Croatians love their food, and it’s difficult to find a truly bad meal in the country. Eating patterns are different, with breakfast usually skipped and restaurants opening around midday and closing at midnight. Bars, pubs and clubs in the resort towns are lively and fun, with live rock and pop music nights alternating with Croatian music by from local groups. International cuisine is found in all the upscale hotels, along with nightclubs, fashionable bars and the occasional casino.
Bars and Pubbing in Croatia
Plenty of choice in watering holes at all levels can be found in the beach resorts and larger Croatian cities, from the informal pivnica pubs to popular lounge bars, cafes serving alcohol and Irish pubs with all the trimmings. A good example is Zagreb’s Dublin Pub (Maximirska 75, Zagreb), with its huge selection of Croatian and international beers, and Pivnica Medvedgrad (Samaborska Cesta 217, Zagreb), a favorite for great service, affordable prices and lively crowd.
The wines in Croatia have a history that dates back to the early Greek settlers and the Istria peninsula is where to head if you want to sample the best of the best. Hundreds of vineyards dot the hilly landscape and thanks to the rich soil of the Mirna River valley and Adriatic Sea, producing complex whites with a few varietals of reds.
For motorcycle buffs, the Bikers’ Beer Factory (Savska 150, Zagreb) is a must for its dimly-lit ambience and laid-back clientele, whereas Bulldog (Bogoviceva 6, Zagreb) is the city’s see-and-be-seen haunt with nightly live music, DJs and plenty of dancing. The club scene is best in the resorts, with open-air Club Papaya (Novalja, Pag Island, Zadar) one of the leading exponents for its wild parties until 7:00 a.m. For spectacular beach fun, the Southern Comfort Beach Bar (Baska Voda Island, Croatia) is open all day and most of the night.
Opatija’s famous Hemingway Bar (Zert 2, Opatija) is a resort club that stays open until 6:00 a.m. with most bars and pubs in the area shuttering at 11:00 p.m. Dubrovnik is a hub for trendy nightlife, with jazz fans heading to the Trubador Hard Jazz Café (Buniceva Poljana 2, Dubrovnik) for live performances by talented local musicians. For cocktails served by the bucket, Galerie (Kuniceva 5, Dubrovnik Old Town) is the place to be, which doesn’t open until 9:00 p.m.
Dining and Cuisine in Croatia
Gostionikas and konobas are local, family-run restaurants that serve freshly-caught fish, hand-smoked meats, homegrown vegetables and house-made wines. In Zagreb and the main resorts, international foods such as Italian, Greek, French and Asian cuisine can be found, with fine dining mainly in the upscale hotels. Zagreb’s Italian favorite is Gallo (Herbrangova 34, Zagreb), a stylish venue that serves delicious dishes of good value.
Another trendy Zagreb eatery is Dubravkin Put ( Dubravkin Put 2, Upper Town, Zagreb), known for its seafood and vast selection of wines. Traditional, high quality, Central Croatian and Istrian fare is found at Tac (Vhrovec 140, Zagreb), known for its seasonal specialties. If you’re in Dubrovnik, don’t miss Sesame, (Dante Alighieri, Dubrovnik), set in a 200-year old house that serves innovative Mediterranean dishes. For a meat feast, Konabo Mediterano (Androviceva, Dubrovnik) boasts outdoor dining on a pretty square.
Split is the heartland of traditional Croatian cuisine, with international foods hard to come by, but the quality more than makes up for the lack of choice. Eating where the locals go is the rule, with stewed meats, grilled seafood fresh straight the harbor and home-made pasta the highlights. Nostromo (next to the Fish Market, Split) is one of the best, set in a plain building enlivened by the presentation of the dishes. Traditional Buffet Fife (Veli Varos, Split) is another unpretentious restaurant with its highlight the delicious, meaty, Pasticada stew.