It’s hard to visit and understand a place, along with its history, without taking food into consideration.
For “food” I don’t just mean the modern invention of “local food” (that we all know means nothing, don’t we?).
I’m not a fan of the typical at all costs; I like to try and get to know a place even through its ability to evolve. More than going to the typical trattoria, where people wear “typical clothes” just like dancing bears at the circus, I’d rather look for the modern style and recent habits and, only later, try to understand where they come from.
Well then, we’re hungry so let’s talk about food; considering the following list, the introduction was mandatory though.
I’m now going to give you some hints and tips on where to eat in Sofia by giving you a list of both traditional spots and places where you can have vegan dishes, contaminations and good things in general.
How and what to eat in Sofia?
Let’s first start with some basic info about eating in Bulgaria.
Many people start their meal with a soup, followed by a main course.
It can be made of meat (mostly pork or lamb) with side-dishes (white beans and cabbage are widely used), but many Bulgarians have also quickly discovered the culture of fish and learned how to prepare it, along with the habit of the single course, even vegetarian.
Not all people in Italy eat first course, second course, side-dish, fruit, coffee and dessert every day, and they usually hurry to get back to work; even in Bulgaria and above all in Sofia, where the business world is more dynamic, people often have just a soup or a lighter tenderloin steak or fish fillet.
(speaking of work and Sofia, read this post about the places where a freelancer should consider living for a while).
Among the most famous soups in the area I’ve tasted the tarator, a cold soup made of yoghurt, cucumbers, parsley, fennel and walnuts.
The omnivores can try the shkembe chorba, a soup made of lamb or pork and the lamusaka prepared with potatoes and minced meat.
For vegetarians like me, there’s the shopska salata, a mixed side-dish prepared with tomato, cucumber, roasted pepper and semi-cured white cheese.
An alternative can be the kiopolu, a side-dish made of eggplants, tomatoes and peppers that was already a full meal for me, a perfect match for the excellent (and I really mean it) Bulgarian wine.
If you love wine, ask for the local one. I’ve tasted the Melnik red (…more than tasting, I’d actually say I had quite a lot); it comes from the Struma valley so it’s not from the Sofia region.
On the contrary, the Sungurlare Msket is from this area and it’s very good too. Let me remind you that the first wines of our civilization were born here, in the Thrace area. Well, to be clear, human civilization was born here! Something was missing after the wheel and fire, and it was wine.
Let’s talk about WHERE to eat
Manastirska magernitsa on ul. Han Asparuh 67 is a very easy and comfortable place with details of a peasant past, that are used not only for decorations: some soups and stews on the menu are actually cooked in terracotta pots on burning embers, just like Bulgarian grandparents used to do. If you’re in a hurry then, forget about it.
The huge cheeseboards and the “side-dishes” above are very good here too.
The Divaka on ul. Gladston 54 is a must for the wide selection of food. The menu is very rich, offering both local products and international food such as delicious hamburgers or sandwiches with chips.
Soups are served inside slightly stale bread loaves.
The Hadzhidraganovite kushti on ul. Kozlodui looks like… a medieval tavern.
The place is all made of wood, contributing to the warm and cosy atmosphere, and the different smells are a hint of the mouth-watering experience that awaits you.
Yet, this place is basically visited by tourists only. Let’s put it this way: it’s a great place to combine old flavours with the general knowledge of ancient tools and national costumes.
The central Moma Bulgarian Food and Wine is way trendier. The staff members speak better English than elsewhere, the place is extremely new and tradition meets modern design here. (ul. Solunska 28, Sofia 1000)
When you’re in the “enough with typical places” mood and feel like mingling with the local youth, walk down Vitosha Boulevard and you’ll be spoilt for choice.
Choose Cosmos on ul. Lavele 19 for some refined experimentation and fusion (and if you feel a bit stuffed after eating Bulgarian cuisine dishes). The design of the interior and even plates are stylish here, and you can also have some decent fish.
Close to Alexander’s cathedral, there’s the Raketa Rakia Bar (Qnko Sakuzov 17), where they serve an excellent Rakia (like Grappa but typical from the Balkan area).
Let’s get to vegan needs.
The Sunmoon Bakery is one of the very few vegan places in Sofia. However, I would recommend it to everybody because it serves fresh, local, healthy and well-prepared food. The place is full of details that we, the veg-friendly-wearetheworld-nologo-let’s save the planet after eating kind, really love.
Although they don’t have a long vegan experience in Sofia, I suggest always asking for a lutenica (tomato sauce) and bob chorba (vegetable soup) wherever you go.
Vegetable soups are generally vegan, because they don’t use any butter or cheese to prepare them. It’s always advisable to ask though, as some soups are made with the typical local yoghurt.
What about you? What kind of food requirements do you have?