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Traditional Bulgarian Restaurants on the Northern Coast

One of the best things about Bulgaria is the low cost of food and the enormous selection of fresh organic produce and fine local wines. Good restaurants take advantage of these assets and still the price for a meal for two with a bottle of wine amounts to no more than 25 lv. The towns around the Northern Black Sea coast have a wide selection of traditional and international eateries offering excellent cuisine at very reasonable prices, the key to finding them is to stay out of the beach resorts and head into the towns themselves.

Bulgarian food is not totally alien to our palate; it consists of many grilled, skewered and barbecued meats and salads as well as specially prepared stews, cold soups and the popular pastry, banitza. One thing to note about traditional Bulgarian restaurants is that food is served in the traditional Bulgarian way – when it is ready, so don’t expect all of your dishes to arrive at once.

The Old Village, Varna

If you are looking to experience real Bulgarian food in a traditional atmosphere, head for Varna’s Old Village (Staro Sello) on Vasil Drumev St, just off the main coast road heading from Golden Sands to Varna Centre (Tel: (052) 78 30 77, Opening Hours: 11:30 –24:00). The authentic decor of wooden beams, richly coloured woven tablecloths, whitewashed walls and painted pottery has a Revival touch to it. During winter the open fires give warmth and atmosphere and in summer you can dine on the secluded patio outside. The restaurant is disabled- friendly and the staff are attentive and speak both English and Bulgarian and menus come in a variety of languages – you really will be spoilt for choice by the huge selection and the delicious aromas drifting in from the kitchen, where every dish is cooked fresh to order.

Recommended dishes are the lamb, the pork and chicken skewers and the grilled ribs. Fear not, if you are accompanied by fussy eaters who turn their noses up at ‘foreign’ food! The Old Village does have several dishes to cater for fussy foreigners including homemade pizzas. Those more adventurous diners can try some really authentic Bulgarian cuisine like the pig’s tongue or lambs cheeks. During the evenings at the Old Village there is a wonderful party atmosphere with live music and dancing – if you want to learn the Bulgarian traditional dance, the horo, this is the place to come. A meal for two with alcohol will cost you around 25 to 30 lv. The interior at the Old Village is huge and if you are looking for something a little more intimate then try the Mehana in Kranevo, likewise if you have fidgety kids in tow, then don’t come here out of season as there is nothing to keep them occupied; in summer they can run around the terrace, but the Mehana in Kranevo offers more entertainment for the kids than the old village.

The Mehana Kranevo

The seaside town of Kranevo lies around 4 km from Golden Sands and can be reached by local bus heading in the direction of Albena. It is home to two excellent traditional restaurants, which are priced far cheaper than those in the neighbouring beach resorts. The Mehana Kranevo lies on the main square and is easily recognised by its vivid reddish orange paintwork and traditional Revival architecture. The restaurant is only open during the summer season and most dining is al fresco amongst the well tended patio bursting with colour from the profusion of pink, orange, yellow, red and gold flowers.  Tables are arranged in neat, covered alcoves around a stone courtyard with a pond as the centrepiece. In summer, the main focus is a delightful stone courtyard with a crystal clear pond. Kids are free to run around, throw coins into the pond and hag out on the little wooden bridge. There are also a couple of fair rides next door where the kids can go whilst waiting for their food. Waiters are dressed in traditional costume and all speak English. Menus contain pictures and come in a variety of languages, although some of the translations leave a lot to the imagination. The restaurant offers a friendly service but as all dishes are cooked fresh to order in the outdoor kitchen there is sometimes a delay between dishes and it is wise to order a selection of hors d’oeuvres to share whilst you wait. Salads here are excellent and huge and at 500 g per portion they are a meal in themselves, yet they are priced at around 5 to 7 lv. The BBQ dishes are also superb and you can watch them being cooked in the open air kitchen. Recommended is the lamb including the kevarme, the roast chicken, the Broccoli Kranevo Style, which consists of fresh broccoli, served with Roquefort cheese. There are some classic traditional ‘mystery’ dishes worth trying and they will only set you back a couple of lev, you can either pick the name that makes you laugh the most like the Girlish Dream or just stick a pin into the menu and hope that it didn’t land on Gizzards with Onion. During the evenings, there is live music here and sometimes a fire eater.

Izvore, Kranevo

Open all year round, this restaurant is used frequently by Bulgarians and expats alike and whilst it is tucked away on a side street you will have no problem finding it – just ask, everybody knows where it is. Its actual location is in the town centre, on a side street, past the Allianz bank on the left hand side heading towards the beach. It is a huge traditional white washed building with plenty of parking spaces. You can dine in the covered garden area where there is a lovely pond with an otter swimming in it (although he is a little shy) or indoors next to the roaring fire. A meal for two with a bottle of wine will cost around 30 lv. The food is excellent and the menu, in a variety of languages. Particularly recommended are the mussel’s natur, the Shopska salad, the meat skewers and the pork with blueberry sauce. The restaurant is decked out in a traditional Bulgarian mehana style and the service is most attentive, although it’s no place for kids who can’t sit still and wait to be served. The restaurant also has a lovely hotel attached to it and is well worth trying if you are looking for something more traditional than package holiday accommodation.