Whenever I plan a trip outside the city, I tend to frantically make a list of places I should go visit. You’d say all the guides and blogs in the world can make your life easier, but hey, I am not searching for castles and contemporary art museums. Those come in second, sorry history buffs! I am online hunting for places where I can have a bite or two of something, preferably the best in town. Traveling surely does open our minds and spirit, until you reach that point when your feet are sore and your stomach becomes concave. My friend, Alina has a word for that and it perfectly fits my description: hangry. Being hangry on a trip asks for a satisfying meal to get your mood back on. So, if you ever had a week to travel throughout Romania, here’s a hypothetical list of 7 places you wouldn’t want to miss for every day of the week.
Old Kitchen – 13, Sfinții Voievozi, Bucharest
The capital is worthy of many great places to eat out. This place caught my attention, because it is moving away from any mainstream restaurants and all meals are traditional and meticulously prepared with high quality organic ingredients by local chefs. The bistro goes 13 years back, but even though there have been changes in the name and décor, the menu is still fresh, local and authentic. I bet you’ve never tried a smoked meat tarragon soup. You can easily just order this, along with some tasty bread spreads, like the eggplant salad and a natural syrup soda. I promise you’ll be rolling back to your hotel, because all portions are substantial and Romanian food makes you feel satiated quickly! The fusion of regional cuisines totally satisfies your taste buds and service is homey. Since there is always space for dessert, end your lunch with a sweet semolina dish adorned with raisins.
Elliniko Steki Greek Restaurant – 121, Ion Lahovari, Constanța
Moving on to the seaside, no matter the season, this small family restaurant can easily be passed by unnoticed. Though it is the oldest Greek restaurant in Constanța, this place deserves a lot more attention from non-locals as well. Whether you crave for a classic souvlaki or a seafood saganaki dish, you are in the right place. Our minor Greek community living in the city always choose Elliniko Steki for a lamb lemonato just like their grandmothers used to make at home for special events. Spare an afternoon to enjoy lunch and have a chat with the friendly owners, who will fit at your small table and serve you a shot of ouzo, just to fully plunge into the Greekness of it all!
Bistro de l’Arte – Piața Enescu, 11 Bis, Brașov
The city of the crown, also known as Kronstadt is a great site for a Transylvanian getaway. With a melting pot of cultures- Saxon, Hungarian and Romanian- imagine dishes that transpire all of these at once! Bistro del Arte is a restaurant very dear to me, because it is the first place where I experienced slow food and where I got to really understand this concept. Good, clean and fair are the three principles that define their cuisine, based on local organic products and recipes. Try a typical Brașovian Crêpe with ground beef, cream and tomato sauce, I guarantee it won’t disappoint. Transylvanians also take pride in their amazing cinnamon plum dumplings, also known as Gomboți. The way they make them here take you on a taste-buds journey as royal as an evening at the Peleș Castle dining room during the 20’s.
Weinkeller Sibiu – 2, Turnului St., Sibiu
Hermannstadt – the Saxon medieval capital and Europe’s Capital of Culture in 2007 – make all your dreams about fairy-tale towns come true. And while the citadel used to be an important trading knot back in the days, the abundance of wines, flavors and spices made it easy for the locals to develop impressive signature dishes. This is why Weinkeller is such a fit when it comes to resident wines and very tasty Transylvanian meals! I warmly recommend any local meal, such as goulash soup or their homemade Weinkeller steak with brown gravy, although you should go there openhearted, since their menu changes weekly. Whether you are a wine buff or just an enthusiast, the waiters are highly attentive and can easily suggest the type of red or white that can accompany your dish.
Vărzărie Cluj – 35-37 Eroilor Blvd, Cluj-Napoca
Who would have thought that such an ordinary vegetable like the cabbage can become king in state-of-the-art meals? Whether people in Transylvania are peculiar or not, our taste buds crave for a Varză á la Cluj (Cabbage á la Cluj) in the oldest eatery of the kind. Opened during the Golden Age in 1970, this restaurant provides you with the most authentic communist experience, starting with the napkins carefully set like a flower in the glasses waiting for you on the tables and ending with wall decorations from those times, as well as the ceiling fan with light that only helps spread the incredible smell of cabbage stew around the saloon. Food is authentic, extremely low-priced and your visit to the city on the Someș river will be complete with lunch or dinner at Vărzărie.
Rocker’s Inn, Cheile Nerei – 763 Strada Principală, Sasca Montană
There are some places in Romania that deserve a lot more attention than they have received so far, and Sasca Montană is definitely one of them. Apart from the pristine natural scenery and the easy wilderness hikes along a large river bank with instagrammable waterfalls, the locals surely know how to feed you well. Rocker’s Inn is a modern alternative in the heart of an ancient copper mine village. Dinner can take you through all cuisines of the world, however the mighty duck with red cabbage and the fresh local trout with polenta could be the winners for your dinner. Oh, I forgot to mention that if you order the burger, the bun is home-made with roasted pumpkin seeds on top to cultivate your appetite!
Port Cultural Cetate – Port Cetate, Dolj County
A last stop before heading back to the capital should be authentic and classy. Port Cultural Cetate is a renovated agricultural port and inn on the Danube run by a famous Romanian poet, revolutionary gourmet and wine producer. You will have a truly royal gastronomic experience, since most dishes are inspired from long forgotten 19th century aristocratic recipes. Don’t miss the catch of the day fish soup, the carp on the grill with polenta and garlic sauce and Romanian tapas as starters. Get inspired by all cultural conversations you might come across there and, with a little bit of good timing, you can attend one of the film or music festivals that make this place even more enjoyable during the summer.
For even more reasons why Romania should be on your travel bucket list, we recommend you this story.
About Alexandra Carlsson
I am a social media strategist by day and a culinary guide by night. The things that make me click the most about Romanian gastronomy are the variety of seasonal delicacies and the local producers that struggle hard to keep our cultural identity intact. If you travel to Romania, step away from the beaten path and dare to experience local eateries with me: www.classyromania.com/ www.facebook.com/classyromania