There are times when only good home cooking will do. Despite its reputation for crisp clear weather, Zagreb can also be quite cold in winter, and this is when Croatian comfort food comes into its own.
While Zagreb has seen a boom in creative cuisine and global street food in the last few years, this has in no way taken the shine off the enduring appeal of the traditional hearty lunch. Luckily the Croatian kitchen repertoire is full of the kind of filling winter fare that will bring a rosy glow to your cheeks and – after an appropriate pause for digestion – a renewed spur to your sightseeing energies.
Thick stews and soups are central to the winter menu: grah (a thick stew of beans often served with sausage) and čobanac (a paprika-seasoned meat stew similar to Hungarian goulash) are frequently brought to the table in big tureens with massive ladles. Punjene paprike (peppers filled with minced meat), sarma (cabbage leaves stuffed with meat and rice) and ćufte (meatballs in rich red sauce) are the other home-comfort dishes that no self-respecting neighbourhood restaurant could afford to do without. For vegetarians, sadly, there is not a great deal of choice, although štrukli (doughy parcels filled with tangy creamy cheese) is one of those central-Croatian specialities that is safe to eat.
Despite the city’s growing tourist reputation, there are still plenty of restaurants for whom affordable traditional fare remains the principal raison-d’etre, and have retained a loyal army of local customers as a result. Listed below are just some of our favourites.