I may have mentioned this a few times already (okay pretty much in every single post so far), but Matthew and I are really into food. I’m really excited to share with you some of the amazing food we’ve had during our time in Ljubljana! And I can already see this “What We Ate in …” thing becoming a series so if you’re a foodie like we are then you can look forward to that. If not, feel free to skip those posts. 🙂
As I mentioned in my previous post about the things we have loved in Ljubljana, this city has a diverse food scene. You can get global cuisines of all sorts, including Chinese, Thai, Indian, Italian, and Middle Eastern. And, of course, there’s plenty of Slovenian food as well.
Slovenian cuisine is a wonderful combination of foods influenced by Slovenia’s neighboring countries (and former occupying powers), including Austria, Hungary, and Italy. It is a heavy, hearty cuisine with lots of meat and cheese. Slovenian food may have left us wishing for more veggies at times, but we enjoyed everything that we tried. Here are some of the highlights of what we ate in Ljubljana.
Carniolan Sausage at Klobasarna
Carniolan sausage is a traditional Slovenian sausage similar to kielbasa. It’s made from pork and served with bread, dried cabbage and mustard. We also tried some jota, which is a cabbage stew. The whole thing, including wine for me and beer for Matthew only cost 12 euro. It was a delicious meal of cheap, hearty comfort food. Klobasarna is located right in Ljubljana’s Old Town, right by my favorite square, Mestni Trg. There are only a couple of indoor seats, so it’s best to go when the weather’s nice so you can sit outside and enjoy fresh air and people-watching.
Set Lunch at Gostilna Dela
Gostilna Dela is a cute little restaurant with a great mission. They offer vocational training to young people who are at risk of long-term unemployment due to lacking formal education. We had a delicious three-course lunch there for less than 10 euro per person. The menu changes every day (posted each morning on Facebook and on a chalkboard outside the restaurant). Each day they offer one soup, one dessert, and three different entrées (a meat, a fish, and a veggie). You can choose whether you want one, two, or three courses. Here’s what they were offering the day that we went:
The pea soup was something that I probably never would have chosen from a menu, but it was so satisfying and delicious. My stuffed peppers (the vegetarian option that day) were very good, and they actually felt healthy, unlike many of the other foods mentioned in this post. The cheese cake was not overly sweet, which I appreciated. We intended to go back to Gostilna Dela for another lunch before we left Ljubljana, but it never happened. (Too many new places to try, I guess.) But it’s definitely a place we would recommend to others.
Zimbabwean Feast at Skuhna
Skuhna is another Ljubljana restaurant with an awesome mission. They employ migrants who take turns cooking food from their home countries. That means that you might get Moroccan food one day and Colombian food the next. We decided to go on a Friday night because every Friday they do a five-course dinner accompanied by a cultural program. The night we went was Zimbabwe night. It was our first time trying Zimbabwean food, and it was absolutely delicious.
Dessert was fried banana with ice cream, and it was so good that I ate the whole thing before I realized that I forgot to take a picture. Whoops. In addition to enjoying the food, we had fun with the cultural program. There was a man from Zimbabwe who played a drum and sang several Zimbabwean songs for us. He even had us join in the singing. People were a bit timid at first but then they really go into it. It definitely makes for a unique Friday night out.
Dessert at Kavarna Zvezda
We discovered Kavarna Zvezda on a cold, rainy day. We came for the coffee, but once we saw the extensive cake menu, we couldn’t leave without trying one. We chose the Black Forest Cake, which consists of chocolate sponge cake, vanilla and chocolate cream, ground hazelnuts, and berries. I don’t have much to say other than it was amazing. I would have been happy to go back every day and sample a new type of cake, but that’s not exactly good for my health or our budget. We certainly savored this one, though.
Slovenian Cuisine at Julija
Julija is a restaurant in the heart of Old Town that serves slightly more upscale Slovenian and Italian food. Matthew and I went there once just the two of us, and then when my family arrived this week, we took them for a lunch there as well. The first page of their menu is “Specials from the Slovenian Kitchen,” and we always stuck with those rather than venturing into the other parts of the menu. We were never disappointed.
When I saw goulash on the menu, I knew I had to order it. Goulash is a vestige of the Austro-Hungarian part of Slovenia’s history. On a high school trip to Eastern Europe, I got to taste goulash in both the Czech Republic and Hungary. Each country’s goulash version was distinctive with the Czech goulash being thicker like a stew and the Hungarian goulash being more like a soup. I was curious to see what Slovenia goulash would be like. It was warm and satisfying, and the consistency was somewhere in between the Czech and Hungarian goulashes. It’s perfect for a chilly day.
The Idrijski žlikrofi, handmade dumplings with a potato filling, are a national dish of Slovenia. The dish was earthy and delicious, and I finished off every last dumpling.
Matthew ordered the same dish both times we ate at Julija: the Istrian-style pasta with mushrooms and asparagus. Istria is a peninsula on the Adriatic Sea whose land is divided between Italy, Slovenia, and Croatia. Not surprisingly then, Slovenia’s Istrian cuisine is more Italian inspired. This pasta dish was wonderful. I loved the creamy but light sauce and the imperfections of the beautiful, hand-rolled pasta.
Gelato at Kavarna Cacao
We sampled gelato from at least four different places during our time in Ljubljana. (I mean, someone had to take one for the team and determine who sells the best gelato in town!) After all of that sampling, Matthew and I decided that our favorite gelato place was Kavarna Cacao. I tend to measure gelato places by my favorite flavor, which is pistachio, and Cacao’s pistachio is fantastic. The location couldn’t be better as it’s on the river and right in the center of town. It’s a full café with food and table service, but they also have an outdoor counter just for serving ice cream. Perfect for grabbing a cone and eating it while you stroll along the river.
Five-Course Tasting Menu at Strelec
Without a doubt, one of the highlights of our culinary experiences here in Ljubljana was our dinner at Strelec. The chef at Strelec has been recognized as one of the top three chefs in Slovenia, and he worked with an ethnology professor to create a menu that draws on Slovenia’s history but is also quite modern in its creativity and execution. If that weren’t enough, it’s also located in a tower of the Ljubljana Castle. To celebrate our anniversary, we decided to splurge on a five-course tasting menu with wine pairings. It was delicious, and every single plate that came out was like a work of art.
Dinner at Strelec was a once-in-a-lifetime experience, and it’s exactly the kind of thing we love to splurge on for a special occasion. For me, the novelty of trying new and exciting foods is what makes it fun even if I don’t love everything that I eat. At Strelec, though, we didn’t have that problem. We enjoyed it immensely, and we left with full stomachs, empty wallets, and no regrets.
As you can see, Ljubljana did not leave us wanting for amazing things to eat.Before I close, though, I just want to clarify that we did not eat like this every day. That’s not something our stomachs or our wallets could handle. We ate plenty of normal/cheap food too. Lest you think that we eat like kings every day, please see the following boring meals.
So there you have it! What we ate in Ljubljana, the ordinary and the extraordinary. We’re moving on to Italy soon, so I’m sure I’ll have more tasty culinary experiences to share!