A low-rise suburban street in Trešnjevka is an unlikely location for one of Zagreb’s cult new bistros, but it’s well worth venturing out here to see what all the fuss is about. Occupying a rather unprepossessing pair of grey first-floor rooms, Šalša chalks up its daily menu – together with a small list of well-chosen wines – on a huge wall-to-wall blackboard; there’s usually a pasta dish, a stew and something seriously meaty to choose from. Šalša’s burgers are legendary, and connoisseur-friendly beers such as Kozel and San Servolo provide additional reason to linger.
A small but perfectly chosen menu has made Burgeraj one of the city centre’s cult eateries. The spicy Pepper Jam Burger or the shiitake-filled Tamari Burger are worth making a pilgrimage here to try out. The interior looks a bit American diner-ish and the excellent drinks list (Fentimans Ginger Beer, Californian Sierra Nevada Pale Ale, local Pale Ale from Zmajska Pivovara) makes this a great place to hang out – it’s just a shame there’s only enough room for about 16 people at a time.
Something of a cult among Zagreb carnivores on account of its delicious gourmet burgers (try the 200g cheeseburger for 36kn), Rougemarin also serves top-notch bistro fare with a small menu of light but delectable meals strong on fish and healthy foods. Three-course set lunches with drink are well worth the 100kn outlay. Boutique Croatian wine, craft beers, and a small outdoor terrace provide further inducements to visit; located amid residential blocks just south of the Radnička cesta business district, it’s not exactly central.
A new crop of quality burger bars sprang up in recent years and this was one of the first, serving deftly grilled patties of pure beef to an appreciative crowd. The cheddar bacon supreme (35kn) is the ruling monarch of the menu, although the pulled-pork sandwich (33kn) also has its devotees. There’s a breakfast option (bacon, eggs and pancakes) available up until 2pm; bottled Belgian beers, Strongbow cider and locally brewed Nova Runda craft beer provide ample excuses to hang around. With a handful of tables on the pedestrianised strip of Tkalčićeva, the setting couldn’t be better.
Occupying the ground floor of the Zagrepčanka, an iconic Seventies-era skyscraper, Tarpon woos the business-lunch crowd with matt black surfaces, solid wood tabletops, and a classic high-protein menu of grilled flesh. Dishes range in price from grilled squid (45kn) to steak with truffles (140kn), with an ample choice of chicken and pork variations filling out the middle ground. There's an extra menu of weekday lunchtime specials, featuring some very reasonable stews and soups. The restaurant proper is on the upper, mezzanine level, while the ground-floor café is perfect place to pause for coffee, cakes and a lung-full of cigarette smoke.
Can burger-flipping be a sustainable, ecologically responsible industry? Well Yellow Submarine is certainly giving it a go. The submariners pride themselves on making thick, succulent burgers from organic local beef, garnished with local škripavac cheese and veggies. Smokehouse (36kn), featuring bacon, mushrooms and smoked cheese, is just one of several imaginative combinations. Fast food this good should be enjoyed slowly – the mellow wooden-stool interior is a pleasant place to sit.
Located in the same building as the Tuškanac cinema and spreading its outdoor seating across the its housemate’s terrace, Papa’s works equally well as an eating or drinking venue, with club sandwiches, hot dogs, wraps, and highly regarded burgers driving home the Transatlantic theme. There’s a list of original-recipe and classic cocktails and some great bottled beers – including Croatian Vukovarsko, Czech Kozel and Brooklyn Pale Ale from across the pond.