When thinking about international cuisine, Croatia is probably not the first country that comes to mind. Italian, Chinese, Japanese, French or just a good old burger are more likely suspects.
However, what this small Mediterranean country offers in gastronomy should not be underestimated, as you can taste some fantastic wines and heavenly seafood dishes in Croatia.
And the food scene in the capital city of Zagreb is exceptionally vibrant and offers something for quite literally everyone. If you’re looking for a destination for your next foodie adventure, Zagreb is one of the best choices you can make if you want a new and exciting dining experience. Here’s why.
Barbecue Everywhere in Zagreb
The most basic type of restaurants you find when exploring the Zagreb food scene are barbecue restaurants. Mind you, do not make the mistake of thinking “basic” means in any way run of the mill or ordinary.
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Not at all – simply, you can find places like this all over the city. Meat is the name of the game here, obviously, and you can try local specialties like čevapčići (minced meat fingers similar to mici from Romanian) or simply get a huge platter of meat and everything that goes along with it (potatoes, fried beans, onions, bread etc.).
Usually accompanied by a decent selection of standard Croatian beers, maybe a few foreign ones, and a homey atmosphere – the perfect places to completely relax and enjoy. All for a very reasonable price, too!
Pubs in Croatia? Why not!
A level above these restaurants are the pubs you can find in Zagreb, mostly in or close to the city center. The food is very similar to the dishes discussed above, but what makes the pubs in Zagreb special is many Croatian pubs offer their own in-house made beer. And it’s not just one type of beer, either – pale ales, stouts and other delights will usually all be on offer.
Apart from that, these establishments usually have large dining halls. The most famous pub of this kind in Zagreb is Zlatni medo (Croatian for “Golden Bear”), not exactly in the city center, but on the intersection of Savska and Vukovarska streets, some of the most important streets in the city.
Ask any local for directions if you can’t find it. Keep in mind the place is often packed, so booking a table ahead is a good idea.
The Cult of Burgers in Zagreb
Still on the topic of meat (don’t worry vegans and vegetarians, there’s a part in this article for you too- keep reading). Over the last few years, burger joints have become increasingly popular in the city.
And these are not your run-of-the-mill burger places: assembling the classic burger is elevated to a form of art here, and you really have a huge variety of choices when it comes to toppings.
Even the fries served with the burgers are often given some kind of twist. What will be particularly interesting to every newcomer to the city is these places will very often have a wide selection of locally produced craft beers, which I wholeheartedly recommend.
Submarine Burger is an excellent example of a place like this, but if you want a great US sports bar experience, go to Brewbites. Both are in the city center. Fakin is also a great place to visit if you want fancy a burger accompanied by a great craft beer.
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Many Beers to Try in Zagreb
You may have noticed I’ve mentioned beer a few times already. While Croatia’s coast is known for some truly excellent wines (taste some of them while you’re here, you won’t regret it), the country also boasts a long tradition when it comes to brewing beer.
The largest commercial breweries date to the 19th century, and their main brands (Ožujsko and Karlovačko) are by far the most popular beers around here.
However, over the last few years, the craft beer scene has experienced nothing short of an explosion, so you now have small brewers from all over the country concocting their own magical elixirs resulting in a variety of very interesting flavors. You can find shops dedicated solely to craft beer in the city.
If you’re a beer enthusiast, you don’t want to leave Zagreb without trying some of them, plus they make for a great gift for you friends back home.
Where to Find Great Vegan and Vegetarian Food in Zagreb
If you’ve been in Zagreb before but haven’t visited the city in a few years, the number of vegan and vegetarian bistros and restaurants now open in the city center will show you how much the gastronomic scene in Zagreb has changed.
With places specializing in purely vegan cuisine (Vegehop as a good example), or focusing on vegetarian dishes (Green Point) you have plenty of choice for the vegetarian in Zagreb. Or another option is to try a restaurant dedicated to various national cuisines- most will have some great vegetarian choices on the menu (Koykan).
Heck, I even have a friend who is a raw food chef in Zagreb! So, if the first part of this article has scared you, let me put your mind at ease – Zagreb is a modern city keeping pace with all the latest food trends and there are plenty of great options for those who don’t eat meat.
Oh, and don’t be afraid to browse the markets for fresh produce. The main one, Dolac, is right in the heart of the city.
But Zagreb is much more than just grills, bistros and fast food restaurants. If you’re a real foodie and want to thoroughly enjoy your meal or if you want a nice dinner in a classy place, there are plenty of fine dining options in Zagreb.
The selection of fine-dining restaurants in Zagreb is very good. Many of Zagreb’s trendiest restaurants are run by talented young chefs who are eager to prove themselves and who are serving new and interesting dishes all the time.
Many other exciting and exquisite restaurants are worthy of your attention, try Tač, and several of them have also been recognized by Michelin as potential star candidates.
Food Festivals and Events in Zagreb
There are plenty of outdoor eating options here as well. In May, the Gastro Music Festival combines great music and excellent street food in Zrinjevac, one of the most beautiful city parks, close to the main square.
There’s a burger festival in September, the Film Food Festival and many other interesting events you really should visit.
And of course, the Christmas market always offers loads of fantastic snacks and options for food related gifts.
So, no matter when you visit, you should be able to find something and as the weather gets warmer, the days get longer and the options increase.
Street food is exceptionally popular around here, and the festivals always bring some interesting twists to the most popular dishes often combining great food with something else (movies or music, as seen above).
Fun is guaranteed, you’ll mingle with the locals and taste something delicious. What more could you ask for?
And Don’t Miss this Local Zagreb Creation
With a food scene this vibrant, you are bound to come across something unusual sooner or later.
I have already mentioned the innovative chef in Zagreb, but one guy managing to stand out recently, is Marin Medak.
Head to his Bagel and Lobster Bar for a “brafna”, a crossover between a bagel and a donut which has made quite a splash. Or a “mlinzza”, essentially a pizza but made of traditional Croatian dough used for creating “mlinci”. This makes the pizza extra crispy, so if that sounds good to you, this should be your destination.
Marin is constantly creating something new, which means you may discover something completely new when you visit his place. Of course, he’s not the only one – given the wide variety of restaurants in the city, you are bound to find more interesting dishes.
This is a guest post on Compass and Fork from Anca the founder of One Day Itinerary, a travel blog dedicated to people who don’t have a lot of time but still love to travel. She has been all over the world in search of intriguing destinations and shares her experiences and many useful tips on her website.