The Best Meals We Ate in Croatia

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Before my road trip across Croatia, I’d never given much thought to the country’s cuisine; now that I’m home, I can’t stop! The salty essence of just-caught seafood, the vibrant punch of saffron, the clean taste of high-quality olive oil, and the granular sweetness of figs all linger on my palate. Croatian food is a wonderful amalgam of local ingredients and foreign influences: pasta and pizza from Italy, lamb kebabs and baklava from Bosnia, hearty stews with Hungarian roots. As I drove north, it was interesting to see how the cuisine changed along with the climate.

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Croatian specialties at a local farmer’s market.

Starting with Dubrovnik and ending with Rovinj, here are the best meals we enjoyed in Croatia. You can find the restaurant details at the end of this post. Know of a great spot I missed? Tell me about it in the comments!

DUBROVNIK

Lokanda Peskarija

Our first meal in Dubrovnik turned out to be one of the best of the whole trip, thanks to a recommendation from the owner of the apartment we rented. We’d just landed in Dubrovnik the night before and wanted a leisurely lunch by the sea. Lokanda Peskarija delivered big time! Lunch consisted of huge chunks of tender squid that were lightly battered and flash fried, seafood risotto swimming in saffron broth, and a fresh salad of cucumbers, red onions, cabbage, and some of the best tomatoes imaginable. All this was washed down with icy cold beer and made for a perfect introduction to Croatian cuisine.

Lokanda Peskarija Dubrovnik

Croatian food

 

Konoba Ribar

The most memorable dish from my few days in Dubrovnik was the stuffed squid at Ribar restaurant. Succulent squid were stuffed with Croatian ham and cheese and grilled until the cheese oozed onto the plate. A simple but tasty side of boiled potatoes and green beans and a mug of beer completed this excellent meal.

Konoba Ribar Dubrovnik

Stuffed squid

 

Taj Mahal

With Bosnia and Herzegovina just over the mountains from Dubrovnik, I definitely wanted to try Bosnian food while in the neighborhood. Online reviews led me to the curiously named Taj Mahal, said to be one of the best Bosnian restaurants in town. We started with pepper slices covered with spicy kaymak cheese and glasses of Bosnian wine as suggested by our waiter. Next came my veal and veggie shish, although honestly the highlight was the baked potato stuffed with more of that spectacular cheese. As for the meat, I preferred the zesty sausages of my date’s pita. But my entree jealousy was quickly forgotten because, baklava.

We rolled up at 6pm on a weekday in September and snagged the last free table. I recommend making reservations in advance to avoid disappointment.

Taj Mahal Dubrovnik

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Bosnian food

 

Oliva Pizzeria

After a long, hot day of sightseeing, sometimes a girl just needs to devour an entire pizza. Oliva Pizzeria came to the rescue with a ham and mushroom pie, hot out of the oven. I don’t think you could go wrong with any of the pizzas here.

Oliva Pizzeria Dubrovnik

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SPLIT

Villa Spiza

Villa Spiza is a tiny hole-in-the-wall tucked down a narrow alley in Split’s Old City. The day’s menu is posted outside and dishes are crossed off as they run out. I was lucky enough to get the last available order of meat stew with Gorgonzola polenta – and this was at 6pm. Arrive early so you don’t miss out! I was told that the mussels in white wine were also excellent, though I wasn’t a fan of the Croatian custom of not cleaning the shellfish before cooking.

Villa Spiza Split

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best gelato in Split

For dessert, head across the street to Love Gelato and get a big scoop of fig gelato. You won’t regret it.

 

TROGIR

Pizzeria Mirkec

The best pizza of the trip (including the week in Italy that followed these two weeks in Croatia) I found at an unassuming waterside joint in Trogir: Pizzeria Mirkec. A wood-fired crust, tangy sauce, oozy cheese, and fresh-sliced mushrooms – what’s not to love?

Pizzeria Mirkec Trogir

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ZADAR

Restaurant Kastel

Hotel restaurants can be hit or miss, but that didn’t deter me from trying Kastel, the restaurant of Hotel Bastion in Zadar. Good thing, too, because their rendition of stuffed squid knocked my sandals off! Kastel’s squid was filled with a potato-bacon mash so delicious that it took every ounce of my self control not to lick the plate clean. The fig parfait dessert was equally delectable and had us regretting not ordering individual servings. Given the remarkable food and service, I was surprised there were so few other diners. We made a reservation but it was totally unnecessary.

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The best stuffed squid in Croatia

 

Pet Bunara

In stark contrast to Kastel, reservations are absolutely necessary at popular Pet Bunara (which I nicknamed Pat Benatar. It’s the little things). Pet Bunara’s menu featured so many tempting Dalmatian specialties that we dined here twice. Standout dishes included cheese ravioli with shrimp in a fig jam sauce, a warm octopus salad with chick peas and sauteed onions, and veal stuffed with cheese curds atop a broad bean mash.

Pet Bunara Zadar

Croatian food

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Restoran Kornat

Every meal I ate in Zadar was a winner, including the fisherman’s risotto with fried squid at Kornat. The dish was loaded with fresh seafood and herbs, and the portion size was generous for the price. Kornat is located outside Zadar’s old city walls along a quiet stretch of harbor. It was fun to watch the boats come and go as we enjoyed some wine.

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Seafood risotto

 

ROVINJ

Kantinon

As is usually the case, the best meal of the trip was also the last. Based on the rave reviews, I knew I wanted to dine at Kantinon and, since it was a weekend, went to make a reservation as soon as we arrived in Rovinj. It’s a good thing we were in town for a few days because the restaurant was already booked solid Friday and Saturday nights!

Kantinon’s menu is printed in a fun newspaper format and the specials reflect the day’s catch. I started with a satisfying bowl of inky cuttlefish tagliatele with clams, sausage, and broad beans, and finished with a scrumptious dish of monkfish. I had hesitated before ordering the monkfish – whose flavor and meaty texture resembles lobster – because the dish included more sausage. I now know that there’s no such thing as too much Istrian sausage.

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Maestral

“Come for the view, stay for the food” should be Maestral’s motto. For a restaurant so well situated, the food is surprisingly affordable – not to mention delicious! The salted-fish pie and octopus stew with cheesy polenta were crowd favorites, though everything we tried was excellent.

Maestral Rovinj Restoran

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Male Madlene

For a meal that’s as charming as it is tasty, head to Male Madlene in Old Rovinj. Take a chair in the front parlor turned dining room and watch as the owner prepares Istrian tapas in the house’s tiny kitchen. Memorable bites included fresh figs with goat cheese, oysters with tomato salsa, and a strawberry cream tart. One tasting set was enough for two people to share for lunch.

Male Madlene Rovinj

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best gelato in Rovinj

Be sure to stop by Gelateria Italia for the best gelato in Rovinj!

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Croatia Dining Guide

Which of these delicious Croatian dishes would you most like to try?

Know of any restaurants I should hit up next time?

Lokanda Peskarija
Address: Na ponti bb, Old City, Dubrovnik, Croatia
Pricing: €€

Konoba Ribar
Address: Kneza Damjana Jude bb, Old City, Dubrovnik, Croatia
Pricing: €€

Taj Mahal
Address: Ul. Nikole Gučetića 2, Old City, Dubrovnik, Croatia
Pricing: €€

Oliva Pizzeria
Address: Ul. Cvijete Zuzorić 2, Old City, Croatia
Pricing: €

Villa Spiza
Address: Ul. Petra Kružića 3, Diocletian's Palace, Split, Croatia
Pricing: €

Pizzeria Mirkec
Address: Budislaviceva 15, Trogir, Croatia
Pricing: €

Restaurant Kastel
Address: Ul. Bedemi zadarskih pobuna 13, Zadar, Croatia
Pricing: €€

Pet Bunara
Address: Stratico 1, Zadar, Croatia
Pricing: €€

Restoran Kornat
Address: Liburnska obala 6, Zadar, Croatia
Pricing: €€

Kantinon
Address: Obala Alzo Rismondo 18, Rovinj, Croatia
Pricing: €€

Maestral
Address: Obala Vladimira Nazora, Rovinj, Croatia
Pricing: €

Male Madlene
Address: Svetog Kriza 28, Rovinj, Croatia
Pricing: €

17 thoughts on “The Best Meals We Ate in Croatia

  1. from where I see it- the worst (and the most expensive I assume) food was in Dubrovnik. The best, however, was in Zadar. I hope you have the intention to come back and give Istria and NW Croatia a try- you won’t be sorry I promise:)

    • Manuela, I spent four nights in Rovinj and absolutely loved it!! And the food there was excellent, some of the best of the trip! My least favorite meals were actually in Split, which I found to be the most touristy and over priced of all the cities I visited. But I’m willing to give it another try 😉

  2. OMG, this looks incredible, Heather!!! One thing I know about Croatians and Bosnians–they love to eat and they LOVE to feed people!;-) My husband loves cevapi, and we grill it a lot during the summer! The cheese pie is my personal fave!
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    • I love cultures that love to feed people. One night in Zadar we’d just returned to our rental apartment when there was a knock at the door. Our landlady had made us an entire platter of sugar-dusted fritoles. It was such a delicious surprise!

  3. i had some of the best meals of my life in croatia. no joke. and the pizza i had there was better than anything i ate in italy, ever! and the grilled octopus…mmmm. im officially hungry!

    • I believe you! I’m still thinking about that grilled octopus. You won’t have to twist my arm to get me back to Croatia!

    • Every meal WAS beautiful and special, even more so because of the affordable prices! I would happily return to Croatia just to eat 🙂

  4. Hello!
    Excellent blog with pictures.

    We will be in Zadar for one night and I am trying to organize a dinner for 6 of us. For $$, which would you say was the best value restaurant.

    Can you share some prices if you remember them?

    Thanks!!

    • Thank you, Rebecca! Zadar is a fabulous little city and I thought all the restaurants there were good value. Most everything at Pet Bunara cost between €10-€13. The fisherman’s risotto at Restaurant Kastel was around €10 and the portion could easily have fed two people. (And it was listed as an appetizer! Meat main courses are considerably more expensive, in the €20 range. We didn’t order any of those.) Restaurant Kastel at the Hotel Bastion was my favorite of the three. I forgot to take a photo of the menu so I can’t tell you exact prices, but it was in line with what we paid at the other two. Hope this helps!

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