intriguing place known as "Rick's Café" where Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman are the center of a love story. However, most of the movie was filmed in a Hollywood studio so visitors arriving in Casablanca hoping to savor the atmosphere of an American cafe were always disappointed. Now, though, this legendary spot has sort of turned into a reality. "After 60 years of renovation, says the owner Kathy Kriger, "Rick's Café has reopened." Kriger, an entrepreneur turned U.S. diplomat, fell in love while working in Morocco for the U.S. Consulate in Casablanca, the economic center of the country. Wanting to stay when her employment ended in 2001, Kriger decided to open a Cafe Rick to honor the film in which Bogart plays bar owner, Rick Blain. Cabbies and tour guides will surely take you to see this iconic place, but keep in mind that the famous couple was never actually there.
Paul is a traditional French bakery chain with several branches in different countries. But this branch is different - it's one of the most fashionable places in Casablanca for a tea or coffee during the day. It's in an old, renovated Art Deco villa, with a large terrace in front. It's not cheap - 1.50 for a soft drink, 2 for a coffee or chocolate. They make good breakfast, with eggs any style, bread and jam, and coffee for 55 dirhams. It closes at 10 pm, and is really full after work. They do not serve alcohol.
Le Balcon 33 is a Casablanca pier restaurant, located in the suburb of Ain Diab. It has been open for over thirty years, and is a real landmark of Casablanca nightlife. Located 4 km from downtown, you'll have to take a taxi there and back, which will cost no more than 10 euros. It has a dance floor, as well as quiet corners to enjoy dinner. It looks modern on the outside, but is still old-fashioned on the inside. They serve French and international food, quite expensive, you pay more for the location than the quality. After 11, it is converted completely into a nightclub, so don't expect to be able to listen to your dining companions.
The Romanoff is a coffee shop/ restaurant in the Gautier neighborhood, one of the wealthiest neighborhoods of Casablanca. While in other neighborhoods you usually see only men in the cafe terraces, Gautier is a place where you can find more women. The coffee shop is modern, and you can eat a few basic dishes like sandwiches, and on Friday good couscous dishes, which cost 40 dirhams, 4 euros, and are served with a glass of buttermilk. Then there tagines, but not the best place for this meal. The Romanoff is a neighborhood cafe, with regular customers, young kids and office workers all around. In general it's normal to tip the waiters.
The Sqala is a defensive fortification, part of the remains of the ancient city of Casablanca. It was built in the sixteenth century, inspired by the fortifications of Vauban in France. The cannons that you see today once defended the city. Built by Sidi Mohamed Ben Abdallah, there are three sides facing the sea, 6 meters high. It survived several attacks, but now there is a restaurant inside.
Las Vegas is a seafood and fish restaurant and grill, which is at the end of the Corniche, in front of the beach in Ain Diab. It is a popular place for travelers on a budget, as it's a little cheaper than the trendy restaurants of the Corniche. The terrace offers great views of the sea, and a good part of the town. There's heavy traffic on the avenue in front, and it's not the quietest place to eat, but as it's next to the beach, the location is great. Expect to pay between 10 and 15 euros, more if you order a dessert or salad.
I like to go out to eat here, because it's completely different from what I'm used to. To get there, you have to cross a bridge across the railroad, getting to Mounay Ismail Street. You can ask around for the Grills Square (Place des Grillades in French), but you're sure to find it by the smoke and odours coming out. Around the square, there are a dozen butchers selling camel meat - ground, it's a local delicacy - as well as spicy sausages, ribs, chicken breasts ... choose the amount you want, and then take it to the restaurant. You'll be given bread, tomato and onion, at a price that depends on the weight of the meat you've chosen. Generally you won't pay more than 1.50 euros per person. You can bring drinks like mint tea, too.
The Espace Moulyna in the Fida Boulevard is a modern establishment offering milkshakes and paninis. After a few days in Casablanca, eating nothing but couscous and tagines, sometimes I want to eat something a bit more European. The paninis are a bit small, but they only cost 1.50 euros - in the posher neighbourhoods, they'd set you back 4. The smoothies cost 1 euro. They always add sugar, so the smoothies can be very, very sweet. I like the bright colours inside the shop.
If the taxi driver doesn't know Cup's Cafe, just ask for the Irish pub, which is in front. It's a modern little cafe with wifi access, so if you bring your laptop, it's cheaper to sit on the terrace of Cup's than to go to a cyber cafe. It's a neighbourhood cafe with a mostly male clientele, though some women go, too. The coffees and drinks are not more than 1.50 euros, and there are a few snacks. The TV broadcasts national and international sports. The terrace is shaded and pleasant in summer.
This quiet cafe is in the Maarif neighbourhood, and you'll get there by following the road next to the McDonalds, three blocks to the left. There are two floors. Downstairs you can watch football matches on a big screen, while upstairs is quieter. This is a younger bar, with wifi connection, and where women can enjoy themselves without any problems. The staff speak a good basic French, and offer a French menu. Drinks cost less than 1 euro. People stay hours, especially to take advantage of the internet with their laptops. They don't serve food, but you can bring a sandwich if you want. It is cheap compared to the trendy cafes elsewhere. They don't serve alcohol.
The Casablanca Café is on Avenue Moulay Youssef, and it's not the cafe that has the decor of the movie Casablanca, this is the Ricks. The Casablanca has a large terrace where you get both groups of all sorts. It's a wealthy neighborhood of the city, and coffee prices are expensive. With no alcoholic drinks, snacks and goodies, sandwiches, and Friday at noon leben serve with couscous. Leben is sour milk accompanying couscous. You can choose tfaya coming couscous with dried fruit, raisins and onions, plus meal and juice, or just couscous with vegetables.
This little restaurant is near the Maarif neighborhood church. When you follow the Du Jura passage it's the first street on the right. There are so many casual restaurants serving the "harira" soup, which is a red soup with small pieces of chicken or lamb, and chickpeas. People come to eat when school gets out which is why it closes at 8. The soup only costs 30 cents, and the mint tea is 10 cents per cup! It's impossible to find a cheaper meal. There m'semen they are very good, the crepes are square in shape and cost 15 cents. The soup is cooked in large pots, and they serve it to you right away, there is also an assortment of desserts. Generally the crepe is eaten with the soup, but you can order with honey if you want. Two of us ate for one euro and fifty cents! The guys are friendly, work hard, it's a Berber family running the place inside.
Spasso is a trendy restaurant in the neighbourhood of Gauthier, near Noussair ben Moussa. Any taxi driver will know where it is. When you go inside, you'll find dim lights and the music a mixture of international hits, Spanish, French, and Asian. Alcoholic drinks are very expensive - 5 euros for 250ml of beer - but that's the same everywhere in Morocco. You can smoke here, and the clientele are mostly wealthy Moroccans. You can get a huge sushi platter for two for 40 euros - we shared it between six, and had leftovers. The rest of the food is just as expensive, but I think the sushi is the best value.
This is a popular spot in Ain Diab Beach, next to the Megarama. It serves sandwiches, rolls, and quick snacks and meals. They also deliver. Prices are cheap - you can eat here for less than 10 euros, with a soft drink. You can also take away and then go and sit on the boardwalk, overlooking the sea. The terrace isn't too nice, as it's next to a busy roundabout, but the inside is well-decorated.
L'entracte is a restaurant that offers international cuisine at international prices. You are in the neighbourhood of Ain Diab, a lively part of the city with restaurants and nightclubs next to the seashore. You can pay 25 euros per person here, which is quite expensive for Morocco. There are seafood dishes, a selection of pasta, ... But it's a good spot to have a drink while waiting for your movie to start. They have good pastries.
The Moana Grill is a restaurant on the coast, which is in the suburb of Ain Diab, at the top of Tahiti Beach. Any taxi driver will know how to get there from the center, and it shouldn't cost more than 2 euros. The Moana is a kind of lounge, open all day so you can go for a swim after a bite to eat, with relaxing electronic music. Close by is the pool, but there's no beach access. They offer kebabs skewers and grilled meats, and a small selection of seafood too. There is usually a big queue in the summer to eat, but there are chairs in the shade to wait. I don't think they serve alcohol. It came out to 5 euros a meal with the meat, bread and salad, plus a soda. Next door there is a seafood restaurant a bit more expensive and exclusive.
Le restaurant d'Alexandre club is next to Tahiti, in the quay of Casablanca. It is a restaurant overlooking the sea, with a French chef, who serves seafood. The dishes are expensive but worth it, there is a tray foor 150 dirhams (15 euros) with oysters from the south of the country, crab, lobster, grilled fish ... there are also traditional French dishes, all made with imported products. For lunch there's a 15 euro menu, but if you want wine, there aren't many options, and you might pay 20 euros per person - but you'll find prices like that all over the country.
La Terrazza is a restaurant located alongside the Tahiti Beach Club, on the seafront in the district of Ain Diab. It looks a lot like many other local restaurants, a low house with a wooden deck, and many tables overlooking the sea. It's an Italian restaurant, but with a Moroccan chef. For starters there's a carpaccio of salmon or beef, mushroom risotto or seafood, between 9 and 12 euros. Main courses include pasta with shrimp, arugula, squid ... for 12 to 22 euros, and desserts cost 7 euros. It has a good reputation, but it's very expensive for Morocco, especially if you order a bottle of wine. The menus cost between 17 and 27 euros.