Gastronomy and interest in a particular national cuisine by no means may present an excellent reason for tourism, and if in addition the culinary proposals prove to be enticing, they may become a dominant gourmet-accent in one’s memories from the journey. Sofia can propose a considerable variety of traditional or exotic culinary delights.
The capital’s guest can get informed of them through looking at our DINING IN SOFIA section, in which exquisite restaurants and catering services are offered. Or, if one chooses to rely on his own culinary intuition, then it may bring him to some cozy bistro where delicious ‘home cooked’ dishes are offered, and to the local inns known as ‘mehana’; or to a suburban restaurant resembling a water-mill or even entire countryside mansion where he will sense the spirit of old Bulgaria.
There are around 500 eating-places in Sofia, among them restaurants of European and international cuisine, bistro-type restaurants, or offering game dishes, pizzerias, brasseries, Irish pubs, enotecas and beer houses, Viennese saloons and sushi-bars, eco- and vegetarian food restaurants, hence, the choice is rather vast. In spite of smearing and intermingling of the borderlines, including those between different culinary traditions, brought on any place by globalization, still in Sofia some dishes can be tasted that are prepared after old urban or village recipes, or borrowed from monastery kitchens, or even from the official dinners’ courses once served at Sofia’s Royal Palace. Naturally, most desirable to a foreigner would be to try a dish of the traditional
Bulgarian cuisine, yet keeping in mind that there are many Oriental elements in it; long-time viable custom has affiliated them to the national kitchen, or – to the common culinary tastes on the Balkans. Any guest of the capital would hardly miss to enjoy the superior Shopp salad [shopska salata] prepared of fresh vegetables and white cheese – that is the most prominent dish of the Sofia region, or to taste sofiyska banitsa (a kind of pastry stuffed with cheese or sometimes spinach, onion), tarator, kavarma, mixed grill [meshana skara], stuffed peppers [palneni chushki], musaka as a foreground to the Bulgarian culinary theme. And if this is to add the authentic household atmosphere of some restaurants with folklore program, it means indeed lasting memories.
The admirers of French, Italian, Armenian, Turkish, Chinese, Indian or Russian cuisine won’t be left disappointed either: in some restaurants the foreign tidbits are cooked by guest-chefs of high rank. To the relief of Orthodox Jews a luxury restaurant of casher food is also available in Sofia. There are also 17 specialized fish restaurants most of them offering dishes of fresh sea fruit exclusively.
Delicious food taken in comfortable background is hardly acceptable without a bottle of wine. In the city there is a number of restaurants with over 150 brands proposed in their wine-lists ranging to all worldwide known producers but of utmost interest to a foreigner would be to sample the Bulgarian brands. Have in mind that some sorts of grape vine such as Mavrud and Shiroka melnishka loza (Wide vine of Melnik) are cultivated only in Bulgaria. There are a couple of very good wine-bars, as well as enotecas in which sampling is guided by an enologist. The bolder ones can taste rakia either, the Bulgarian (grape) variation of Schnaps, Calvados, and to a certain extent – of the whisky.
Being a modern European city, Sofia keeps in pace with the culinary vogue: here several restaurants and bistros are managed offering fusion cuisine – that point in which fancy and improvisation unify the Western gastronomy’s rites with the zest and piquancy of the Levantine or exotic cuisines. A pretty good decision would be to visit some of the scenic restaurants in the central part of the city in which the intriguing view of Sofia from a bird’s eye will complement the treat.