If you are a first-time traveller to Bulgaria and wondering what to eat in Sofia, you are not alone. I was in the exact same spot before my solo trip to Bulgaria. But after spending almost two months in Bulgaria, I ate at some of the best restaurants in Sofia and learned so much about Bulgarian cuisine, and decided to put together a Sofia food guide.
The best food in Sofia can be found anywhere in the city. From the popular Bulgarian salad to many Bulgarian national dishes, there is something for everyone. Even though many traditional dishes are quite meat-heavy, there are many exceptional choices for vegans and vegetarians.
If you love eating as much as I do and are excited to go on a culinary journey, get ready! I’ll show you exactly what and where to eat Sofia, Bulgaria.
Disclosure: This post may contain affiliate links. If you buy something through them, I will receive a small commission at no additional cost. Thank you for supporting this website. For more information, please read the disclosure for more info.
Table of Contents
Tips for eating the best food in Sofia
Before trying some of the best Sofia food, check out my Sofia solo travel guide first. This guide is especially useful if this is your first time in the city.
Here are a few additional tips for eating at the best restaurants in Sofia:
- Bulgarian lev (plural: leva) is the currency of Bulgarian. BGN is the three-letter code.
- Bring your credit card, as many places accept credit cards and a convenient way to pay your bill.
- Bring cash, as some smaller cafes only accept cash.
- A tip is not part of the bill. Tip about 10% of your bill or more if the service is good. If you are paying with a credit card, tip in cash.
- Traditional Bulgarian food in Sofia is very meat-heavy. Many main dishes have pork, beef, chicken or other types of meat protein.
- But there are also excellent options for vegetarians and vegans. Check the menu for these Sofia restaurants: Rainbow Factory, Shtastlivetsa, Rakia Raketa Bar, Made in Home, The Hadjidragana Tavern, Manastirska Magernitsa Restaurant, Izbata Tavern, and Mehana Mamin Kolyo.
21 best food in Sofia: what to eat in Sofia Bulgaria
See the summary of the best Sofia food below. This is a quick guide when searching for what to eat in Sofia, Bulgaria.
And when you scroll down further, I include a more extended explanation for each food in Sofia and where you can find the local food. And I also included photos.
Here is a quick summary of the 21 best food in Sofia:
- Mekitza – breakfast fried bread served with jam and cream cheese
- Banitza – Bulgaria’s national pastry that is made with phyllo dough with different fillings
Bulgarian salad, dips and soup
- Shopska Salad – made with tomatoes, cucumbers, onions, and sirene cheese
- Katak – a dip or spread made with roasted red peppers, sirene cheese, yogurt and garlic
- Lyutenitsa – a dip, spread or sauce made with roasted red peppers, tomatoes, aubergines and garlic
- Tarator – Bulgarian cold cucumber soup
Small Bulgarian dishes
- Chushki Burek – deep-fried roasted red peppers stuffed with sirene cheese, eggs and herbs
- Sarmi – Bulgarian cabbage rolls
- Mish Mash – scrambled eggs with bell peppers, tomato, onions, and sirene cheese
Bulgarian meat and fish entrées
- Kavarma – traditional Bulgarian slow-cooked stew
- Shishche – Bulgarian meat skewer
- Kyufte – Bulgarian meatball
- Kebapche – grilled caseless meat sausages
- Meshana Skara – Bulgarian mixed grill
- Grilled Whole Trout – from Bulgaria’s rivers and streams
- Baklava – Layered phyllo pastry with caramelized walnuts
Typical Bulgarian drinks and alcohol
- Ayran – a fresh and light yogurt drink
- Boza – a semi-sweet malt drink made with fermented grains
- Rakia – fruit brandy, Bulgaria’s most popular traditional drink
- Bulgarian wine – Mavrud, Rubin, Gamza, Pamid, Siroka Melniska, Rkatsiteli, and Dimiat.
- Bulgarian Beer – Kamenitza, Shumensko, Astika, and Zagorka
Where to eat in Sofia: 17 best restaurants in Sofia
Below is a list of the best places to eat in Sofia. And in all of these bakeries, cafes and restaurants, where you can find the local specialties listed above.
To find the address for the Sofia restaurants, click on the restaurant name, which will bring you to the location on Google Maps.
Bulgarian bakeries and cafes
- Mekitza and Coffee – small cafe serving sweet and savoury mekitza.
- Rainbow Factory – a popular cafe with mekitza on the breakfast and brunch menu.
- Sofiyska Banitsa – a small shop specializes in banitza.
- Furna – local bakery selling banitza and other baked goods.
- HleBar – local cafe serving homemade pastries, breakfast and lunch.
- Old Lady Sofia – excellent brunch place that locals frequent.
Casual Bulgarian restaurants in Sofia
- Shtastlivetsa – overly-decorated restaurant with a huge selection of different food, including some typical Bulgarian cuisine. There are two locations in Sofia.
- Skarabar – a casual restaurant with lots of barbecue meat options on the menu. There are three locations in the city.
- Made in Home – a little restaurant with a bohemian vibe serving Western and Bulgarian food.
- The Little Things – find a table anywhere in this cozy house and try their Western or Bulgarian food.
- Divaka – choose one of three locations where you can try traditional Bulgarian food on a budget.
- Rakia Raketa Bar – try rakia at this restaurant filled with memorabilia from the socialist era.
Traditional Bulgarian restaurants (mehanas)
- The Hadjidragana Tavern – try authentic Bulgarian food in the cellar with traditional decor and furniture from the 18th century. There’s live folklore music from Thursday to Sunday starting at 8 pm.
- Manastirska Magernitsa Restaurant – a traditional Bulgarian restaurant with a lovely outdoor dining area.
- Moma Bulgarian Food and Wine – the restaurant has traditional decor but with a modern twist.
- Izbata Tavern – a quaint little Bulgarian restaurant in the basement with an extensive menu.
- Mehana Mamin Kolyo – dine in the outdoor area in the back of the restaurant for the most authentic experience.
What is Mekitza: or Mekitsa, is a breakfast fried bread made with flour, eggs, and yogurt. It is typically served with jam and cream cheese, but some dust it with powdered sugar or make it savoury by spreading a thin layer of lyutenitsa. Even though it is eaten at breakfast, it is a delicious snack for any time of the day.
Where to eat Mekitza: Mekitza and Coffee, Rainbow Factory, Rakia Raketa Bar, and other local bakeries
What is Banitza: or Banitsa, is Bulgaria’s National Pastry. There are two types. One is made in a large pan with phyllo dough and stuffed with either white cheese and/or spinach. The other is a less oily, rolled-baked pastry with different savoury or sweet fillings. Both are excellent breakfast food and is eaten with ayran or boza.
Where to eat Banitza: Rainbow Factory, Sofiyska Banitsa, Furna, HleBar, Rakia Raketa Bar, Moma Bulgarian Food and Wine, Izbata Tavern and other local bakeries
Bulgarian salad, dips and soup
1. Shopska Salad
What is Shopska Salad: a cold salad made with tomatoes, cucumbers, onions, and sirene cheese. The salad’s colour resembles the Bulgarian flag’s colours: white, green and red. This Bulgarian national dish is the perfect starter and can be found in all the best restaurants in Sofia.
Where to eat Shopska Salad: Shtastlivetsa, The Little Things, Divaka, Rakia Raketa Bar, The Hadjidragana Tavern, Manastirska Magernitsa Restaurant, Moma Bulgarian Food and Wine, Izbata Tavern, Mehana Mamin Kolyo, and other typical Sofia restaurants
2 & 3. Katak and Lyutenitsa
What is Katak: a dip or spread made with roasted red peppers, sirene cheese, yogurt and garlic. The light pink spread tastes similar to tzatziki and is excellent as a spread on flatbread.
What is Lyutenitsa: a dip, spread or sauce made with roasted red peppers, tomatoes, aubergines and garlic. The red puree is similar to ajvar (a popular condiment in the Balkan region). It is perfect to spread on flatbread or as a sauce for grilled meat.
Where to eat Katak and Lyutenitsa: Divaka, Rakia Raketa Bar, Moma Bulgarian Food and Wine, and Izbata Tavern
What is Tatator: Bulgarian cold cucumber soup made with yogurt, garlic, chopped dill, walnut and, of course, cucumbers. Excellent appetizer and goes well with Rakia.
Where to drink Tarator: Helbar, Old Lady Sofia, Skarabar, Made in Home, Divaka, Rakia Raketa Bar, Izbata Tavern, Mehana Mamin Kolyo and other typical Sofia best restaurants
Small Bulgarian dishes
1. Chushki Burek
What is Chushki Burek: roasted red peppers stuffed with sirene cheese, eggs and herbs are coated with breadcrumbs and then deep-fried until crispy. It comes with a garlic yogurt sauce on the side and is served as an appetizer.
Where to eat Chushki Burek: Shtastlivetsa, Skarabar, The Little Things, Moma Bulgarian Food and Wine, Izbata Tavern, and Mehana Mamin Kolyo
What is Sarmi: Bulgarian cabbage rolls. Minced meat (veal and pork) and rice are used as fillings which are then rolled into a cabbage leaf. Then the cabbage rolls are cooked in a tomato-based sauce. Excellent as an appeitzer or a light meal.
Where to eat Sarmi: Iztaba Tavern and other local restaurants
3. Mish Mash
What is Mish Mash: a vegetarian dish made with scrambled eggs, bell peppers, tomato, onions, and sirene cheese. Different Sofia restaurants may do a different take on this Bulgarian omelette. At Old Lady Sofia, lukanka (Bulgarian salami) is added to the dish.
Where to eat Mish Mash: Old Lady Sofia, Shtastlivetsa, The Little Things, Rakia Raketa Bar, and Izbata Tavern
Bulgarian meat and fish entrées
What is Kavarma: traditional Bulgarian slow-cooked stew. It starts with marinated meat (pork or chicken), then onions, mushrooms, roast peppers, egg are added. Everything is cooked in a clay pot (gyuveche), and the whole dish is served in the same pot.
Where to eat Kavarma: Shtastlivetsa, The Hadjidragana Tavern, Iztaba Tavern, and Mehana Mamin Kolyo
What is Shishche: Bulgarian meat skewer. Marinated meat (pork, chicken or vegetable) is grilled on a spit. It tastes even better if you eat it with lyutenitsa.
Where to eat Shishche: Made in Home, Rakia Raketa Bar, The Hadjidragana Tavern, and Manastirska Magernitsa Restaurant
What is Kyufte: Bulgarian meatball or meat patty (similar to a burger) made with minced pork or beef and spices. Try the grilled meatballs with lyutenitsa as a dipping sauce. The dish is typically served with a cabbage salad.
Where to eat Kyufte: Shtastlivetsa, Skarabar, Made in Home, The Little Things, Divaka, Rakia Raketa Bar, The Hadjidragana Tavern, Manastirska Magernitsa Restaurant, and Izbata Tavern
What is Kebapche: grilled caseless meat sausages are made with a mixture of minced pork and beef with cumin. A serving comes with three sausages, cabbage salad, homemade fries, and ljutenica.
Where to eat Kebapche: Shtastlivetsa, Skarabar, and Divaka
5. Meshana Skara
What is Meshana Skara: Bulgarian mixed grill. The platter comes with various types of grilled meat (kyufte, kebapche, shishche, sausages, steak) and assorted grilled vegetables. Eat it with a shopska salad and order a rakia to go with your meal.
Where to eat Meshana Skara: Skarabar, Iztaba Tavern, The Hadjidragana Tavern, and Manastirska Magernitsa Restaurant
6. Grilled whole trout
What is Grilled Whole Trout: whenever there is a fish option on the menu, it is most likely the grilled trout. It is the most common fish on menus as trouts are abundant in Bulgaria’s rivers and streams. Other fish options include mackerel and sea bass.
Where to eat Grilled Whole Trout: Shtastlivetsa, Skarabar, Made in Home, Divaka, The Hadjidragana Tavern, and Manastirska Magernitsa Restaurant
What is Baklava: Layered phyllo pastry with caramelized walnuts. The dessert is flakey and moist at the same time. It originated in Turkey, but other countries in the Balkans and Middle East have adapted their own version of this delicious treat.
Where to eat Baklava: Hlebar, The Hadjidragana Tavern, Moma Bulgarian Food and Wine and local bakeries
Typical Bulgarian drinks and alcohol
What is Ayran: a fresh and light yogurt drink popular in Bulgaria and other regions in the Balkans. Try the original flavour or different fruit flavours. It is an excellent breakfast drink, especially if you have it with banitza.
Where to drink Ayran: Mekitza and Coffee, Skarabar, many local restaurants, and supermarkets
What is Boza: a malt drink made with various types of fermented grains like wheat or millet. It is a cold semi-sweet drink with a thick consistency and low alcohol content (can’t even taste it). This drink originated from the Middle East and parts of Southeast Europe. (see the Banitza photo)
Where to drink Boza: Sofiyska Banitsa, many local cafes, and supermarkets
What is Rakia: Bulgaria’s most popular traditional drink. It is made from fermented fruits and has a high alcohol content (between 40 to 50%). Try this fruit brandy in different flavours like grape, plum, apricot, peach, apple, cherry, and quince. Locals drink rakia with shopska salad to begin a meal. It tastes similar to Japanese sake or Italian grappa, i.e. very strong!
Where to drink Rakia: almost all local restaurants in Sofia
4. Bulgarian wine
What is Bulgarian wine: Bulgaria has a long history in wine making and wine regions are found throughout the country. From the Danubian Plains to the north, Thracian Lowlands to the south to the Black Sea coast to the east, many unique varieties of red and white wine are produced. When you are in a restaurant or supermarket, look for these types of wine: Mavrud, Rubin, Gamza, Pamid, Siroka Melniska, Rkatsiteli, and Dimiat.
Where to drink Bulgarian wine: almost all local cafes and restaurants in Sofia, and supermarkets
5. Bulgarian beer
What is Bulgarian beer: pale lager is the standard beer in Bulgarian. When you are in Sofia, look for brands like Kamenitza (from Plovdiv), Shumensko (from Shumen), Astika (from Haskovo), and Zagorka (from Stara Zagora).
Where to drink Bulgarian beer: almost all local cafes and restaurants in Sofia, and supermarkets
Looking for tours around Sofia? Check out these experiences:
Sofia food: what and where are you going to eat?
If you are travelling solo in Sofia for a few days, you can try many of these local specialties, especially when you combine a few in one meal.
And you can use this food guide to create your own culinary tour around Sofia. Eating in Sofia is really affordable, so definitely go out there and try as many things as you can. I did! And I had a ton of fun eating my way around Sofia!
I hope you enjoyed this post and inspired your inner foodie to try new food in the capital city. Which of these food in Sofia are you interested in trying? Let me know in the comments.
Thank you for reading my Sofia Food Guide
You might also like these other posts:
- Bulgaria Itinerary: 5 and 10 days in Bulgaria
- Sofia Solo Travel: 20 best things to do in Sofia
- Burgas Travel Guide: Things to do + Getting there + Day trips
- Burgas to Sozopol day trip: 1-day itinerary
- Day trip to Nessebar and Sunny Beach in Bulgaria
- Varna Travel Guide: 9 Things to do
Food around the world:
- Vienna food guide: 23 must-try food
- Budapest food guide: 26 Best Budapest Food
- 25 Bucharest Food: What to eat in Bucharest
- Porto food guide: 17 Best Porto Food
- 21 must-eat food in Singapore
- Where to eat Michelin star street food in Singapore
- 15 traditional Hong Kong food
- Japanese Food Culture: 11 must-try food
- Okinawa food guide: 26 best food
- 22 must-eat food in Taiwan
- 15 Ximending food for foodies travelling to Taipei
- Taiwan 7-11 food: 10 must-eat