Sitting outside in the hot Romanian sun, sipping on a cold glass of Rose and enjoying a meal of cabbage roles with goose, veal and pork, I think back to the days when I wouldn’t eat anything more than chicken nuggets and spaghetti hoops. It’s funny how in just a matter of years I’ve gone from the fussiest eater alive to someone who will try just about anything. But that’s what happens to you when you travel. I believe that trying local food is one of the best ways to experience another place and its culture.
My #1 tip for anyone wanting to explore a country through its food is to ask locals for restaurant recommendations. That’s how I’ve always discovered the most amazing food and restaurants when travelling, and it’s always much better than being dragged into a ‘local’ restaurant which is really just an overcrowded and overpriced tourist trap.
This is why all of the restaurants on this list came in the form of recommendations by locals on my recent trip to Bucharest…
The Iconic One:
★ CARU CU BERE
A large traditional Romanian restaurant, with plenty of beer, in the heart of Old Town. Caru cu Bere, which translates to ‘The Beer Wagon’, was first opened in 1879 and is still to this day extremely popular with both locals and tourists alike. The restaurant’s location is well worth the visit alone, with the gothic revival building with a beautiful art nouveau interior acting as the perfect host to this iconic piece of Bucharest’s culinary scene. If you stick around into the evening there is also a selection of live music and dancing which has punters on their feet into the early hours.
The restaurant is a little pricier than elsewhere in the city but well worth the extra money for both the standard of food and the overall experience.
WHERE: Stavropoleos street, no. 5 (Old Town).
MUST TRY: Veal fillet on a hot stone.
The Hidden Gem:
★ LACRIMI SI SFINTI
Avoid the busier tourist-filled streets of Old Town and walk an extra 2 minutes around the corner to find Lacrimi si Sfinti. With a quiet outdoor front terrace, there is no one standing outside pestering you to come in like many other spots around this area. On their menu, you will find plenty of delicious local dishes for a more than reasonable price.
WHERE: Sepcari street, no. 16 (Old Town).
MUST TRY: Sarmale – Traditional cabbage filled rolls with ground goose, veal and pork, boiled in white wine and served with polenta, sour cream and chilli. I had this popular local dish a few times during my trip and this was undoubtedly the best one I tried!
BONUS: Try the semi-sweet rose. Perfect on a hot day sat outside in the sun.
The International One:
★ SKY BAR / NOMAD
Accessed by a lift at street level, you will find this classy little international bar and restaurant right in the centre of Old Town. With a modern interior, as well as two terraces overlooking the busy streets below, Nomad is the place to go for dinner and a few cocktails before enjoying a night out on the town. They serve a selection of Romanian, Spanish, Greek, American and Asain dishes, as well as varied sharing plates for groups of 2+.
WHERE: Smardan Street, no. 30 (Old Town).
MUST TRY: The NOMAD plate (sharing for 2+) – A selection of best sellers. Chicken souflaki with tzatziki, mini Texan beef burgers, cipirones, buffalo chicken wings and wedges.
The Burger Joint:
Osho may actually be a steak restaurant (watch out – the steaks are rather expensive) but they also serve the most delicious and well-presented burgers in Bucharest. Juicy meat patty’s come inside insta-worthy red and black buns, and are served with a large portion of fries, salad, gherkins, coleslaw/onions and extremely tasty Osho mayo.
WHERE: Bulevardul Primăverii, 19-21.
MUST TRY: The Royal Osho burger with bacon and halloumi.
The Sweet Stuff:
★ CREMERIA EMILIA
Ice-cream, cakes and desserts galore. Often branded as the best ice-cream in Bucharest, Cremeria Emilia is the place to go to make those hot Bucharest summers a little more manageable.
WHERE: Franceza street, no. 42 (Old Town).
MUST TRY: Biscotti ice-cream.
I am aware that most of these options are not particularly suitable for vegetarians or vegans. Romanians really love their meat! If you’re looking for veggie options in Bucharest try Aubergine Restaurant or Arome Bistro.
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