An integral part of any trip is trying the local specialties, and in Bulgaria you’ll be spoiled for choice when dining out. The country is famous for its baseball-sized tomatoes, refreshing chopska salads, and hearty clay pot stews, but there is also something to be said about Bulgaria’s fine dining scene. We spent three weeks exploring this fascinating country, and we have the extra pounds around our waists to prove it.
Bulgaria’s restaurants rival those of Paris, London, and New York in terms of quality of ingredients, wine selection, and culinary passion. Here are the most notable restaurants we dined at during our trip to one of Europe’s gastronomic gems. We created videos for many of them, which you can watch by clicking the link.
Located along the main pedestrian street, Aleko Bogoridi, Rose Restaurant is one of the city’s best fusion restaurants. Diners will enjoy French-Mediterranean and Italian specialties, as well as an impressive wine list in a swanky, inviting space. Indoor and outdoor seating is available. The restaurant is situated inside of a renovated 200-year-old home. What started out as a swanky pizzeria has transformed into one of the best places to dine in Burgas. There is live music every night. Average price per main dish is 20 – 40 BGN. Recommendations: Goat cheese salad, octopus and quinoa salad, grilled turbot. WATCH VIDEO
Ethno Restaurant is Greek seafood restaurant located along the vibrant Alexandrovska Boulevard. With a varied menu of fish, salads, soups, and grilled meats, Ethno’s menu reads like one from a modern taverna in Athens. The best dishes of the house, however, are the grilled seafood and meat platters. There is no shortage of fresh seafood in Burgas, so you’ll be wise to take advantage of that here. The restaurant’s central location, beautiful décor, and scrumptious menu make it one of our favorites in Burgas. Average price per main dish is 15 – 25 BGN. Recommendations: Sea gift appetizer, mussels Provencal, BBQ sea bass, grilled octopus, shrimp saganaki, profiteroles dessert. WATCH VIDEO
For traditional Bulgarian fare, head to the Burgas’s beautiful seaside park to Vodenitsata “the Windmill,” Restaurant. If the wood siding and terracotta roof tiles don’t charm you, then maybe the delicious food will. We recommend making a reservation and coming for dinner on a night when there’s live music. Sit inside to avoid the mosquitoes and heat, and enjoy the vibrant, casual atmosphere. Order a traditional pork sac (pronounced sach) and house wine. Restoran Vodenitsata is an inexpensive and family-friendly dining option.
What looks like an unassuming wine shop is actually one of Plovdiv’s best kept secrets. Just ring the bell and head downstairs to try some amazing food and wine pairings at the Brestovitsa Wine House. Owned by Porteva family, this simple, elegant restaurant is the best place to sample delicious Bulgarian wines. A tasting menu will take you through seven incredible varieties, including merlot, rubin, and mavrut. You’ll try the Portiva family’s very own label, Bendida, and get to indulge in homemade dishes designed to match the wine selection of the night. Brestovitsa Wine House frequently hosts wine club meetings and tastings, so it is highly advisable that you reserve a table in advance. If you like a specific wine, the Brestovitsa Wine House’s wines are well priced ($8-$12) and are of exceptional quality. WATCH VIDEO
With five locations throughout Plovdiv, Restaurant Dayana is always a crowd-pleaser. This group of rustic, casual eateries serve up the most popular dishes in Bulgarian cuisine – “kavkazki” style skewers, traditional sac platters, scrumptious appetizer dips, homemade breads, barbecued meats, and refreshing salads. Great for lunch or dinner, the Dayana restaurants are reasonably priced and have an over-the-top quirky folk theme décor. Dayana is great for large groups and families, plus the portions are super generous (available in 300 grams, 500 grams, 800 grams, and 1,200 grams!) Average price per plate is 5 – 10 BGN. Recommendations: Homemade bread with feta cheese, BBQ pork ribs, mushroom sword, chicken and pork combo kavkazki skewer, chicken shashlik. WATCH VIDEO
Restaurant Megdana is probably the most fun you’ll have while dining out in Plovdiv. The setting is a traditional “mehana” with a beautiful interior garden, large indoor dining space, and plenty of outdoor seating around the landscaped courtyard for the best views of the nightly performance. Restaurant Megdana hosts traditional Bulgarian folk dances almost every evening – the real kind, not the made-for-tourists shows. This place gets packed on performance nights, so it would be wise to make a reservation at a lower level outdoor table in advance so you can enjoy the show. The food, like the entertainment, is absolutely fantastic. Juicy cuts of meat, super-fresh vegetables, family recipes, and big portions. Though it is a traditional mehana, the place calls for smart casual attire. Don’t forget your camera! Average price per plate is 10 – 15 BGN. Recommendations: Megdana salad, homemade bread with cheese, veal steak with mushrooms, dairyman’s kavarma. WATCH VIDEO
This was the first restaurant-garden-museum-art gallery combination we have ever visited, so it was a unique and delightful experience from the beginning. Philippopolis is perhaps the fanciest restaurant in Plovdiv, nestled in a quiet location near the entrance to the old town and situated in a stately, elegant mansion. Philippopolis offers a beautiful and romantic dining experience, especially if you choose to sit outside on the terrace. The house features a private art gallery with works by Bulgarian master painters. Although I do think there is an extra charge to visit the exhibition halls, you may want to double-check when you go. The restaurant is excellent. The menu is Mediterranean and Bulgarian with an assortment of daily specials and chef’s recommendations. Philippopolis serves tasty fusion food in a refined, elegant setting. Average price per plate is 15 – 20 BGN. Reservations are highly recommended. Recommendations: Strawberry and halloumi cheese salad, tomato soup, tomato and cheese pastry, steak with mushrooms and rice. WATCH VIDEO
Perched high above the center of Ruse is the beautiful Leventa complex. It’s hard to miss this restaurant/winery since it sits just under the television tower. Leventa became a restaurant in 1972, but its beginnings are steeped in history. The building once formed part of an Ottoman fortress – it’s location chosen for being the highest vantage point in the city. But it wasn’t until 2005 when the property was completely renovated, that it was transformed into a dramatic, elegant space for special events, wine tastings, and tasting menus. A tour through the complex reveals several themed dining halls, each representing a different era in Bulgarian history (Thracian, Medieval, Ottoman, and liberation). Leventa not only serves delicious Mediterranean fare, but it is also a formidable producer of wine (over 80,000 bottles produced each year). By pre-arranging a visit, visitors can have a lovely tasting menu paired with wines. Recommendations: Veal meatballs, barbeque homemade sausage, pork loin with potato puree, sautéed catfish with zucchini and tempura shrimp. Average price per plate is 15 – 20 BGN. WATCH VIDEO
Most people you ask will tell you that Mehana Chiflika is the best traditional Bulgarian restaurant in Ruse, and like any curious travelers, we decided to see for ourselves. Mehana Chiflika opened in April 1999, and has been the go-to venue in Ruse for an evening of entertainment and hearty Bulgarian food. With seating for over 300, Chiflika is popular with large tour groups, but the food is excellent nonetheless. With live music every evening from 8 p.m. to midnight, you’ll be better off reserving a table a day or two in advance, especially during winter when they’re busiest. The décor is a bit kitschy and overdone, but the rustic furniture and embroidered tablecloths will likely charm you anyway. Mehana Chiflika is located about a 10-minute walk from Ruse city center (liberty square). The menu has something for everyone; salads, meats, fish, pork, and lamb. Average price per plate is 10 – 20 BGN. Recommendations: Landowner’s style lamb, pork kavarma, mushrooms and liver rice. WATCH VIDEO
For a taste of South Beach in Bulgaria, head to Beso, Sofia’s version of Nikki Beach. For the past 5 years Beso has hosted some of the country’s most affluent, beautiful, and prominent citizens, as well as scores of tourists craving an untraditional dining experience. Guests are treated to ultimate luxury and live DJ performances every night. Need your waitress? No need to flag her down; just press a call button conveniently located at your table and she’ll be with you in a moment. Beso isn’t just a superficial lounge bar. The menu was carefully and skillfully conceptualized. The result is the perfect blend of sushi, shared plates, and decadent desserts. The exclusive vibe will run you a bit more money that your average restaurant, but the experience is quite unique. When you’re done eating, stick around for cocktails and beats until 3 a.m. WATCH VIDEO
This place was right around the corner of our hotel on Vitosha Street, and since it was always packed during lunchtime, we decided to see what all the fuss was about. So glad we did! Boom! Burger is a casual burger joint that’s serious about the quality of their meats. They serve juicy, perfectly cooked burgers made to order. The restaurant is spacious, modern, and service is fast. The menu is short and sweet, and includes several affordable gourmet options such as the eggplant and goat cheese burger, rib eye steak, and pear and bacon salad. Boom! Burger is open every day from noon to 10 p.m. Recommendations: Boom burger, pulled pork burger, homemade coleslaw, potato wedges. WATCH VIDEO
Few places in Sofia can offer such an authentic, intimate experience quite like Izbata Tavern and Winery. Tucked away from the hustle and bustle of central Sofia, about ten minutes drive in a residential neighborhood, Izbata charms patrons with its outdoor garden and delectable Mediterranean-inspired menu. Izbata has over 100 wines, most of which are, of course, Bulgarian. If the weather is nice, sit outside and enjoy the breeze as you sip wine and dine on perfectly grilled meats. Izbata is owned and operated by two brothers. Their commitment to simple, high quality ingredients and personable service makes their restaurant a breath of fresh air in a city full of overly done, touristic eateries. Truly a hidden gem in Sofia! Recommendations: Caprese salad with tomatoes, feta, and grilled eggplant, grilled zucchini and goat cheese appetizer, barbequed boneless ribs, signature house dessert of homemade ice cream cake with dried fruits and nuts.
Family owned and operated, Manastirska Meritsia, or “Monastery’s Kitchen,” serves up vigorous Bulgarian cuisine, with a focus on recipes from orthodox monasteries. Hearty ingredients like veal, pork, eggplants, and lentils are sure to leave you satisfied. This quaint restaurant features a splendid outdoor terrace, as well as ample interior dining for those cold nights. Situated in a historical home that once belonged to Bulgarian literary critic, Krastyo Krastev, Monastery’s Kitchen is a family owned establishment that has been delighting customers with their homemade cuisine since 2001. We suggest dining outside in the courtyard if the weather is nice. Reservations are strongly suggested. Recommendations: Salad sampler, veal with eggplant and cucumber garlic sauce, sveta gora style lentils (baked in a clay pot), homemade tiramisu dessert. Average price per plate is 10 – 20 BGN. WATCH VIDEO
Sofia offers a wide range of dining options for travelers, and if you’re looking for a fine dining experience in a lovely modern setting, check out restaurant Motto.Open for over 11 years, Motto stands out above the rest for having an excellent menu of fusion food, a lengthy wine list, and a charming terrace. The restaurant posh décor and varied food choices make it a nice break from traditional Bulgarian food. Reservations are recommended, especially on weekends, when the restaurant hosts live music and DJ performance. During wintertime Motto is one of few restaurants in Sofia offering Sunday brunch. The menu changes a couple of times throughout the year to ensure that the food is fresh all the time. Average price per plate is 10 – 15 BGN. Recommendations: Vegetable and lentil salad, chicken skewers, duck filet with asparagus, beef and quail egg risotto. WATCH VIDEO
Talents is perhaps the most innovative and creative restaurant in Sofia – where aspiring chefs get to master their culinary skills and give guests an amazing dining experience. Talents looks and operates exactly as any restaurant does, except it’s actually a classroom for third-semester culinary students. As part of their one-year internship program at Talents, the chefs-in-training are supervised as they conceptualize, create, and showcase their talents. The menus change weekly to give the students more practice. Talents is located directly across the street from the Palace of Culture. Make a reservation ahead of time to have a tasting menu. With an average price per plate of 10 – 15 BGN, Talents offers affordable fine dining by eager, young chefs. The result is a truly amazing meal! WATCH VIDEO
Restaurant Castela shines as one of Stara Zagora’s best dynamic dining venues – ideal for both casual lunches and romantic dinners. The restaurant has two themed indoor dining areas (Viennese, Roman) and an Irish pub-style terrace. The concept for the columns and Roman-inspired decoration derived from the presence of ancient Roman columns discovered beneath the building. The Mediterranean-inspired menu includes zesty salads, homemade pasta, and fine cuts of meat, plus an extensive wine collection of Bulgarian, Balkan, and European varieties. The chic, elegant décor makes it great for a date. The quality of the food is stellar. Average price per plate is 10 – 15 BGN. Recommendations: Caesar salad, old village salad, tagliatelle di mare, pork ramstek, tiramisu biscuit dessert.
Consistently voted one of the top restaurants on Trip Advisor is Hotel Uniqato’s very own Italian restaurant and pizzeria, Uniqato. Brickwork, fireplaces, and country-style furnishing give this large restaurant a special charm and rustic atmosphere. The menu is simple and straightforward, and consists of barbecued meats, pizza, pastas, and homemade ice cream. All of Uniqato’s pizzas are baked in a wood-burning oven and made with fresh veggies, cheeses, and cold cuts. The vibe is family-friendly and very cozy. Perfect for both chilly and warm weather. Average price per plate is 10 – 15 BGN. Recommendations: Any pizza, pasta carbonara, mushroom and yellow cheese calzone, cheesecake with blueberries dessert. WATCH VIDEO
If you want to steer away from the traditional, you must try Horizont; Varna’s hottest upscale restaurant. Known for hosting illustrious themed parties throughout the year, Horizont also delivers big when it comes to excellent food. Diners will enjoy the spacious outdoor and divine French-Italian fusion dishes prepared by acclaimed chef Konstantino Burov. Though a bit pricier than other restaurants in Varna (average price per plate 15 – 20 BGN), Horizont offers much more than your average Bulgarian mehana. A swanky bar area, contemporary furnishings, and a dining experience among the beautiful people of Varna. The menu changes seasonally to incorporate fresh ingredients throughout the year. WATCH VIDEO
Situated in a quant 19th century Bulgarian house, Mehana Chuchura is one of Varna’s last-surviving historical homes. Charming chotchkies, brick walls, and stone floors intermix with kitschy ceramics and wall tapestries. Mehana Chuchura is near the city center and offers affordable lunch options, especially convenient if you don’t want to get bogged down with a two-hour lunch and you’re eager to continue sightseeing. The menu has all the typical Bulgarian dishes, each with an average price per plate of 10 – 15 BGN. Recommendations: Lamb kavarma, pork sach with vegetables, staroselka salad, Bulgarian cheese bread. WATCH VIDEO
Chef Peter Yorgov has propelled Restaurant Diwine’s reputation into one of the country’s best restaurants. Guests will be wined and dined with style, plus get to chat with in-house sommelier, Lubomir Stoyanov. Chef Yorgov, recipient of the “Best Chef in Bulgaria” award in 2009, stays on par with Europe’s best restaurants by having a constantly evolving menu of fusion dishes and tasting menus. The setting is contemporary. Service is attentive and efficient. Average price per plate is 25 – 30 BGN. Recommendations: salmon with hollandaise sauce, wild boar with potatoes, mussel risotto, Bulgarian cheese platter. WATCH VIDEO
Sometimes you find a restaurant that makes something so perfect, it’s hard for others to come close. Staria Chinar in Varna has done just that – mastered the art of barbecued ribs and homemade sausage that will have you second-guessing all the best BBQ joints in the country. With two locations, we dined at the one on Makedonia Street, a short drive or cab ride from the city center. This isn’t a tourist trap, and you probably won’t encounter anyone here who speaks English. But the food is fabulous and the setting is charming and family-friendly. Grab a table on the terrace and don’t even think about ordering anything else than the delicious ribs and sausage – delivered to your table straight from the grill. Staria Chinar is open every day for lunch and dinner. Average price per plate is 7 – 12 BGN. WATCH VIDEO
A visit to the Balchik Palace is a great day trip option from Varna, and if you make it out there, don’t skip out on an amazing lunch at Korona Restaurant. Located within the palace complex, next to the Bridge of Sighs, Korona boasts Black Sea views and a delicious seafood menu. Without a prior reservation, you may have to wait for a table if the palace is full of tourists that day, but your time spent will be rewarded when the food arrives. Grilled fish, roasted lamb, juicy pork loin, and tasty seafood rices are just some of Korona’s specialties.
You can’t miss this place, it’s located on Veliko Tarnovo’s main street. Just like the name suggests, Ego Pizzeria serves up homemade pizzas baked in a wood-burning oven. Large, comfy booths make this place the perfect break from sightseeing. The menu also has salads, risottos, barbecued meats, and hearty sides. Prices are great at just 5 – 10 BGN per plate. Sit at the back of the restaurant for views of the river and old town. Recommendations: Quattro formaggio pizza, fried hand cut potato fries, prosciutto crudo pizza, ego pizza. WATCH VIDEO
With multiple locations and an impeccable reputation for being one of the best restaurants in Bulgaria, Shtastliveca is ideal for any occasion. Comfortable seating and English teahouse décor give the restaurant a feminine, but elegant vibe. Now franchised, the Shtastliveca restaurants have managed to retain their quality and popularity. To-die-for salads, a variety of hot and cold appetizers, pizzas, juicy steaks, and traditional fare comprise the lengthy menu. Half portions are available. We dined at the main street location, but there are several more scattered throughout the city. Average price per plate is 5 – 15 BGN. WATCH VIDEO
After exploring the Tsarevets Fortress, you’ll most likely be starving. Van Hassan II is located directly across the street from the fortress, making it a convenient lunch break option. If the heat of the day is making you weary, dine in the comfort of the restaurant’s air-conditioned dining room. The second floor has plenty of natural light and great views of the fortress. The restaurant offers a clean, family-friendly atmosphere and traditional Bulgarian specialties such as salads, soups, sach, grilled meats, and fish. Great for large groups and special events too. Average price per plate is 6 – 12 BGN. Recommendations: Chopska salad, caprese salad, perlinka bread with cheese, mixed sach with chicken and pork. WATCH VIDEO
All restaurants mentioned in this articles hosted us in exchange for honest feedback. All opinions are my own. Special thanks to Bulgaria National Tourism for helping me coordinate my itinerary.
What’s your favorite Bulgarian dish or restaurant? We would love to hear from you. Leave a comment below!