(Written in October 2010)
For the sake of my culinary sanity, it’s good to be out of Romania. I had read that Serbia and Kosovo were also majorly carnivorous countries but, in my experience, it was much easier to find satisfying vegetarian and vegan meals here than in Romania. Tomato, cucumber and pepper salads are back with a vengeance and a selection of vegetarian soups are common at most restaurants. Veggie pizza and pasta is ubiquitous but it’s also easy (and generally tastier) to piece together meals from typical local appetizers and sides: grilled vegetables, stewed beans, bell pepper dips, roasted mushrooms, potatoes, etc. For snacks, street vendors and kiosks selling roast corn, hot chestnuts and salty nuts are also commonplace. Below are a few places that stood out:
Trattoria Kosova (Kralja Petra 36)
This friendly casual bistro just off the main pedestrian shopping street looks like it could be on a trendy New York street corner. House-baked breads perfume the air of the cosy country-kitchen inspired dining area while busy business people pop in and out for sandwiches and pastries to go. Their huge portion of tomato soup served with crunchy herb croutons was the highlight of our meal, but a good selection of salads, pizzas and pastas would have kept us coming back if we’d had more time. Be sure to save room for some homemade pumpkin burek for dessert- it was fantastic!
Allo’ Allo’ (Svetozara Markovica 19)
A cute kitchy spot for pizza and creative salads. The grilled vegetable appetizer plate also proved to be very generous (and delicious). All dishes were prepared with a remarkable attention to detail and presentation that belied their very reasonable prices.
Ambient Restaurant (on the Shadrvan side of the river, in the farthest upstream spot)
Only the food was more awesome than the fact that our waiter greeted us on the street after we’d eaten here only once. Their very generous Mixed Salad was the best in the Balkans, featuring lettuce, two kinds of marinated cabbage, tomatoes, cucumbers, boiled potatoes, olives and (optional) cheese. Delicious tomato soup, bruscetta, and reliably good pizzas, pastas and omelets make this a good bet for repeat visits. The setting, with ample outdoor seating, is quiet and atmospheric. Prices are great considering the location and large serving. A full meal for two shouldn’t set you back more than 10 or 12 euro.
Beseni Cafe (just behind Sinan Dasha Mosque)
This relaxed cafe with big white picnic tables covering their porch offers no real menu but offers expertly made coffee drinks and, unexpectedly, tasty waffles served with Eurocreme (like Nutella, only different). A great breakfast or afternoon handout spot.