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Bulgarian food is known for being fresh and cozy, as if made at home by your Baba (granny). Rich in grilled meat, vegetables, dairy and local spices, it definitely represents well the culture of the Balkans.
Althought you will most definitely find international restaurants and fast-food joints around Sofia, most of the restaurants in town will serve exclusively traditional Bulgarian food. This makes Sofia a perfect place to isolate yourself from the external world and dive deep into the local culture.
What to eat in Sofia
As an entry, one shoul definitely try Shopska salad or Qatiq spread on bread together with some fine Rakia. Shopska is considered the national salad, as its colors resemble the Bulgarian flag; it contains tomatoes, cucumbers, onion/scallions, raw or roasted peppers, sirene (white brine cheese), and parsley. Qatiq, on the other hand, is boiled and fermented sheep milk, mixed with baked peppers and turned into a paste; it is mostly used as a bread/toast spread.
As a main dish, one can choose from a variety of grilled meats, usually served skewered and together with bread, steamed vegetables or a bean stew.
Where to eat in Sofia
Location: ul. “Solunska” 28 | Near Vitusha Street
Opening: Mon-Sun 12:30 – 23:30
Moma’s concept combines a light culinary experience with traditional recipes, bringing you to the root of Bulgarian culture. The design of each dinind hall of the restaurant portrays a message related to the traditions of maidens and young women from Bulgaria, including paintings and embroidery.
The place is really bright and the symbolism behind the colors is really invigorating: white symbolizing the purity of Bulgarian women, red symbolizing the blood of the power of the fertile soil, green symbolizing the eternal rebirth, and golden symbolizing the Sun, the light and prosperity.
When visiting Moma, try one of their Kufte (Bulgarian meatballs). They come accompanied by beans, homemade fried potatoes and Lyutenitsa (a spread made out of peppers, aubergines, carrots, tomatoes and garlic).
Location: bul. “Pencho Slaveykov” | Near the National Palace of Culture
Opening: Mon-Sun 12:00 – 00:00
If you wish to enjoy traditional Bulgarian food from many diferent regions of the country, while taking part in a little folkloric fest with live music and dance, Chevermeto is the place for you. It is slightly difficult to find, so make sure to go around the NDK Prono building to find the entrance.
Chevermeto is a quite big restaurant compared to others in Sofia, and has a nice variety of places to sit and enjoy your meal, including a giant wine barrel. As tradition dictates, the whole place is decorated with Bulgarian embroidery, folk clothing and tapestries, creating a really cozy atmosphere.
My go for this place is their Mother’s Dish (a cozier name simply does not exist); which contains chicken meat, melted cheese, and mushrooms, all baked in a pot. I cannot stress this enough: this is one of the best meals I had in my life. Given how warm it is served, it is perfect for winter.
Location: bul. “Yanko Sakazov” 17 | Near the Zaimov Park
Opening: Mon-Fri 11:00 – 00:00, Sat-Sun 9:00 – 00:00
This place is definitely a must-see when visiting Sofia. The whole decoration is based on the communist past of the country, and the items displayed everywhere are pieces of the childhood of many Bulgarians alive today. Although communism is a sensitive topic to many Bulgarians, the place sure makes them feel nostalgic of the simple things they experienced back in time.
The atmosphere here is really great, a well-lit place full of nature (right in front of a park) and with great service. Upon arrival, if you ask for a Rakia, the staff will glady assist you in choosing a brand that will most please your palate, according to your taste for whiskey, vodka, etc.
After the entry of Qatiq spread on bread together with some delicious Rakia, it’s time for the main dish: Bean Stew, served in crispy bread with fried porcini (for vegetarians/vegans) or local Sudjuk (in case you enjoy meat). This is a very cozy meal, perfect for colder days, which are quite common in Sofia.
Location: ul. “Hristo Belchev” 18 | Near the Vitusha Street
Opening: Mon-Sun 11:30 – 01:00
Hadjidragana has one of the most impressive architectures among restaurants in Sofia: stone walls and barrels, woodcarvings, traditional Bulgarian garbs and items from the 18-th century. It is known for its extensive list of Bulgarian wines and live folkloric music during the evenings.
This place is underground, located in a cellar, which makes the atmosphere completely different from other places in town. It will definitely tke you back two hundred years in time, and make you experience the best of Bulgarian food. The live music during the evenings gives the restaurant an extra touch of Bulgarian epicness, so make sure you go at night and enjoy the singing and dancing.
If you want a quick lunch, you can always ask for roasted chicken accompanied by steamed vegetables. But just keep in mind that every day they roast entire lambs in classic wood-burning brick ovens, just an idea. Make sure to order a delicious Bulgarian wine, which most people don’t know, but it’s one of the best in the whole fo Europe.
Made in Home
Location: ul. “Angel Kanchev” 30 | Near NDK
Opening: Mon 11:00 – 23:30, Tue-Sat 11:00 – 23:30, Sun 11:00 – 21:30
Made in Home is Sofia’s most popular entry into the locally sourced, slow-food trend. The name comes from the fact that all dishes are entirely produced in-house, leaving no space for industrialized products.
This place has a very young and cool atmosphere and you will most often find university students hanging around. If you are vegetarian or vegan, this is definitely your spot in Sofia, as they have a wide variety of animal-free options.
My favorite dish from this place is the chicken fajitas with guacamole, colorful peppers, onion, fresh coriander and pita bread. It’s a very light option, and since everything is here fresh and locally sourced, the food makes you feel great and full of energy.