Although many Zagreb residents begin their days with a simple cup of Turkish coffee or an espresso, the Croatian capital’s breakfast scene is on the rise. Local restaurateur Maja Bučić Gabrić gives the low-down on where to eat breakfast in Zagreb.
Whether you’re an early bird or quick to hit the snooze button, the best places for breakfast and brunch in Zagreb have you covered. Maja Bučić Gabrić, the co-founder and manager of Beštija – a favourite local bistro with a diverse following – tells Culture Trip about the best breakfast spots in the Croatian capital.
Opening at noon, Beštija is a hideaway for a versatile crowd of creatives. “We get fresh ingredients every day from the Dolac Market, and the fish we serve is freshly caught,” says Gabrić, whose life and business partner Ante Grabić finds inspiration in seasonal foods and flavours. While you’d be more likely to sample steak tartare or a red mullet salad with Adriatic shrimp than eggs benedict at Beštija, Gabrić is no stranger to Zagreb’s breakfast scene.
Bakery, Pastries, $$$
Courtesy of Korica
With elegant minimalist interior design, this little artisan bakery draws people in to stay and linger over breakfast. “It has an easy-going atmosphere with great music playing in the background, and the team preparing the fresh food are always visible,” says Gabrić. As its name (meaning ‘The Crust’ in English) and manifesto suggest, the bakery’s prepared bites are all about the crusty exterior and soft interior. Its melt-in-your-mouth almond croissant with a golden crust, for example, is considered the best in the city. On the other hand, you never know when you’ll need some walnut-and-raisin bread. Sit down, read the newspaper and breathe in the smell of freshly baked pastries.
For many Croatians, burek is the ultimate breakfast dish – as in many countries that were once part of the Ottoman Empire. You will recognise Zagreb’s tiny but legendary burek hotspot at Kvatrić market by the lines of people formed in front of it, patiently waiting for their triangular treat. For over 17 years, Dževo and Stoja, the dynamic duo behind Vrući Burek, have put passion into every aspect of their work. “Their rhythm is a performance to behold. People are greeted as neighbours, and you’ll find yourself easily immersed in small talk. But time flies by as you observe the masterful movements of shaping the dough, flipping it, filling it up, baking,” says Gabrić. “Sometimes, in the afternoon, there is no guarantee, and you might end up waiting for burek for 20 minutes because it sells out so fast.”
If you’re looking for a more refined breakfast experience, try the elegant Zinfandel’s at Hotel Esplanade. Located close to Zagreb’s main train station, the restaurant’s elegant interior and calming Oleander Terrace transports you to the world of Hercule Poirot. Get your vitamins in style with a refreshing fruit salad, or indulge in Zifandel’s soft and fluffy American-style pancakes. Don’t miss out on the opportunity to relax and absorb the peace and quiet in this veritable oasis, set in one of the busiest parts of the city.
Between the busy street of Ilica and green parks of Zagreb lies a hidden passage filled with cafés and stores. Dežmanova ulica is a place to see and be seen. Cosy up in the mint green chairs of Velvet, or enter the enchanted world of artist and owner Saša Šekoranja, who imagined the bar to be like “a piece of theatre in one’s own living room”. Velvet offers a variety of breakfast foods, from cake and quiche to sandwiches. If you crave a touch of sweetness in the morning, try a slice of fresh and zingy carrot cake.
You don’t need to wander far from the city’s main square to find Eggspress, a café true to its namesake while also playing with innovative recipes and styles. Step into the warm atmosphere of the café’s basement interior and start your morning right with eggs royale or spicy eggs with yoghurt.
Traditional and modern can rarely be seamlessly combined; however, this little bistro on picturesque Tkalčićeva (also known as Ulica Ivana Tkalčića) seems to manage it. In addition to offering classic Croatian dishes such as knedli (potato-dough dumplings) and sarma (stuffed cabbage leaf rolls), Otto and Frank has taken the Zagreb breakfast scene by storm with its house speciality: the Zagreb breakfast with crispy poached eggs and fresh cheese, enhanced by grilled ham and radishes. This combination, with ingredients straight from the nearby Dolac Market, steals the attention of anyone browsing the menu and is available throughout the day. Gabrić praises Otto and Frank’s ambience, noting that “it has the nicest staff, and I have to compliment the way Leon (the manager) manages the place and makes everyone feel welcome.”
Another welcoming place on Gabrić’s list, “with staff who are on a first-name basis with customers, remembering their usual orders”, is among the oldest cafés in Zagreb. Known locally as the “theatre café”, thanks to its location opposite the Croatian National Theatre, Kavkaz has been serving customers for over 120 years. While its interior style has changed many times, reflecting different periods of design trends, Kavkaz remains a firm favourite among actors, dancers and directors. Gabrić says that “apart from enjoying the lively atmosphere,” she “often stops by at Kavkaz for its eggs benedict” – a classic breakfast dish with smooth hollandaise sauce and soft poached eggs served on a warm bun, accompanied by a lollo rosso salad. “The meal comes out fast, within 15 minutes,” she says, praising the exceptional service.
If gluten is off the menu for you, step into the calming pink interior of Melt for plentiful breakfast options. Set on Radićeva ulica and providing an ideal stop-off on a walk through the Upper Town, it has everything from avocado toast to smoothie fruit bowls with açai. Since Melt is open until 11pm, breakfast treats can also be late-night snacks here.