By Nika Bogdanic
Even though good food is the number one reason to pick a restaurant, there are other factors that count as well – such as the service, the prices or the atmosphere. I love places where I feel like home. Warm, colorful and cozy places. Here are some of my faves in Zagreb:
The Cookie Factory
The day I first discovered a warm brownie with scoops of ice cream on top was a truly special day. The Cookie Factory in Tkalčićeva street serves cookies and cakes inspired by American traditions. Besides cookies, brownies, cakes and ice creams you can have some really good coffee there. The interior of the place reminds me of a living room – there are comfy chairs, cute little signs on the walls, and it’s filled with the smell of coffee. There’s also a charming little terrace in front of the place. The prices are proportional to the service and the delicious sweets.
Besides for great food, this place is also famous for its location – Skalinska street is a tiny street that connects Tkaličićeva street to Dolac market. It really looks amazing as you get to see the Cathedral through the narrow street. Nokturno’s interior is warm and rustic, however, the place is most famous for its cozy wooden terrace that gets quite busy during the warmer seasons. They serve Italian and some traditional Croatian food. Besides to your stomach Nokturno will be kind to your wallet – you can have a main dish for an average of 35 HRK. Recommendation: try Penne Mare Monti (pasta with shrimps) – it’s one of my favorite dishes there.
The first Kava Tava opened in 2007 in Britanski square, followed by the opening of another one in Tkalčićeva street. There’s a specific red -wooden – retro design that makes this place very charming and cozy. It is most famous for big and delicious portions of American pancakes with fruits and chocolate. However, if you’re in the mood for something salty, don’t worry, there’s also a variety of toast sandwiches and breakfasts to choose from. The concept behind this place is a combination of Croatians’ love for quick service restaurants and the delights of fresh American pancakes.
This colorful and warm tapas bar is located in Radićeva street in the city center. It’s not a restaurant so don’t go there starving – or you might have to order quite a large number of tapas. Besides the tapas which are basically simple but delicious slices of bread with various interesting toppings, they have fabulous desserts, and killer sangrias with berries and ginger. The pleasant stuff in combination with the Spanish inspired interior makes this place truly charming. Recommendation: sangria and nachos are a nice combination.
A small but very special place in Gajeva street that serves healthy stews (which are called čušpajz in Croatian). The smell of the stews, the colorful but tiny interior and the charming little terrace will make you feel at home immediately. Every day you can choose between a veggie and a meat stew. The menu changes daily as it depends on the fresh ingredients so you can’t get bored with it. The price for one dish of health and joy is around 35 HRK which is really reasonable.
If you want to have typical Croatian/Balkan food like sarma, dalmatinska pašticada, slavonski čobanac or purica z mlincima…. this is definitely the place to be. Located in Mesnička street in the city center this traditional place was once the height of dining out. Their food is a real remedy for your stomach as it’s carefully prepared for hours (traditional Croatian food takes a long time to cook). Most of the main dishes cost around 60 HRK which is really reasonable for this type of cuisine. Try not to have eyes bigger than your belly when you first see the menu because the portions are quite big.
Konoba Didov San
The word konoba describes a traditional restaurant with Dalmatian cuisine. In this rustic wooden tavern with a charming terrace you’ll find food based on cuisine from the Neretva River delta in Dalmatia’s hinterland – such as grilled frogs wrapped in prosciutto, uštipak served with kajmak (a type of fried dough served with soft cheese), kaštradina s raštikom (a type of stew) or eel and frog brudet (another type of stew). You can find Konoba Didov San at two locations in Zagreb: one in Mletačka street in the Upper Town and the other in Kajzerica neighborhood in Novi Zagreb. The prices are not as low as in other places listed, but hey, how many times have you eaten frogs wrapped in prosciutto or an eel and frog stew? Reserve ahead as it gets quite busy.
This is the first place in Zagreb to dedicate its cuisine exclusively to a traditional dish coming from the Zagorje region in Croatia. Štrukli are made of dough filled with cottage cheese and here they’re served in various unexpected sweet and salty ways. The restaurant is small, warm and cozy, there’s a romantic little terrace in the back yard and the staff is very pleasant. It’s located in Skalinska street, opposite Nokturno. The portions are large and the prices are budget friendly.
The crispy, thin-crust pizza from a clay oven is an institution in Zagreb. The secret is in the high-quality ingredients – such as smoked ham, olive oil, rich mozzarella, cherry tomatoes, rocket and shiitake mushrooms, and in the intimate atmosphere. The prices are a bit higher than in other pizza places in Zagreb, but it’s really worth it. Try to arrive early though as the restaurant doesn’t take bookings and it gets busy. You can find Karijola in two locations in Zagreb: in Vlaška street and in Badalićeva street.
Ribice i tri točkice
This colorful seafood bistro is located in the city center on the corner of Masarykova and Preradovićeva street. What makes the interior charming are the paintings made by Vjekoslav Voje Radoičić, a Croatian painter, which introduces the guests to the sea world. During the warmer seasons there’s a terrace as well, the staff is really pleasant, the seafood is simple but divine and the prices are very reasonable – 30–70 HRK for a main dish.
Mak na Konac
This is definitely love at first cake! Mak na Konac is located near the Trg Žrtava Fašizma square. Their signature is the magnificent poppy-seed cake filled with raspberry jam. Other sweets are just as spectacular as Mak na Konac has almost two decades of experience in the kitchen. Also, don’t worry if you’re intolerant to some ingredients – this place has gluten-free, diabetic friendly and dairy free sweets. The light-colored wood and colorful cushions give a warm touch to the cozy interior filled with the smell of the sweets.
How about you? What are your favorite cozy places in Zagreb?