For the past number of years, I’ve been based in the stunning Black Sea port of Varna in the Balkan country of Bulgaria. Since living here, Bulgarian food has become one of my favorite types of food from all of the countries I’ve visited and lived in across Eastern Europe. One of the things that strike me most about food in Bulgaria is the ease of finding an abundance of high-class food. To demonstrate, this article will look at the best kinds of Eastern European food near me that can be found within a few hundred meters of where I live.
Bulgarian Breakfast From a Local Bakery
When I have a long day of work ahead, a hearty Bulgarian breakfast is a classic, tried, and tested way to start the day. Within 100 meters of my apartment are various local bakeries (known as Pekarna / пекарна in Bulgarian). These places, often run by a team of hard-working local women, open in the early hours and often boast queues of Bulgarian looking to get a quick breakfast of classic Bulgarian recipes.
Whilst every Pekarna is different, the food on offer is usually along the same lines. Expect a lot of cheese, bread, meat, and of course, sweet baked products. One of the must try items is a Banitsa. This baked type of pie can be filled with cheese, meat, or sweet jam. It’s a classic Bulgarian dish that is not to be missed.
To wash down the Banitsa, do as the Bulgarians do and order a Big Bozz. This peculiar looking drink resembles a chocolate milkshake but is very different in terms of taste. Bozz or Boza is a fermented, sweet wheat drink that is said to be a digestive aid. If combined with a Turkish coffee, it might be a good idea to be within reach of a toilet!
Canteen Food Made From Traditional Bulgarian Recipes
Depending on where you’re from in the world, when one thinks of the word canteen food most are instantly drawn back to school dinners, military service, or similar institutions. When I’ve been traveling through the former Eastern Bloc, often the most convenient and cheapest Eastern European food near me on offer was canteen food.
In the former Soviet Union, these canteens are known as Stolovaya and are popular favorites amongst locals. In Bulgaria, such places are everywhere and are very similar to a post-Soviet stolovaya except minus the name and often more modern. Fast efficient, and tasty, this canteen food is essentially Balkan fast food minus the nasty additives you’ll find in Western fast-food chains.
As well as greenery, including the classic Bulgarian dish of Shopska salad, you can find an array of Bulgarian cuisine in such food canteens. From rows of freshly grilled sausage like kebabs known locally as Kebapche to fried peppers stuffed with cheese, there’s something on offer for everything. What’s more, these places regularly diversify their options so no two days are the same.
In the true spirit of their socialist heritage, many of these popular canteens also offer happy hour deals for lunch and dinner with generous discounts. These times are popular for Bulgarian pensioners looking to enjoy a good meal that is easy on their pension.
Bulgarian Cuisine in a Bulgarian Restaurant
For evening meals in Bulgaria when I am seeking some Eastern European food near me, I’ll often opt for some Bulgarian cuisine in a local Bulgarian restaurant. Naturally, the city of Varna has an abundance of these. But of course, some are superior to others and vary in style, quality, and atmosphere.
There are various basic restaurants around Varna, and Bulgaria in general, these consist of wooden benches inside and outside with a nearby grill. The food ranges from Shopska salad and Kebapche to tripe soup and mixed grills. They are cheap, cheerful, and often very tasty. However, they’re suited for people looking for a quick, no-frills bite to eat. If looking for a higher-end restaurant to enjoy a meal and perhaps a few glasses of wine, I’ll often opt for a different type of restaurant.
One of my favourite places for a sit-down meal and some Bulgarian cuisine in Varna is a restaurant called Halbata located in downtown Varna. They offer an array of traditional Bulgarian cuisine suitable for meat-eaters and vegetarians alike. To wash it all down they also have an excellent range of local and international beers as well as some fantastic Bulgarian wine.
Eastern European Food Near Me – Bulgarian Sweets
One of my favourite ways to put the cherry on the cake after a hearty meal at one of the many restaurants serving Eastern European food near me is to indulge in some Bulgarian sweets. Every city and town in Bulgaria is home to an array of cake shops which are often open until late, and Varna is no exception.
My favorite cake shop in Varna is a place called Delight located near the city’s gorgeous cathedral. It serves an array of fresh-baked cakes of exceptional quality as well as various other Bulgarian sweets from retro gummy sweets to local tarts. In addition, they also serve some excellent coffee to accompany your Bulgarian sweets. The prices are incredibly low, a large portion of one of their homemade cakes will usually set you back around 1.5 Leva which is around $0.75.
Non-Traditional Eastern European Food Near Me
Of course, this is a modern country and since Bulgaria joined the European Union in 2007, it has modernized at a rapid pace away from the early post-Communist years. As a result, a large chunk of the Eastern European food near me isn’t actually Eastern European at all.
With a few hundred meters from my apartment, I’m able to find Chinese food, Mexican cuisine, Sushi, Italian, and much more. In an increasingly globalized world combined with the fact that Varna is a bustling Black Sea port, the number of international restaurants and examples of non-traditional Eastern European food near me is growing at an incredible rate.
And thus, a few examples of good examples to showcase the abundance of some of the best Eastern European food near me in Varna, Bulgaria. I’m glad to see the old stereotypes of Eastern European food being ”bland” are well and truly dying out as people discover the culinary delights that Eastern European food has to offer in multiple countries ranging from the Balkans to Russia!