Croatian cuisine, like Croatian culture, can be broken down into three subcategories, mixing the country’s Slavic roots with the individual regions’ past and present influential neighbours.
To the north, the atmosphere and cuisine are slightly Austrian, to the northeast, they are Hungarian, and to the south in Dalmatia, life and food are pleasantly Italian.
As a result, Dubrovnik, the most southern tip of Dalmatia, sports mouthwatering pizzas, pastas, and of course, seafood. Who wouldn’t take advantage of the Adriatic’s plentiful waters with such a long coastline? In a word, Mediterranean.
Despite the regionalism, you will find Croatian foods from all over the nation in popular Dubrovnik including hearty sausages and even Bosnian meats. Food prices vary as much as the country’s cuisine. Obviously, restaurants in the Old Town as well as around Uvala Street, a walkway to the beaches in Lapad, will be a little expensive, ranging from 95 to 150 Kuna (approximately 13.50 to 20.50 USD) if not more.
For visitors, it does not seem like much; however for Croatians, who have a very low minimum wage, depending on where one goes, it can be quite costly.
For this reason, it is not too hard to eat like a local, on a budget, and still sample a variety of delicious Dalmatian dishes.
Pizza & Pasta
Croatian pizzas are larger than life and filling as fuck. Pardon my French. The toppings are on display when it comes to Dubrovnik pizza. Tuna, arugula, and sardines, oh my!
A common Croatian pizza topping is some form of prosciutto (pršut) or Dalmatian ham, a regional specialty. Croatia is not as absent as Hungary or the Czech Republic when it comes to vegetarian options, but most traditional dishes consist of some type of meat.
Like Dubrovnik pizza, pasta is a cheap option that will not disappoint. Most restaurants will serve the delicious basics in large portions, tasting like it’s (almost) fresh from Italy. There are a few spaghetterias in the Old Town that are a little more sophisticated too, but I suggest saving your Kuna for the city’s seafood, dining on pasta and pizza out of the Old Town.
Buono and Scala are two restaurants in the Lapad neighbourhood that will satisfy your appetite with pizza, pasta, and in Scala’s case, Mexican food too. You’ll find a few “Mexican” restaurants in Lapad, but Scala by far is the cheapest and tastiest if you want a little Latin flavor while in the Balkans.
At Buono, the classic Buono pizza with arugula and prosciutto, the Dalmatian pizza with regional ham, and the spaghetti carbonara are delicious choices.
At Scala, you cannot go wrong the pizza with “kulen”, a traditional Slavonian sausage, pizza with anchovies, and ćevapčići platter, traditional spiced mixed meat nuggets.
The menu also features pizza with “budola” (my keyboard refuses to put a line through the d, making the letter the “jy” sound in Croatian), which is another meaty Croatian specialty. I hear it is quite tasty; though, I have not sampled it myself.
And if ultimately you are in the mood for Mexican, I have seen a very small girl devour the enormous fajitas with seafood.
From the Sea
If you prefer non-Mexican seafood, fret not; Dubrovnik has you covered. Along with fresh fish, much of which you can buy for yourself at the Gruž fish market, fried squid (calamari) is another popular dish here as well as sardines.
You can find local squid, both fried on their own or accompanying pastas, salads, or pizzas. Croatian goddess Nina is vegetarian, but not when it comes to the calamari of her city; it is that good.
In addition, there is a lustful following for local bivalves. Shellfish like mussels and clams may cost a little more, but who can say no to such a fresh product, straight from the sea?
Pastries & Desserts
Dubrovnik’s pekaras mix both the hearty, heavy, and sweet light flavors of Dalmatia, and no other treat does this better than burek. A swirled, twisted meaty and cheesy piece of heaven baked in delicious flaky dough, burek can be eaten for breakfast, lunch, or dinner or as long as the pekaras are still open.
For you vegetarians out there, burek can be made without meat as well. However, it is called by a different name: siromica. It is not a big difference, but according to a Croatian girl from Zagreb, do not mix up the names! That is an offense.
Palačinka is by far the simplest and tastiest dessert in Dubrovnik. Similar to the French crêpe, palačinka (or palačinke as one might find it!) are thin pancakes filled with scoops of ice cream and a mixture of nuts and other toppings.
It is a mock dessert-dumpling of sorts that is popular among tourists and locals alike.
If you want something a little smaller, the frozen classic never disappoints. Dubrovnik ice cream, in the Croatian goddess’s opinion, is notoriously creamy compared to most. You have been warned! Typical prices range from 7 to 8 kuna per scoop (about 1 USD).
I recommend trying the plethora of ice creameries, some with special family recipes, along Uvala Street or the alleyway oasis, Dolce Vita in the Old Town along the main street.
Arancini, dried, sugary orange peels, is a Dalmatian treat, sold in most souvenir stores and shops. Packaged with dried nuts and other seasoned sweets, it is a common gift. They are thin, and most stores give free samples – try them!
As stated before, there are a few Mexican restaurants in Dubrovnik like Chihuahua (which the Croatian goddess despises). In addition, there is also a selection of Asian eateries including a moderately priced sushi restaurant in Lapad next to Buono, Shizuku, and even a Korean restaurant in the Old Town. After backpacking and a little stomach bug, which I am attributing to some packaged sausage I bought, a little Asian food has been my rock. Dubrovnik caters to a large array of tourists, and its international food scene is growing.
I wouldn’t be surprised if in the next few years a few more pop up, judging by the amount of Korean tourists passing by. A new Croatian friend told me it is her understanding a K-Drama was recently shot here. [Sigh]. Figures.
The Dubrovnik food scene is way more extensive than this little post. Contemporary gastronomy is taking hold in the Old Town and coupled with this growing enterprise of international eateries, the next Dubrovnik dining guides are going to be visual and mouthwatering masterpieces in the coming years.
But, there is no doubt that traditional Dalmatian cuisine is here to stay.
I’ll just have to come back to see how this develops (with a good amount of money to boot of course). I am back home. Yep. That stomach bug I mentioned before, it is not so little … I am quite behind with articles; I know. Sorry. I have one more Croatian post to go then, it is time for Canada! Get excited, travel safe, and stay healthy!