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Trip Report Croatia and nearby locations — restaurant notes

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Many thanks to all of you who contributed to the success of my recent trip to Croatia and nearby areas, whether you did so by answering my questions or by providing trip reports or responses to others’ questions!

I had a spectacularly wonderful time in this gorgeous and welcoming part of the world! My final 30-day itinerary included Sarajevo, Mostar, Dubrovnik (with a day trip through Perast to Kotor and a half-day trip to the Trsteno Arboretum), Korčula, Split, Stari Grad (with a few hours in Hvar Town), Trogir, Šibenik (with a day trip to Krka National Park and Skradin), Zadar, Rab Town (with a brief stop in Nin on the way), Lovran (with a brief stop at Senj’s Nehaj fortress on the way and a walk along the Lungomare to Opatija while there), Rovinj (with a brief stop in Bale on the way), Gračišće (with stops at the Limski Kanal and in Poreč, Tar, Motovun, and Beram on the way), Plitvice Lakes National Park, Čigoč, Varaždin (with a stop at Veliki Tabor on the way and a few hours for a side-trip to Čakovec), Zagreb, Ljubljana, and Lake Bled (with stops at the Škocjan Caves, Predjama Castle, and Lake Bohinj on the way).

I don’t expect to write a full trip report, but will be happy to answer any questions. What I do offer are my remarks on the restaurants in which I dined. (Be forewarned: My culinary vocabulary is limited.) I ate extremely well on this trip — thanks to all of you who previously commented on restaurants! I hope these comments prove useful to future travelers.

Sarajevo – Inat Kuća (Veliki Alifakovac 1): Try the begova čorba!

My choice of appetizer at the Inat Kuća was begova čorba, a thick soup with veal and vegetables that was absolutely delicious! My choice for an entrée – šiš čevap – was a less satisfying combination of small pieces of veal served on tiny skewers with onion, carrots, and rice. The veal was a bit too bland for my tastes, but was it was pleasantly tender. (BTW, Inat Kuća is a long-standing local institution in Sarajevo, but after I’d eaten there, several people told me that they do not think of it as a prime choice for sampling local cuisine.) The setting was pleasant: I dined at a quiet, tree-shrouded, river-side table that offered lovely views of some of Sarajevo’s many minarets as well as the hills surrounding the city (complete with a centuries-old castle and relatively new suburbs). My waiter provided attentive, well-paced service. With bread, tap water, 2 glasses of white wine, and tip, this dinner was inexpensive.

Sarajevo – Park Prinćeva (7 Iza Hrida): Wonderfully memorable food and views!

Delicious! I began with a “šopska” salad (seasonal vegetables topped with cheese), which had a nice mixture of textures and fresh tastes. For my entrée, I had venison in a cognac sauce. Outstanding! The venison was perfectly prepared and wonderfully flavored. It was served with a variety of appetizing sample-sized side dishes: gnocchi, red cabbage, chunky applesauce with cranberries. . . . The setting was wonderful! On a hill overlooking Sarajevo, the outside terrace where I was seated offered magnificent views. It was delightful to hear the calls to prayer from the city’s many minarets as evening approached and to watch the lights of the city come on as daylight shifted through dusk to dark. The Park Prinćeva is, justifiably, very popular, so you might want to consider reserving ahead, particularly if you want a table with a view. The service was professional and attentive. The wine my waiter recommended was perfect with the venison. A small group of musicians entertained guests the night I was there, playing mostly traditional songs and occasionally circulating among the tables. They showed much more interest in their music than I normally observe in musicians who serenade restaurant patrons. I was even more impressed by their reluctance to intrude upon dining patrons: They seemed to approach tables only if clearly invited! With bread, tap water, 3 glasses of red wine, and tip, my dinner was moderately expensive.

Mostar – Babilon (Tabhana bb): Tasty local food with stunning views

I began with a pleasant salad of seasonal vegetables with cheese, and then had a platter of mixed regional specialties – spinach, bell pepper, tomato, and summer squash, each stuffed with meat and rice and served with a light, whipped sauce. Very tasty! The setting was perfect: My table was on a small terrace in the ravine formed by the Neretva River, with a stunning view of the Stari Most. I could also see the side of the shops on Kujundžiluk that face the river (and, for a while, the performance of a troupe of dancers performing to traditional music in Turkish-inspired dress on a terrace of one of the restaurants on the other side of the river). If I looked to my left, I could see the lovely Koski Mehmed Paša Džamija. I was shaded by a tree that hosted song birds and could hear the rushing water far below me. It was a thoroughly lovely and relaxing place to spend a few hours. Service was attentive, helpful, and pleasantly unhurried. With bread, tap water, 2 glasses of white wine, and tip, my dinner was inexpensive.

Dubrovnik – Poklisar (Ribarnica 1): Very nice setting; delicious food!

I started with a fresh seasonal salad and then had one of the restaurant’s specialties – an absolutely luscious shrimp risotto with blue cheese, capers, olives, and tomato. Delicious! If only all risottos could be done to such perfection! My table was on the restaurant’s outdoor terrace, looking out at Dubrovnik’s pleasure-craft harbor and St. John’s Fortress – very nice. I enjoyed the view, breezes, and live dinner music (piano and sax). The restaurant was well attended the night I was there, so serving staff were quite busy. Nonetheless, the service was competent and friendly. With bread, tap water, 3 glasses of white wine, and tip, my dinner was moderately expensive.

Dubrovnik – Konoba Ekvinocijo (Ilije Sarake 10): Pleasant setting, very nice meal

While deciding upon my order, I was given a complimentary glass of cherry brandy that was wonderfully rich, rounded, and balanced. I began my dinner with a fresh seasonal salad and then had a house specialty – squid stuffed with pršut and cheese, served with potato and Swiss chard – very nice! My table was outdoors in a small square in an old district of the city. My view included a centuries-old wall from which plants had begun to grow and a row of shrubs that demarcated the restaurant from the adjacent pedestrian-only street. Service was attentive and friendly. The wine my waitress recommended was a lovely compliment to my meal. With bread, tap water, 2 glasses of white wine, and tip, my dinner was moderately expensive.

Dubrovnik – Rosarij (Prijeko 2): Deliciously fresh and warmly hospitable

I ate at an indoor table in this small restaurant decorated with rustic charm. There were also a few tables outside in an atmospheric narrow lane. After I ordered a mixed salad followed by grilled sea bass, I was given a taster of warm crusty bread with a light and delicious tuna paté. The salad was very fresh and perfectly dressed in a mild vinaigrette. Bread came with delightfully herbed olive oil. And the fish – oh! so fresh, so tasty! Served whole (and filleted at my table) with potato, chard, and other braised greens, it was perfectly cooked and seasoned. A complimentary glass of home-made herbed “grapa” completed a perfect meal. Service was outstanding! I arrived a bit late and feared that the restaurant was about to close, but if so, I was given no reason to believe it. Instead, I was welcomed as though I were a long-lost patron. I almost felt bad turning down the generous offer of a 2nd glass of complimentary grapa! With bread, tap water, 2 glasses of white wine, and tip, my dinner was moderately expensive.

Korčula — Konoba Marinero (Ulica Marka Andrijica 13): Traditional fare in a pleasant setting

I started with a seasonal salad and then had škampi na buzara. Beautifully presented, it was (I’m glad to say) served with much-needed packets of freshening towelettes. (Unfortunately, I’ve never learned how to deal well with shrimp that are served with their heads, legs, and shells. Let’s just say it was messy.) It was delicious! The sauce — rather like a seasoned wine-based tomato broth — was flavorful and complimented the shrimp nicely. I sat at an outdoor table in one of the narrow lanes in the heart of Korčula; the indoor seating looked pleasant, too. Service was accommodating. With bread, tap water, a half liter of white wine, and tip, my dinner was inexpensive.

Split — Konoba Dioklecijan (Dubrovačka bb): Atmospheric setting for pršut and sir

In a courtyard set into the interior arches and walls of Diocletian’s Palace, the Konoba Dioklecijan is definitely atmospheric. I had read that it had good pršut; I didn’t realize until I got there that the only dish they serve (or at least the only food available when I was there) is a platter of pršut and sir. It came with bread, olives, and dill pickles, and it was very good (although not the best pršut I had in Croatia). The Konoba Dioklecijan is a popular place for drinks, so the server was very busy, but she was personable and efficient, and she recommended a pleasant wine. With tap water, 1 glass of white wine, and tip, my “dinner” was inexpensive.

Stari Grad — Pizzeria Marko (near trg Stjepana Radića and trg Ploća) — More than a pizzeria

Apparently the only restaurant in the heart of Stari Grad that was still open after my late arrival, I was prepared for disappointment; instead, I was pleasantly surprised. I sat indoors at a well-worn, wooden table, surrounded by the welcoming aroma of a wood-burning oven. I ordered a seasonal salad and seafood risotto. The risotto itself did not have the lusciousness I crave in risotto, but it was competent, and the seafood — a mix of mussels, clams, prawns, octopus, and fish — was delightfully fresh. I was also pleased with the service, which was friendly and relaxed. The last other patron left around the time my entrée was served, but no one rushed me in any way, instead making me feel comfortable to enjoy my meal. With tap water, 2 glasses of white wine, and tip, this dinner was inexpensive.

Stari Grad — Eremitaž (Priko bb) — Wonderfully memorable!

Seated on a lovely, vine-covered terrace with views of the lights reflecting off Stari Grad’s bay and listening to quiet strains of jazz, I think I would have enjoyed Eremitaž even if the food hadn’t been outstanding — and it was outstanding. I started with a salad and then had beef pašticada – wow! Accompanied by delicious gnocchi, the pašticada was flavorful and incredibly tender. Servings were generous. The service was also commendable — attentive and personable, yet professional. The red wine recommended by my server complimented the meal perfectly. It was a truly memorable dinner and a lovely evening. With bread, tap water, 3 glasses of red wine, and tip, my dinner was inexpensive.

Trogir — Konoba Kamerlengo (Vukovarska 2) — Wonderful food and service

My wonderful dinner at the Konoba Kamerlengo began with a very tasty gratis sample of lightly toasted garlic bread topped with tuna salad. Next, I had a very fresh mixed salad. For my entrée, I had dorado with olive oil and garlic; the fish was grilled within my sight and filleted at my table. Simply delicious! I enjoyed the setting, too: a light and airy covered courtyard with white linens and greenery. The service was exceptional — professional, courteous, and attentive. With bread, tap water, a bottle of white wine, and tip, this dinner was a bit pricey.

Šibenik — Tinel (trg Puckih Kapetana 1) — Delightful service and setting

My evening at the Tinel was delightful! I sat at a window-side table on the top floor (3 stories up, if I recall correctly) overlooking a small square with an enormous tree and, beyond that, some of the intriguing buildings of the historic heart of Šibenik, including the back-lit campanile of St. John’s church. My server could not have been more pleasant or more attentive, and the wine she recommended complimented my meal very nicely. I started with a very fresh and perfectly dressed arugula salad. For my entrée, I had “chicken Tinel”, which was chicken with tomatoes, capers, and rice. The capers were a bit too salty for my tastes, but the chicken itself was prepared flawlessly. With bread, tap water, 2 or 3 glasses of white wine, and tip, this dinner was inexpensive.

Šibenik — Restoran Gradska Vijećnica (trg Republike Hrvatske 1) — Worthy of the setting!

The Restoran Gradska Vijećnica, tucked under Šibenik’s centuries-old loggia across from Šibenik’s magnificent cathedral, could not be better located. Great locations and great food don’t always go together, but in this case, they did. My dinner began with a delicious gratis sample of herbed cream cheese with bits of fruits and vegetables on toasted bread. I then had a very fresh cucumber salad, followed by turkey in mustard sauce. The sauce was perfect — very light, with just enough mustard to compliment and enhance the turkey, which was incredibly tender. The servings were quite generous. I also appreciated the restaurant’s attention to detail, not only in garnishes, but also in their selection of attractive tableware. Service was commendably attentive, personable, and courteous. With bread, tap water, a half liter of white wine, and tip, this dinner was inexpensive.

Zadar — Restoran Foša (Kralja Dmitra Zvonimira 2) — Overpriced food and poor service

Restoran Foša has a wonderful location, with outdoor tables on a terrace by a small harbor just outside Zadar’s walls and a light, airy indoor area. My meal began well enough with a complimentary and very tasty sample of chopped vegetables, cheese, and a tiny shrimp in a light sauce served over toast. I was also pleased with the wine that my waiter recommended — and glad that I had ordered a bottle, because I was unable to get his attention, or the attention of any other server, for well over an hour after the wine was served and my order taken. And it wasn’t that they were busy with other tables — there were only a few other patrons the evening that I was there. The waiters were moving about the dining room, but simply ignored me. Polite hand signals and spoken words in English and Croatian all failed to gain anyone’s attention. I finally had to leave the table and literally take my waiter by the arm to get service. Another 20 minutes passed before my salad and entrée arrived. The salad was reasonably fresh and nicely dressed. Unfortunately, my entrée — I had ordered a grilled herbed filet of white fish — was just a small piece of almost tasteless fish. I then had to wait yet another seemingly interminable period of time to get the check. With bread, tap water, a bottle of white wine, and a very small tip, this was an expensive dinner. In my opinion, it was drastically overpriced and the service was unacceptable. I can not recommend this restaurant.

Rab Town — Restoran Santa Maria (Dinka Dokule 6) — Atmospheric and delicious!

I’m not sure what the space that this restaurant occupies has been over the years, but it is definitely atmospheric, with stone arches and columns, a stained glass window, grill-work, and a stunning chandelier. I began with a salad of bell peppers served in a delightfully light dressing. I followed with a beef steak in mushroom sauce that was wonderful — tender, flavorful, and succulent! Served with rice, it was generously proportioned. I ended with a serving of Pag cheese, which was nicely presented with red pepper, olives, and bread. Service was commendably attentive and welcoming. With bread, tap water, 2 or 3 glasses of red wine, and tip, this dinner was moderately expensive.

Lovran — Knezgrad (trg Slobode 12) — Inexpensive and delectable!

In a tree-shaded courtyard with quiet music in the background, Knezgrad offers a pleasant setting for fresh seafood. I started with a very fresh mixed salad and then had a very generous serving of delectably flavored fresh mussels — wonderful! Service was attentive, friendly, and relaxed. With bread, tap water, a half liter of white wine, and tip, this dinner was inexpensive.

Rovinj – Santa Croce (Sv Križa 11) — Well worth finding!

Santa Croce is one of two restaurants that share a courtyard. The tables in front belong to the other restaurant; the tables on a terrace above that and in a room behind the terrace belong to Santa Croce. I began my dinner with risotto with scampi and wild asparagus. The serving was generous and the risotto was perfectly prepared — delicious! I followed that with a salad — a huge serving of lettuce, tomato, and feta garnished with red pepper. My waitress provided commendably friendly and attentive service and recommended a very nice wine. With bread, tap water, a bottle of white wine, and tip, this dinner was moderately expensive.

Gračišće — Konoba Marino — Delicious regional specialties

In the wonderfully atmospheric and charming town of Gračišće, Konoba Marino serves absolutely delicious regional specialties. I started with a fresh cucumber salad and then had a huge plate of absolutely outstanding fuži with wild boar sauce. Service was courteous and welcoming. (The same family that runs the Konoba Marino also runs the Poli Luce, Gračišće’s only lodging, which I thoroughly enjoyed.) With bread, tap water, and 2 glasses of red wine, this memorable meal was inexpensive.

Plitvice Lakes — Guest House Mukinja (Mukinje 47) — Delicious!

My dinner at the Guest House Mukinja was included in the price of my lodging there. I’m not sure if one can dine there if one is not a guest, but in case one can, it is well worth considering. I began with a salad of fresh greens, pršut garnished with tomato and olives, and an enormous serving of a luscious fresh cheese. My entrée was a whole, perfectly grilled fresh trout served with herbed potatoes and home-made ajvar. Absolutely delicious! Service was friendly, attentive, and welcoming.

Čigoč – Tradicije Čigoč (Cigoc 7.a) — Delicious traditional dishes

In one of Čigoč’s fascinating traditional dwellings, with both indoor and outdoor seating, the Tradicije Čigoč serves delicious traditional dishes prepared from foods that are locally produced, often by the charming family that runs it. I started with a very fresh mixed salad and then enjoyed a generous serving of a flavorful, fork-tender beef paprikaš served with hearty home-made bread. Wonderful! Service was welcoming, friendly, and attentive. With bread, tap water, and a liter of red wine, this delightful meal was inexpensive.

Varaždin — Pizzeria Angelus (Alojzija Stepinca 3) — A good option for affordable food

With a wide-ranging menu and comfortable dining room, Pizzeria Angelus is a pleasant restaurant — which I was glad to learn because it was apparently my only option, having arrived in Varaždin late on a local religious holiday. I started with a mixed salad and then had risotto with veal and mushrooms in a champagne truffle sauce. The risotto was not perfect, but it was competent and tasty. Service was friendly and relaxed. With tap water, 2 glasses of white wine, and tip, my dinner was inexpensive.

Zagreb — Purger (Petrinjska 33) — Pleasant and affordable

The entrance to the Purger gives no hint that there is a large covered courtyard inside that provides a pleasant place to dine. I had a salad of tomato, green pepper, and onion, followed by “veal Samobor” (escalloped veal sautéed with garlic). I appreciated that my waiter made sure I was aware that it was cooked with garlic before placing my order. It was a bit more strongly flavored than I had anticipated, but it was tender, so no complaints. Portions were generous. Service was attentive and courteous, and I enjoyed the wine that my waiter recommended. With bread, tap water, 2 glasses of white wine, and tip, this dinner was inexpensive.

Zagreb — Restoran Vinodol (Teslina 10) — Very good food, but flawed service

I sat at a table on the Restoran Vinodol’s pleasant outdoor terrace. It was a very busy night at the restaurant, so it was a bit louder than I would have preferred, but not so much as to disrupt my evening. I started with a mixed salad that included a nice array of vegetables. For my entrée, I had veal ispod peke, which was absolutely wonderful — very tender and flavorful! The veal was served with tasty potatoes. I was less satisfied with my service. As I said, it was busy, so I could understand that taking my order and serving my meal took a bit longer than it might otherwise have taken. But I never got the bread I ordered, nor did I get the second glass of wine I ordered, and my water glass was left empty almost all evening. Even after the restaurant began to clear out, it took a very long time to get my check, and when I did get it, I found that I had been charged for the bread and second glass of wine that I had never received. It then took a long time to get the waiter’s attention and obtain a corrected bill. By now, the restaurant was almost empty. Still, it took a long time before the waiter took my money, and some time later, when he returned, I found that I had been given way too much change. It was a significant amount, and I didn’t want to short-change the restaurant, but I also didn’t want the waiter to think I was leaving an outrageously high tip (given the poor service I had received), so I once again waited and waited and waited. When he finally came back, he agreed that there had been an error and impatiently took the extra money, without even a single word of thanks. At least the food was very good! With tap water, 1 glass of white wine, and a very small tip, this meal was inexpensive.

Zagreb — Kod Žaca (Grškovićeva 4) — Outstanding!

Kod Žaca is a small, cozy restaurant with a wealth of decorations — paintings, wine bottles, crockery, baskets, strings of garlic, local crafts, etc. — that, along with the quiet sounds of jazz, create a home-like and welcoming atmosphere. My meal at Kod Žaca was truly outstanding! I started with a very fresh mixed salad, which was served with just-out-of-the-oven roles. My entrée was a huge portion of turkey breast stuffed with mozzarella and topped with melted camembert, served with homemade “croquettes” (tasty deep-fried balls of dough). Service, by the owner/chef, was friendly, attentive, and welcoming. I was very pleased with the wine that he recommended. Counting the bottle of wine, this meal was moderately expensive; with only a glass or two of wine, it would have been inexpensive.

Ljubljana — Zlata Ribica (Cankarjevo nabrežje 5-7) — Delicious fish, wonderful location, inept service

Zlata Ribica is in a great location, with river-side tables near the Triple Bridge. And the food was wonderful! I started with cream of asparagus soup, which was served with freshly baked bread. For my entrée, I had sea bass. The fish was perfectly prepared and beautifully presented as a filet laid atop arugula with asparagus and a red pepper garnish to the side. Outstanding! Unfortunately, my waiter seemed inept. He seemed to want to provide good service, but he never seemed to realize that he could carry more than one or two items on his tray. Throughout the evening, I watched him struggle to cross from the restaurant through the busy pedestrian way to the river-side tables, carrying a large tray with a single basket of bread, or a pair of glasses of wine, or whatever. Each time, he would stop by my table to say, “yes, yes, I’ll bring your [whatever] soon.” Then he would struggle to cross the pedestrian way again and disappear into the restaurant, only to emerge again some time later with a large tray holding only one or two items. He seemed almost frantic in his efforts to keep up, but he was never able manage. He was so nice about it that I couldn’t be angry; instead, I felt sorry for him. Fortunately, it was a pleasant evening and I was in no particular hurry. With bread, tap water, 2 glasses of white wine, and tip, my dinner was moderately expensive.

Ljubljana — Pri Škofu (Rečna Ulica 8) — Excellent food and service

Finding Pri Škofu was a bit more difficult than I expected, but it was well worth the effort! (Hint: Don’t ask locals for directions to the address; ask them how to get to Pri Škofu.) The food and service were excellent. I sat indoors in a bright, simply decorated room; there were also a few outdoor tables. I started with my entrée — beef rolled in peppercorns in a cream sauce, which I had with strukli. The beef was tender, flavorful, and perfectly cooked; the cheese-filled, herbed strukli were mouth-watering. I can easily understand why these are among Pri Škofu’s signature dishes. I ended with a perfectly dressed salad of baby lettuces. Service was friendly and attentive, and I was very pleased with the red wine that my waitress recommended — it complimented the meal very nicely. With bread, tap water, 2 or 3 glasses of red wine, and tip, this wonderfully memorable dinner was a bit pricey.

Lake Bled — Mayer (Želeška cesta 7; at the Penzion Mayer) — Outstanding food

I ate two dinners at Mayer’s restaurant, returning for the second because the first was so good! I sat on a pleasant outdoor patio both evenings; the indoor dining room also looked attractive. Service both nights was attentive and friendly.

My first dinner here began with an appetizer of grilled wild mushrooms, which were truly fantastic. My entrée that night was wild boar with cranberry and juniper, which was beautifully presented with tasty potatoes, various vegetables, baked cottage cheese, and polenta. The generous serving of sliced boar was outstanding — tender, richly flavored, and perfectly complimented by the cranberry/juniper sauce. I also had dessert with this meal — delightfully fresh strawberries and wild blueberries. Including an excellent bottle of red wine recommended by Herr Mayer, bread, tap water, and tip, this was an expensive meal.

For my second dinner, I selected a tasty appetizer of yellow mushrooms grilled with onion and egg. For my entrée, I had grilled trout. It was served whole (and filleted at my table), garnished with herbs and lemon and accompanied by a light garlic dressing and herbed potatoes. Absolutely delicious! With bread, tap water, a liter of white wine, and tip, this dinner was moderately expensive.

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