Because we had plenty of time “sans children,” we were also able to indulge in some proper gastronomical exploration. Following is a list of restaurants in Zagreb where we ate and where we would gladly go back to.
Bistro Špajza (read Shpyza)
Špajza is one of those restaurants that, if we lived in Zagreb the waiters would have ample opportunities to get to know us. As it was, in the two weeks we were in Zagreb, we ate at Bistro Špajza three times. This Zagreb Restaurant’s name translates as Bistro Pantry and is located in a residential area about four tram stops west of Ban Jelačić square. Would I suggest you get out of the strict city centre to give it a try? Yes, if you are in Zagreb for a few days and can spare a couple of hours.
It is a genuine “locals restaurant,” full of local office workers at lunchtime and local residents at weekends. However, it does not look or feel like a canteen. Inside it is contemporary and cosy, while outside, it has a spacious area with tables for al fresco dining in Zagreb.
The menu changes daily and is written on a black chalkboard at the entrance or posted on their Facebook page (the only reason the page exists actually). Food choices are traditional hearty meals such as mućkalica, mousaka, goulashes and pljukanci (home-made pasta ), to mention a few. Prices are amongst the best you will find in Zagreb. On one occasion I had a large bowl of wine goulash for just 28 Kuna.
ChattyBrains Tip: Weekday lunch hour is busy with nearby office workers. If you can, come for a later lunch (after 1.30). If coming with children, ask for half portions.
Located in Katarinski Trg in the Upper City (Gornji Grad), Brokenships Bistro proved to be a delightful surprise gastronomically and visually. A local friend suggested we meet him at Bistro Brokenships, and we are grateful he recommended a place we probably would have missed otherwise. I already planned on visiting the Broken Relationships museum, but have to admit, I most likely would have skipped a restaurant associated with a museum purely based on previous experiences of eating in museums where food is often overpriced and underwhelming.
Then again, the Museum of Broken Relationships is not a regular museum, and as a consequence, the Bistro Brokenships is not your standard museum restaurant. The menu is seasonal, the food is locally-sourced and organic with evident roots in Croatian Cuisine, but always with a twist. And, the prices are reasonable. Of all the places we ate in Zagreb, this is the one I wished we had more time to revisit. I took forever to decide what I wanted and would happily go back to try other items off the menu.
As I mentioned in my post about moving short-term in Croatia, one of the reasons for our prolonged stay in Croatia is the passing of my father in December. He was a prominent figure in the travel industry of Yugoslavia and subsequentially Croatia since the 1960s. There are very few places, restaurants and hotels in the region he did not know. Dad was a foodie before the term became a buzz-word, and a testament to his love of restaurants was the number of restaurateurs that came to his funeral to pay their last respects.
Vinodol was one of his favourite places to eat in when in the Croatian capital. My mother came to Zagreb for the last three days of our visit and wanted to eat in Vinodol in his memory. It was my first time, and I can see precisely why he liked it. Vinodol opens up through an unassuming entrance on Nikola Tesla Street 10 (also referred to as Teslina 10) – the heart of the lower city (Donji Grad).
Finding the fine dining part of the restaurant is not exactly obvious. You walk past their art gallery and cafe Boje on the left, go through the terrace and finally through to the restaurant. You will immediately know you have arrived when you walk into a beautifully decorated dining room, with brick vaults, white tablecloths and an overall air of elegance.
The food was as good as the ambience. We had the fried calamari and shrimp with savoy cabbage (beautifully light and crisp), shrimp risotto (cooked perfectly and bursting with flavour) and beefsteak tartar, which is not prepared table-side so they can have portions for one.
Ideal for a meal out without the kids. This is a place you want to sit back and enjoy every morsel of food and every bit of the atmosphere.
There are four Submarine Burger locations in Zagreb; however, we returned to the one in Bogovićeva Ulica a few times as it is on a pedestrian street in the heart of the city and next to a playground. What more could you want with hungry little travellers? The burgers we had were delicious and conveniently come in two sizes: single and double. I generally try to stick with the speciality of the house, but in this instance, I couldn’t resist trying their superfood salads, which didn’t disappoint. As for their children’s menu, I loved the quality of the meat, the natural fries and the fact the menu includes apple chunks.
ChattyBrains Tip: Ask for the sauce on the kid’s burger to be on the side. It’s quite a sophisticated taste, and we grown-ups loved it, however, as adventurous as our children’s taste buds are, they didn’t.
Torte I To
Ok, so this isn’t a Zagreb restaurant. It’s actually a cafe and cake shop, but I simply have to include it for all those who will gladly have a cake instead of a meal. After all, who says you can’t when on holiday? Torte i To means Cakes and That. I’m not sure what the “that” refers to, but I thoroughly enjoyed my visits to Torte i To for a few reasons. First of all the cheesecake is outstanding. I lived in the United States long enough to know what a proper cheesecake should taste like. I have tried various non-US versions, and most have disappointed. On the other hand, Torte i To do a fantastic cheesecake, as well as chocolate croissants and other cakes.
The other thing I really like is their decor. Torte i To is an excellent example of the Zagreb-unpretentious-cool-vibe I wrote about in my post about living in Croatia. In the Grahorova Ulica location, you walk off the street into an ugly, grey office/apartment building and find yourself tasting amazing cakes and sipping coffee in an elegant and refreshing decor that would fit in London or New York City.
Lari i Penati
My friend M. is one of those people you want to hang out with in Zagreb. He has his pulse on the city and knows everyone, everywhere and everything. When we were arranging lunch, he suggested meeting at one of his favourite places in Zagreb, and I knew his choice would be nothing if not brilliant.
It is easy to walk by Lari i Penati and never notice it. It has a tiny number of seats and reservations are highly recommended (read: quasi-mandatory). Their website is practically non-existent and offers little more than their contact details. Lari i Penati does not need to advertise. As with other good restaurants in Zagreb, the menu is always changing, so when you get here, let yourself be guided by whatever is in season and tickles your fancy. Based on our experience, I’d say it’s hard to go wrong.
In my case, I had the goose liver pate, one of their staple dishes and it was outstanding.
ChattyBrains Tip, if you don’t have a reservation, try popping in between 3pm and 5pm. You just might have a chance of being seated. The place is small – probably best enjoyed without the little ones.
It doesn’t matter how good the food is in any given country, at one point or another your children will look at you and simply beg for a pizza, burger, fries or all of the above. I’m not a fan of fast food, although I recognise it has a time and a place in almost everyone’s life. Think, Christmas shopping runaround with little ones in tow! However, we absolutely refuse to go to a fast food joint when travelling.
Thankfully, in Croatia, there are plenty of restaurants with good, hearty comfort food the children crave after days of being exposed to “something new and different.” In the very heart of the city, in Tkalčićeva Ulica, there is a pub restaurant we visited on a couple of occasions, once eating inside and once, as the weather got warmer, al fresco. On both occasions, the children shared a pizza Margherita followed by čevapi the first time and fried calamari (pohane lignje) the second time.
Mali Medo pub is part of the Pivovara Medvedgrad family of Zagreb pubs and breweries. So if you like craft beers and want to get to know local brews, check them out. At Mali Medo you will find simple, tasty and solid food that makes the whole family happy.
On a beautiful spring day in Zagreb, we made our way up the hill to visit the beautiful Mirogoy monumental cemetery. After walking around the historic tombstones, lunchtime came upon us, and we were ready to eat but didn’t want to go back into central Zagreb yet.
Located just a few minuted drive from Mirogoj cemetery, Okrugljak has legendary status amongst Zagreb restaurants. It recently celebrated its 100th anniversary and proudly plays the part of the city’s gastronomic matriarch. Walking around the various dining rooms (and courtyard) you can imagine the myriad of weddings, business meetings, wakes and rendezvous that took place over a great glass of wine and traditional local cuisine.
With tradition, comes Gavin’s craving for sir and pršut (cheese and prosciutto), so we kicked off with that. I opted for the octopus carpaccio salad and am grateful I did. When I lived in Italy, I learned that cities like Rome and Milan’s best restaurants get first dibs on fresh fish from the coast. As long as a restaurant has a good reputation for fresh food, you can get excellent seafood inland as well as in coastal towns.
This restaurant is ideal for any occasion and time of year. If you come with the children and can sit outside, they will have plenty of space to explore the grounds between courses.