Stomach is not only the sole way to men's heart. The rule is valid for anyone who is in a foreign country and wants to get to know it. The qualities, tastes and diversity of Bulgarian cuisine thus explain to a significant degree why so many visiting foreigners fall in love with the country.
Specialised restaurants are the best way to discover the magic of Bulgarian culinary tradition. They bring together well known and beloved classics like Shopska salad and yogurt, and rarer regional specialities. Thumbing through their menus, you are already on a culinary trip around Bulgaria, with the fish delicacies of the Black Sea, the Rhodope Patatnik potato pie, the Bansko's Kapama meat stewed with sauerkraut. Add the rich selection of wonderful Bulgarian wines and the traditional atmosphere of these places, and you end up with a taste and an experience in which falling in love with is inevitable.
Hadjidraganovite Kashti: The home of tradition
Hadjidraganovite Kashti (Sofia, 75 Kozlodyi St, phones: + 359 2 931 31 48, + 359 899 917 837, www.kashtite.com) appeared in 1866, when the merchant Hadzhi Dragan invited master builders from Koprivshtitsa, Zheravna, Melnik and Bansko and commissioned each of them to built a house in the respective architecture tradition. The result is still impressive. After a renovation that took 3 years and ended in 2004, the restaurant is the best way to fall in love with the classic and regional cuisine of Bulgaria. Regardless of whether you sit in one of the houses or in the wonderful summer garden, Hadjidraganovite Kashti are a culinary trip back in time and in the tastes of Bulgaria. The menu includes a wide range of traditional meat and vegetarian dishes, the revived old recipes in the Meat/Lean initiative, and of unique specialities like roasted lamb knuckle, Hlebnitsa porcini soup in a bread bowl or giant Voevodska sofra for 10 people. All of this is accompanies by an excellent selection of Bulgarian beverages and life folklore music.
Chekpoint Charly: Discovering the classics
Named after the infamous checkpoint in Cold War Berlin, Checkpoint Charly restaurant (Sofia, 12 Ivan Vazov St, phone: 02 988 03 70, www.checkpointcharlybg.com) stands out not only for its intriguing interior divided between Communist East and democratic West, and covered with the autographs by famous diners, such as Umberto Eco and Elizabeth Kostova. For years, Checkpoint Charly has been a beloved place for the Sofia Boheme and for everyone who cherishes quality food. The menu plays on the pleasant variety and filling sizes, manoeuvring between classical Bulgarian dishes like cheese pastry, meatballs, Smilyan beans, polenta, buffalo cheese and tasty tomatoes and recipes beloved across political borders, like risotto, salmon, schnitzel and duck breasts. The wine list is carefully selected and on Friday nights there is live jazz music.
Vodenitzata: The spirit of Bulgaria
The feel that you are about to experience something memorable and authentic will begin long before you approach Vodenitzata (Sofia, Dragalevtsi, Vitosha Park, first station of Dragalevtsi chair-lift, phones: +359 2 967 1058, +359 888 70 31 03, www.vodenitzata.com), while are gradually climbing the feet of the Vitosha, with its beautiful landscapes and crystal air. The feel will become stronger when you enter the restaurant's blossoming garden, and when you open the menu the pleasant surprises will continue. On the pages are listed fresh traditional salads, a wonderful selection of Bulgarian cheeses and salami, a variety of meat and vegetarian hot starters, and classical meatballs and skewers, plus more exotic suggestions like knuckle in Haydut style and specifically created gourmet steak menu. But Vodenitzata is not only a pleasure for the palate. It is also a pleasure for the soul – every evening from 9pm the restaurant becomes a stage for life traditional Bulgarian music and dance performances, the best companion to everyone who has decided to discover the spirit of Bulgaria.