Veggin’ Out in Sofia

(Written in September 2010)

Compared to the rest of Bulgaria, Sofia offers a veritable cornucopia of vegan and vegetarian dining options. Though there are many excellent traditional mehanas (taverns) in the capital, save your sampling of traditional Bulgarian cuisine for places that have fewer options than Sofia.

Dream House (50 A Ul. Alabin – just around the corner from the McDonalds on Vitosha Ave.)

This place is a little hard to find, but worth the effort. Enter a small shopping arcade (with a small Dream House sign, among many others, above the entrance, look for the first big door on your left and take the stairs up one level. You’ll be met by a bright, quiet dining room overlooking the street for some fun people watching.

The (Bulgarian & English) menu explains that restaurant also runs an organic farm in the nearby mountains where it gets most of its produce and explains a bit of its admirable vegetarian philosophy. The salads and soups are both very good with some inventive deviation from the Bulgarian standards. The hummus plate (listed as a salad) is an excellent and filling starter. Entrees are generally simple but filling, and many are vegan. The Chinese-style tofu dishes are particularly satisfying. A substantial wine and beer selection is available as well as a selection of teas and (not to be missed) homemade almond milk.

Slantse Luna (corner of Ul. Gladstone & Knyaz Boris)

A gem! This charming bakery with a few tables on the sidewalk and additional seating inside, was the best food we tasted in Sofia. All their bread is made from whole grains ground into flour on-site. Sandwiches are huge and satisfying, with a few vegan options. The all-vegetarian menu is not extensive but well chosen and helpfully identifies items as “vegan” or “can be made vegan”. The only caveat is that they often run out of, or simple do not have, some items that appear on the menu, so be sure to ask before you get your heart set on a certain dish.

The “Artistically Gymnastics” Salad is a real stand-out: shredded beets & carrots, sweet corn, onion and basil dressed with olive oil. The rotating “Vegetable Stew of the Day” also proved a reliable winner.

Entrees are inventive, with a few Indian-inspired choices, but on the small side for their price. From the drinks menu, the apple-pumpkin juice and grapefruit beer are both unusually outstanding.

Kibea (2A Ul. Valkovich)

This Sofia veggie institution was unfortunately closed during our visit, but the menu posted outside looked great.

My Organic Market (2 stores: 48 Ul. Parchevich & 3 Ul. Yanra, (http://www.myorganicmarket.bg)

A tiny health food store (we only went to the Parchevich location) that carries soy and rice milks, tempeh and healthful snacks. They also carry organic cosmetics and have a small deli.

The “Ladies Market”

This is the major outdoor food market in Sofia where the locals buy their staples. Prices are low and food in fresh from the farms. A must-visit if you have a kitchen at your disposal or just to browse and see another side of Sofia. Be sure to watch your bag and get ready to practice your Bulgarian.

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