Bulgaria has been, for more than 1,300 years of its existence, a crossroad country in the heart of the Balkans. Therefore, it has absorbed many traditions and customs, and has been transformed into a very unique nation. When it comes to food and eating out, Bulgaria is a typical Balkan country. It serves traditional meals, mainly based on meat, wonderful wines and fantastic pastries. In all big cities and towns there is a large selection of restaurants, pubs, bars and cafes. In fact, you will hardly find a village without its own pub.
Bulgaria has a world-famous cuisine. It unites in many aspects the culinary traditions of the Balkans, simultaneously creating its own original taste and gastronomic value. Bulgarian recipes are mainly based on meat, especially pork, but also on beef, lamb and chicken. One of the most popular dishes is peppers that are filled with sliced meat and rice. Like most Balkan nations, Bulgarians produce home-made sausages and other specialities. They are very tasty and especially appetising with a good red wine. Bulgarian soups are also prepared with meat.
At the seaside, dishes prepared with fish and seafood and are particularly popular. When visiting the Bulgarian Black Sea coast, one should try the famous ribena chorba – or 'fish soup'. Salads, as well as fried and grilled fish, are also delicious in this region. They are usually served with mastica – a drink similar to Greek Uzo or French Pastisse, only stronger – or with a glass of good white wine.
Vegetarians can also count on fantastic traditional meals – starting from soups to main courses. Some of the most famous dishes include bean soup or the tarator – a cold soup made from yogurt, cucumbers, garlic, chestnuts and spices. The latter is particularly refreshing on hot summer days at the seaside.
Bulgarians are also famous for their pastries and pasta. The banitza for instance, traditionally made with cheese, has a number of regional varieties with various fillings such as spinach, cabbage and rice and meat. A big round banitza is traditionally served on New Year’s Eve.
Bulgarians have a very specific order regarding their evening meal. It starts with a salad and some brandy. The traditional Bulgarian brandy is called rakia, and it's usually made from grapes or plums, but other varieties are also available such as apricot and pear, among others. Rakia is a strong, full-flavoured alcoholic drink – fantastic but one has to be careful when not familiar with this drink. In case of a bad headache on the next day, Bulgarians can recommend a traditional remedy: some juice made from cabbage, otherwise known as the shkembe chorba, and a good beer will help you quickly recover.
The big cities in Bulgaria offer a large choice of restaurants, bars and cafes. You can have a fancy dinner in a traditional restaurant, exquisite French cuisine or a cheap Chinese meal. In Sofia there are sushi bars, Brazilian restaurants, Lebanon cuisine and much more. In smaller towns and villages, if they are famous tourist venues, you will find traditional taverns, pubs and small restaurants – with live music in most cases. Traditional restaurants are also predominant at the seaside.
Service charge is sometimes included in the bill; however, tips should amount to 5 - 10 percent of the price – and the legal drinking age is 18.
Tourism is one of the most prospering industries in Bulgaria and cuisine is one of the country’s top charms. With excellent world-famous wines, especially red ones, traditional rakia, the unique music and atmosphere – eating out in Bulgaria turns into a one-in-a-lifetime experience that one will never forget. Although prices are always affordable, tourists must be cautioned to pay some attention to the restaurant they are choosing. If all else fails, the small taverns are also very nice.