Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Good Eats in Bulgaria: A food post

I must say we ate very well while in Bulgaria.  Those of you who are preparing to travel for the first time, don't worry!  There is plenty of variety and tastiness in the Bulgarian cuisine. We tried to take photos of some of our meals.  Unfortunately, I could not document every meal we ate, but I do have a few photos to share.

 This is our hotel in Shumen, The Contessa. This hotel had a nice restaurant, and that is where we ate most of our meals. We did venture out to a local restaurant one night in Shumen, but we found it so much more convenient just to walk downstairs to eat. 

The Contessa has a lovely dining area.

Zekuska  (Breakfast)
Cheese Toast

This was a strange breakfast item I thought as I am not used to eating something like this for breakfast. I only ordered it once because it was kind too close to pizza for me.  It was tasty, though.  It was simply thick-cut bread topped with ham and cheese + toasted. Lots of dishes in Bulgaria are served with a tomato/cucumber garnish. 

My favorite breakfast item was a fruit bowl. Bulgaria imports most of their tropical fruits from Africa I learned, and I must say, African tropical fruit is way tastier than American tropical fruits. The kiwi was to die for!  SO sweet! Try a fruit dish while you are in Bulgaria to see for yourself!

Another favorite breakfast item for me was the pancake. These are French-style crepes.  They are large, super thin, and folded up. We could get ours filled with jam, Nutella, or white cheese. I tried all three and loved all three fillings. You do not top these "pancakes" with syrup.

Special note about white cheese:  I didn't really know what kind of cheese this would be, but just in case you see "white cheese" on a menu, I would compare it to feta.  It is white, dry, crumbly, and does not melt very well. I thought it was tastier than feta, though. 

Special note about coffee:  I am not a coffee drinker, but I observed that Bulgarian coffees are teensy compared to American coffees. Their coffee is served in tiny little cups, but they are strong kinda like expresso.

Obed (Lunch)

Potatoes with veggies, garlic bread, mustard chicken

This garlic bread is AMAZING. We ordered it every day. On the menu, it was sometimes called "garlic bread cooked on clay dish" or something like that. Order it and you will not be disappointed! The potatoes with veggies were also cooked in the clay dish shown. They were yummy!  Jeremy really liked versions of the mustard chicken. He ordered it at two different restaurants. 

The Bulgarian servings were quite large. The menus listed how many grams each dish weighed, but we did not have a strong concept of grams. So, at the beginning of our week, we kept ordering these gigantic dishes and having tons of food left over. We finally wised up and started ordering either two smaller weight dishes as shown above, or we ordered one larger dish and split it.  We decided that small was 250 grams appx. or less, and large dishes for us usually weighed about 400 grams. 

Vecheria (Dinner)

Chicken and rice with mushrooms

This was a yummy dish but very large.  (This was one of those 350-400 grammers) There's that yummy garlic bread making another appearance. The orange slices garnish was SO good. I'm telling you, the Bulgarian fruit was the best!

I'm not really sure what Jeremy was eating in the background, but I do remember that it came with mashed potatoes, and they were served cold. eek!  Cold masked potatoes did not sound good to me!

Special note about beverages:  Like most places in Europe, soft drinks are served from glass bottles, chilled. No drinks are served with ice. If you are from the South, sorry, no sweet iced tea. You can order hot tea, though. You can also order this interesting, popular beverage made from yogurt. It's basically plain yogurt blended with water, served cold. Our translator ordered it every day. I tried a sip of hers and thought it was bleh!  You may love it, but the yogurt drink was definitely not my favorite. I usually ordered bottled water or a Coke if I wanted something special. 

 Pork ribs with grilled veggies

This was Jeremy' favorite dish. It came from the "BBQ" section of the menu, which almost every restaurant included on its menu. We are not really sure what the dipping sauce was made from, but he tried it and thought it was tasty. The grilled veggies are covered in dill, a very popular Bulgarian spice. 

Vegetarian Dishes

I sometimes eat vegetarian or even vegan. If you have strict dietary needs, Bulgarian cuisine has plenty to offer. Our translator ate vegetarian, and she always ate some great looking dishes. I also ordered many vegetarian/vegan dishes, but unfortunately I did not get many photos of these.

Cabbage Salad:  I was surprised that I really loved this dish.  It is basically shredded carrots and shredded cabbage tenderized with salt.  That's it!  Sounds bland, but it was very flavorful. 

Snow White Salad: This was a white "salad" of cucumbers, celery, plain yogurt and a little garlic I believe. I have this thing against white stuff. I do not like most white dips (mayo, Ranch, tartar, cottage cheese, etc) This "salad" looked white and lumpy, so I was skeptical. BUT, I tried it and I liked it!  It was really good paired with the garlic bread, and would've been good with crackers too. 

Shopska Salad: Chopped onions, tomatos and cucumbers and sprinkled with white cheese crumbles. Simple and looked wonderful although I didn't try it.

Grilled Veggies: This was a nice side dish. We also ordered a huge dish called Mixed Salad one night, and three of us shared it. It was kind of like a sampler, and it included grilled peppers. Delish!


Yum, this was SO good. Topped with a bit of olive oil, this was my favorite "salad" that I ate.  =)  This was ordered at Cactus restaurant in Sofia. 

White bean soup

What a terrific soup!  I'm pretty sure it was seasoned with bacon...maybe...so not quite vegetarian, but it had a great flavor. This was also served at the Cactus restaurant in Sofia, and it was on their list of "authentic" Bulgarian dishes.  I love soup and beans anyway, so this dish was right up my alley. (That's a pepper floating in the middle by the way.)


We just loved the bread in Bulgaria. This was another type of bread we ordered. It came with butter, a mixture of spices, and the mystery "black stuff." We didn't really know what the black stuff was at first, but it tasted good and familiar. I was curious and just had to ask the server. He said is was black olives crushed into a paste.  Interesting idea!


 Eclair Cake

This cake was so good we scarfed down half of it before I remembered to take a photo! It was Eclair Cake. It was light, creamy, sweet, and soft, but it had crunchy nuts on the edge. Each layer in the cake was made from mini-eclairs. I'm not sure if this is a typical Bulgarian cake or not. Our hotel had a banquet one night, and we saw the cake being served to banquet party. We actually asked the server if we could have the same cake, and they gave us some!  I'm sure glad we asked because it was one of the best cakes I have ever eaten!  Jeremy agrees!

Restaurant Dining Etiquette
  • Our translator told us that the tip amount is 10% in Bulgaria.
  • Leave bills for the tip, not coins. This may be considered rude to leave coins.
  • The Bulgarian way to dine is to eat very slowly and enjoy the experience. The focus is on the conversation and the company instead of on the food; therefore, it is not uncommon to take 2-3 hours to eat dinner at a restaurant. The servers do not consider it rude to occupy a table for the whole night. 
  • You must ask the server for the bill. They find it rude to bring it to the table without being requested.
  • The server does not find it rude, however, to ask if they can keep your change as a tip. I found this funny as it is the exact opposite of etiquette in America.  ha!

Dining in Sofia 
Here I have some tips and some questions for my readers. We stayed for two nights in an apartment in Sofia. We walked to a nearby walking and shopping area to eat our meals. Those of you who are working with VESTA probably know the area I am speaking of. We found a few good restaurants that we liked near this shopping area. We liked Pizza Palace, Cactus, and Red House.  Red house doesn't really say Red House on the outside; the name was written in Bulgarian, but the restaurant was two stories and it was literally a pinkish-red color on the outside. I think the VESTA staff will know about all of these, so just ask them if you want to visit these restaurants. 

My question for those of you who have traveled to this area of Sofia is: where did you eat on your second trip when you were with your child?  These restaurants listed above were good, but not really kid-friendly. We saw a KFC and plenty of McDonalds, but has anyone else found any other good places to take kids during your stay in Sofia. We will be there for several days in an apartment with our child, and I'm not sure how she would handle restaurants. Did you attempt cooking in the apartment? Did you do take out? 

I hope you have enjoyed this food post. I was really excited to share because, well, don't we all love food?!  

Thanks for reading,



  1. We did cook/make one to two meals a day in our apartment. We were in Sofia in November and wanted to be able to stay in with our two 2 yos if the weather was bad. We had brought some things from home like mac'n cheese, peanut butter, and individual oatmeal packets that we could easily pair with something from the supermarket in BG. We had things like scrambled eggs and toast, sandwiches, oatmeal with fresh fruit, canned soup with grilled cheese, spaghetti, etc.

    With two toddlers, we only did restaurants a few times and more often got carry-out like pizza, kebab, even salads, etc. Our apartment was above and across from two bakeries, so we were more than covered for sweet treats.

    We did a huge grocery run the day before we picked up our daughter. Went to a supermarket and stocked up on juice, yogurt, cheese, lunch meat, eggs, milk, fruits and veggies, bread, butter, jam, etc. After that, we only picked up a few things here or there as needed from smaller grocery stores.

    From what others have said, some older kids really enjoy the restaurant experience, but for others having to sit still for so long in a sensory-rich environment can be too much. Since you will be picking up Ivelina in the summer, there will be much outdoor seating which could be fun for you. I also recommend trying to eat during less busy dining hours, so the restaurant won't be as crowded.

    Hope this helps,


  2. I LOVED this post Shelley!!! Reminded me of my visit to Bulgaria as a teenager. I can remember choking down the yogurt drink at every meal to be polite. And I will never forget how much I disliked the shopska salad offered at every meal when I got there, but by the end of the week I knew I would miss it when I got home. Such delicious food pictures! Glad you guys ate well!


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