My husband and I eat out every night. I’m not sure how it got to this point. I love to cook. But with just the two of us (and a propensity to wolf down our food silently when left alone), we got into the habit of eating out and catching up. It’s nice. The process, from selecting the restaurant to walking home thru Old Town, is the highlight of our day.
Below are some tried and true options. I avoided those written up on Tripadvisor or in travel books as you can find those on your own. (Ex. The Beer Palace is a nice spot near the Old Theater, Pizza Mizza is the place for pizza, Shtoor is a funky and extremely popular cafe). All those are on our “go to” list. But you don’t need me to point them out.
Our pockets are not deep and my per diem is small – so we try to spend around 20 Euro per night (2 dinners, sides, one beer, one wine, maybe a split dessert or appetizer). These places may be a bit more or less – but all are close to that cost.
You can eat quite expensively in Bratislava (and we have a few times). But I much more enjoy the quality and authenticity of the stick to the ribs local cuisine. By and large, this is not a town to splurge on dinner. And warning, in the Old Town it is easy for a couple to spend over 100 Euro for dinner in many places.
First, a few pointers:
1. Tipping in Slovakia is all over the map. We leave 10% on average (rounded slightly up or down). Our friends who are waiters say that’s generous. Some patrons do not tip at all. Assume 5-10% is the rule. Unlike some countries, my tip – whatever size – is always accepted with gratitude.
2. Most meat meals come with nothing but the meat and perhaps a small salad on the plate. Potatoes and vegetables are ordered extra. You can order one side of potatoes and one side of vegetables and split them. We tend to each get two sides and still stay in our budget. Another popular item is dumplings – which are served traditionally with certain meals – not ordered as a side. These are not Grandma’s dumplings. These are what you’ll get if you mate wonderbread and dumplings (more like slices of bread-like substance). They have grown on me. Use them to mop up the food (they are served with choices like goulash – dishes which are “mop-able”). Or, as my husband discovered, take a bit of dumpling, goose, and cabbage all together. They are not intended to eat alone.
3. Beer in Slovakia (which is often Czech) is very good. Wine in these restaurants is serviceable. Slovakia does have some good wines – perhaps not commonly by the glass in the cheaper restaurants. Wine or beer tends to be around 1 Euro (a bit more of less) per glass. It is a great country to test drive alcoholism as a life style.
With that as background, here’s our top spots:
1. Verne: (Address: Hviezdoslavova Namestie). This is a basement (there’s little windows up high) restaurant in the Bratislava Academy of Fine Arts building. It’s funky, cute, and packed. Get here early (around 6 or so) if you want to get in or stop by earlier in the day and make reservations. The menu is translated to English and some waiters speak English. It has a few all American breakfast options (I’ve never tried them) including corn flakes, eggs, etc. (not typical in Slovakia). The dinner menu includes lots of Central European choices (goulash, schnitzel, pork and sauerkraut, etc), grilled or fried meats (most typically chicken and pork), Italian options (not sure I’d recommend those). It’s a lengthy menu with something for any taste. The salads are very good and very large. My husband and I share one as a side. The last time we went, the bill totalled 14 Euro. (two dinners with potatoes, salad, wine, beer). To get there, walk down the square towards the river with the Old Theater at your back. The restaurant is about half way down on the right. It is marked – but also easy to miss.
2. Mytny Domcek This restaurant perches over the Danube on the far bank from Old Town at the termination of the Stary Most bridge. It was once the toll booth for this bridge which is now pedestrian. Enter thru the double glass doors immediately to the right (in the winter, they are covered with curtains which you just push aside – a bit confusing). The restaurant is kitschy cute (go upstairs), yellow walls, mismatched wooden tables and chairs, great views to the castle. And the food is very good. The waitresses speak English and the menu is translated. Try one of the Slovak specialities . I love these little fried pork pieces served on potato pancakes. You’re just gonna have to trust me on this. The waitresses make great suggestions here. Trust them if you are adventurous. My husband gets the salmon with roasted potatoes. This is a very popular restaurant which does take reservations. We often eat our main meal here at lunch during the weekends and have never had a problem getting seated.
Chez Amelie: (Laurenska 11) I tried this for the first time since my husband is out-of-town (he’s not a crepe guy). It was tasty and surprisingly busy for a mid-week night in February. There are about 25 savory crepes (I tried spinach, bacon, and Camembert cheese). They have some French wines by the glass. Dessert was a crepe with bananas and caramel. It is a nice change from the “stick to your ribs” local fare. They have salads and ice cream – but go for the crepes. The restaurant is in a courtyard just off Laurinska heading into Old Town from Sturova (not too far on the right). It opens Sunday only during the summer. Otherwise, it is open at lunch and dinner Monday thru Saturday. The menu is translated, but my waitress did not speak English (pointing to the menu works fine). She did, however, speak French. My two crepes with wine came to just over 10 Euro.
Bratislavsky Mestiansky Pivobar: (Dunajska, 21) This link is for the original restaurant but the pictures on the opening page are the new restaurant. The original restaurant, also near Old Town, is very highly rated on Tripadvisor. I’ve never been to the original location. About a month ago they opened one closer to Old Town (roughly, behind the Tesco which is on Spitalska). If you are facing Tesco and standing on Spitalska, walk down the right side of Tesco… this street is Dunajska. A few blocks down the restaurant will be on the left. It sits off the road a bit with a big parking lot in the front. The food and beer here is the best. Fried chicken legs with mashed potatoes and a mixed salad (cut up red peppers, tomatoes, and cucumbers) hit the spot. I drank a very nice Slovak red, my husband enjoyed a wonderful beer made on site (it’s a microbrewery). The menu is not translated to English – but some waiters do speak English. Have an idea what you want (beef, chicken, pork) as the menu is very lengthy but it is broken up by meat type and there is a picture which will help focus you (ex: the pork dishes are under the picture of a pig). The waitress can’t realistically translate it all – but they are very helpful. They are also willing to recommend, and their choices are spot on for me. The restaurant is huge – but still can be packed. Previously, I ordered schnitzel with pan roasted potatoes with bacon. Delicious. We’ve spent as much as 30 Euro which included a nice sharp cheese appetizer in a pot with crusty bread.
For a couple of cheap and local options on (or just off Grosslingova):
Corny Cafe: (Grosslingova, 20) This cute little cafe opens at 8:00 during the week (later on weekends) and stays open until around 10 at night. On Friday’s there is occasionally live jazz starting around 7. We go here frequently for coffee and to split a dessert. The carrot cake is the best – and the French lemon tart is close behind. A few of them aren’t my favorite. The cupcakes are a safe (and surprisingly small) option. We also stop here for a light dinner or lunch – they have a few salads, some toasts (which in Slovakia is more of a small grilled cheese sandwich). The bottled beer is a must try for beer connoisseurs and is from a small Czech brewery. The wine by the glass (often Austrian) is good. Is on the corner of Grosslingova and Bezrucova (the street with the blue church). The menu is translated and the waitresses speak English well enough to get by. You can sit and they will serve you. Or if you just want coffee only order at the bar and sit. They will then bring it. When you are ready to leave, you can go to the cash register and pay.
SAB LAB: (Salad and Bread Laboratory): Don’t let the name fool you. This is a pure Slovak lunch place just off Grosslingova. If you head down Grosslingova from Sturova, walk on the left side of the road. Turn into the first passage (“Pasaz Luxor”) on the left (it’s an interior passage which takes you to the next street). The restaurant is half way down on the right. The queue may be long but the service is fast. It is only open Monday thru Friday 11:00 to 18:00 (forget eating here at noon). Order your food, take your soup, pay and then sit. You will get a big bowl of homemade soup (8 to 10 choices) and a salad, sandwich or meal of the day (today, it was risotto or a chicken fajita). They will push the menu of the day as it gets very busy, and they need to be fast. But order what you want. I had a fresh, large salad of various lettuces (including arugula, my favorite), pan-fried chicken chunks, oranges, carrots, and tomato in an orange vinaigrette. Previously, I tried a similar salad with a pan-fried slice of cheese. Soup and a menu item are just under 5 Euro per person. The drink is water with lemon (waiting on each table) and there is a single large, help yourself bread basket on the counter. The expectation is you sit, eat, and leave (esp. during the busiest times). No one will tell you this – but it is a local lunch place for the local workers – so people don’t tend to perch. If you go the blue church and you want a fast, cheap, and very good lunch… this is the place to stop. (I’ve never tried a sandwich here – but they look good and are huge).
Categories: Insiders Bratislava