If we turn a blind eye to the latest healthy lifestyle trends, Bulgarians traditionally start the day with fat, pastry, cheesy or deep fried breakfast. Try banitsa (baked pastry with egg and cheese filling) at any local bakery – just follow the inviting smell in the morning. Get your hands on a mekitsa (deep fried doughnut-like pastry delight usually eaten hot) for a Bulgarian homey experience. At Mekitsa & Coffee you can find both traditional mekitsa and contemporary variations that would surprise even a Bulgarian.
Eating brunch is an unknown concept for Bulgarians. When they have had their hearty breakfast, they just don’t need another meal until lunch. A few food venues have tried to serve brunch in Sofia but the prevailing reaction is raised eyebrows.
Most restaurants have a daily lunch menu offering freshly cooked food at low prices. Lunch is often eaten quickly and on the whole it is not considered an important meal. Bulgarians love salads and often eat only a salad. You might be surprised by the huge portions they are served – it is not unusual to get 0.5 kg (1.1 lbs) of salad in a huge bowl, a quantity shared by three in other parts of the world. Shopska salad comprises of tomatoes, cucumbers, fresh or baked peppers, and Bulgarian feta cheese. Ovcharska salad adds some ham and hard yellow cheese to it. Soups are also a popular choice – try the chicken soup, bean soup, and the cold summer tarator soup (made of cucumbers, yogurt, dill, and walnuts). If you search for a place to have lunch in the center of Sofia, Before&After serves traditional dishes at affordable prices.
Dinner is the main meal of the day with huge portions, long talks around the table and often soaked in a lot of alcohol. Bulgarians are heavy drinkers and it’s usually a bad idea to try to catch up on drinking. Rakia is the strong, national drink, often home-distilled using plums, apricots, pears, grapes, and other fruit. Bulgarian wine is winning international awards and offers some unique varietals to taste (ask at the restaurant for muscat, pamid, Melnik 55, and mavrud). This is the time of day to order grilled meat (kyufte, kebapche) – at SkaraBar they are true grill masters.
As almost all over the world, the ubiquitous kebab is king in Bulgaria when it comes to a quick bite in the street. There are different kebab masters, some come from the Arab countries, while others are Turkish and prepare the kebab in a different style. You have to taste a few to find your favorite. Two of the most loved kebab and street food chains in Sofia are Mimas and Aladin. Many kebab kiosks are open 24/7 which makes them popular for a late night meal.
There are a few popular remedies for the morning after a heavy drinking night but the winner is tripe soup. You can guess that someone has drunk more than they could handle the night before if you see them eat tripe soup early in the morning. A lot of spicy pepper and garlic are a must to add.