On our sidetrip to Ilidza and Vrelo Bosne (see my off the beaten path tips for more details) we took a late lunch break at the Restaurant Labud which is part of the Hotel Ilidza.
The traditional Bosnian restaurant has a large outdoor terrace which is especially popular at weekends. The menu offers many local specialities but also a selection of international dishes.
I ordered the veal on brochette (Teleci Raznjici) for 12 KM. It was a relatively small portion but very yummy and probably just the right amount of food for this time of the day. To drink I opted for the popular natural lemonade (Limunada prirodna) for 3 KM.
If you are planning a sidetrip from Sarajevo to the suburb of Ilidza then a visit of the Restaurant Labud shouldn't be missed.
On our first evening in the Sarajevo's historic old town (Bascarsija) we found Cevabdzinica Zeljo 2 more by chance than on purpose. Later we realised that it is one of the most recommended Cevapi places in the city.
It is named after the local football club FK Zeljeznicar Sarajevo, which was established by railway workers.
Both inside and outside they have dark wooden tables and benches. The question is not what to eat, but only how much you eat.
The only dish on offer is Cevapi; so you can order 5, 10 or 15 pieces of the small grilled minced beef rolls.
You won't find any alcoholic drinks on the menu. People usually drink joghurt with the Cevapi. I really enjoyed my 10 pieces Cevapi (6 KM) and my Joghurt drink (1 KM). So it was a fantastic first evening for us in Bosnia and Herzegovina.
Another fabulous Cevabdzinica which is often recommended in all guide books is Cevabdzinica Hodzic. We once had dinner here. It is a modern family run restaurant with a small wooden outdoor terrace facing the pedestrainised street.
We were lucky enough to get a table outside. The menu is limited to traditional Bosnian meat dishes, with Cevapi being the main speciality. Other options include Pljeskavica or Raznjici, which should be well known to most travellers who have been to any of the Balkan countries.
All meat dishes at Cevabdzinica Hodzic come as a good 200 grams portion. I opted for Raznjici (10 KM), as I had already eaten Cevapi before. To drink I ordered a Joghurt drink for 2 KM.
The two meat skewers were more than excellent, so I was quite happy with my choice.
You'll find cevapi all over the Balkans, introduced by the Ottomans and a firm favourite ever since. One thing pretty well everyone agrees on though is that you'll find the best ones in Sarajevo and if you like your cevapi with an added zing, the best place in the city with the best cevapi is Banja Luka down on Bravadjiluk in Bascarsija.
A sunny day in mid-October was perfect for sitting out al fresco for lunch, watching the passing parade as we tucked in to our lunch. Service was quick and cheerful - when there's really only one thing on the menu, it's easy to be efficient. The cevapi are cooking here all day long, and going out to appreciative diners as fast as they come off the grill so they're always freshly cooked and deliciously succulent.
Banja Luka's menu isn't limited to just Banja Luka-style cevapi (Banja Luka's a city in northern Bosnia). You can order your cevapi Sarajevo-style here as well as a small range of other yummy grill-based meals. We opted for a plate of both types to share and enjoyed every mouthful, as it was apparent, the folk around us were also doing.
If time permits (it didn't for us) you really should check out Zeljo, anotherl institution among Sarajevo's cevapi restaurants... to quote the guide book "Most locals will say you haven't visitd Sarajevo until you've tried Zeljo's famous cevapi". I have to say we were tempted by the thought of a late afternoon snack there as we walked down through the old town, the air cloudy with a drift of cevapi-scented woodsmoke, but the promise of begova corba (Beg's soup) and other traditional Bosnian dishes for dinner kept us walking on.
Favorite Dish: Cevapi are small (finger-length) rolls of minced meat, well-seasoned and cooked over a charcoal grill. You'll find them all over the Balkans, in some places they may have pork in them but here in Sarajevo, with its mainly Muslim population, they are made from lamb and veal. A full plate is 10 pieces, it's fine to order a half serve.
What's the difference between Banja Luka cevapi and Sarajevo-style? They like them spicy in Banja Luka so add some chopped fresh chilli. You might see them called Sis cevapi on a menu.
Traditionally, cevapi are served with chopped sweet white onion and a decent sized pocket of pita bread. Banja Luka's bread was great - crispy on the outside and fluffy on the inside - very moreish. A tomato salad and some finely shredded cabbage for a crunch, it was as good a meal as you could ever wish for - delicious, rustic food at its best.
Inat Kuca (Spite House) is probably mentioned in every guidebook about Sarajevo, due to its story which goes like this:
The Ottoman building of Inat Kuca, which nowadays stands on the left side of the river Miljacka, could once be found on the right bank of the river.
At that time local authorities wanted to build a massive representative building on exactly this site.
The owner of the building was stubborn enough, so that he demanded a bag of golden coins as well as the relocation of his complete house to the other side of the river. All this took place in 1895.
Since 1997 the building is home to a traditional Bosnian restaurant with both indoor and outdoor seating, which offer panoramic views of the river and the National Library.
The menu offers a wide range of local Bosnian dishes. I decided for a small Kebab stew (14 KM) and a bottle of Sarajevsko Premium beer (6 KM). My meal was yummy, but couldn't keep up with the very high expectations.
Nevertheless, Inat Kuca is definitely well worth a visit, if only due to its fantastic location at the river bank.
How could you resist this place with its name crocheted into the white lace curtain on the front door? It's really tiny, just room for 3 tables along one wall downstairs, a charming clutter of table necessities, wine bottles, pots of fresh herbs and pictures along the other wall and a few more tables up a narrow lttle staircase. The kitchen's in full view behind a high bar where a big basket of fresh vegetables looking as if they've just come from the garden fills the end - it all looks homely and welcoming, a cross between a farmhouse kitchen and a cute little bistro.
The restaurant's been here for a while. It was open all through the siege and thereby hangs a tale. Back then, it was called To Be Or Not To Be. Look at photo 2 and you'll see the words "OR NOT" are crossed out. At the height of the siege, the owner slashed the words through with red - "not to be " was not an option.
Favorite Dish: Those vegetables on the bar were part of our dinner - a wonderful melange of grilled aubergines, zucchini, peppers, potatoes, onions and tomatoes - packed with flavour, presented like a still life, a huge serve - they were absolutely delicious, a meal in themselves, though the grilled fish (me) and veal steak (MrL) we ordered to go with them were pretty good too.
The bottle of Hercegovinan red recommended to go with it all was pretty good too.
When it comes to lunchtime, you really have just two choices of what to eat if you want to do it Bosnian-style.
Burek or cevapi, Bosnia's favourite fast foods, which is it to be? This is a case of the whole scene - a street down in Bascarsija lined with places selling them, none of them fancy, all packed with locals, the air full of the most delicious smells of baking and grilling - providing the atmosphere. Where you eat can be more a matter of finding somewhere with a table than anything. If you're with another person and you want to eat together, there'll have to be consensus, you can't order burek in a cevadžnica nor a cevapi in aburekdžnica
So, what is it going to be? Burek today? We ate ours at Burekdžnica Bosna, sharing two varieties - meat and cheese. Absolutely delicious. MrL chose the local yoghurt drink to go with his, water did for me.
Favorite Dish: Burek are a sort of pie, cooked in long rolls packed together on a tray, served as a porcija (a set portion) by weight - one porcija. Made from light filo pastry wrapped around a filling, they really are at their best, freshly cooked and served at a table at a burekdžnica with a good dollop of pavlaka - a very light and fresh cream cheese - spread over them. They come in four varieties -
burek filled with meat, in Sarajevo this will most likely be a mix of lamb or veal
zeljanica filled with spinach and cheese
sirnica are filled with fresh soft cheese and taste a little sour
krompirusa are potato filled and slightly salty
You'll see them in bakeries, but be warned - cold and/or not really fresh, they become hard and far less tasty so they're not the best thing to buy to eat later. Order them in a busy burekdžnica and you'll be presented with a portion cut from a large tray straight from the oven, fresh and absolutely delicious.
One late morning we came across the Wiener Cafe and decided to take a break here.
There are a few tables inside and a couple of tables outside on the pedestrianised street. We took a seat outside to enjoy some people watching.
A wide range of cakes is on offer as well as ice cream. I opted for a sundae called Summertime which consisted of a mixture of fruit ice and was decorated with some berries.
It was very yummy and with only 5 KM quite affordable.
Morica Han is much more than just a coffee stop - it's an historic part of old Sarjevo. Han is the local word for a caravanserai and Sarajevo, like all Ottoman cities, once had several. Morica Han is the best preserved. Like so many of the city's buildings, it was built in the mid-16th century with funds provided by Gazi Huzrev Beg but is known by the name of Mustafa Moric, who managed the han at one time.
Once the large courtyard would have been a bustling place, full of travellers and their animals, the ground floor around the court set up for trading, the upper floor providing rooms for the night for traders and travellers. The carpet and textile shop in the corner gives a hint of the trading that was carried out here but the donkeys and camels and bales of goods that would have filled the central space have long since been replaced with the chairs and tables of modern cafes and the noise (and the smells) of the past have given way to the sounds of friends talking and laughing, the aroma of coffee and the scent of apple smoke from the odd nargileh.
We had read and heard about this restaurant at Sarajevo Brewery so when we approached it during lunchtime we decided to try their dark beer and sausages, just as the brochure "Walking tour through Sarajevo" suggested. When coming in this huge beer hall you feel like having travelled in time and location.
The place looked so much like a big English pub. The food, however, was very much Bosnian. So was the beer, there's a dark and a light version available.
Apparently this restaurant was only opened in 2004. A shocker! I thought that I sat in a traditional old beer hall from Austro-Hungarian times...
Favorite Dish: We had the house specialty, sausages. They were beef sausages which were available in three different flavours, spicy, mild and with garlic. We tried the spicy and the garlic sausages and preferred the spicy ones which were really good. Along with it we had mustard, lovely Pretzels and a huge portion of chips for both of us.
Bosnians it meat all the time, it is hard to find vegetarian food. But if you see "Buregdzinica" on a sign, you can get bureg or other pastries with spinach, cheese or mushrooms. This particular one is right on the Bascarsija square. The plate on pic. 2, spinach pita, cost 2 KM.
We'd strolled along the riverside on the Miljacka's south bank from Bistrik into Alifakovac, two of the original quarters of the old Ottoman town, and saw ahead of us the restaurant, Inat Kuca. Now, the guide book had basically said "good food, lousy service" so we were a little dubious but decided we'd check it out and, if we liked what we saw and the way we we greeted, we might well come back for dinner that evening. Well, we did, and we were very glad we did. Charming surroundings, a smile to greet us, a chat about the menu - we were coming back.
Waiting for us on our return was the nicest table in the restaurant, a romantic little nook for two set in a deep window with a view over the river to the floodlit National Library. And the service was just fine - courteous, friendly and efficient.
The whole place is delightful. There are tables on three floors, the balcony of the upper ones overlooking the central kitchen down on the ground floor. It's furnished with low wooden tables set around with typically Bosnian- style cushioned divans and low wooden chairs. There are some lovely examples of traditional costume pieces and needlwork displayed on the walls.
There's quite a story attached to Inat Kuca. The name translates as "The Spite House" and it has had a chequered history. A traditional Ottoman house, its position by the river was in the way of an Austrian-era scheme to straighten and pave the south bank. The owner refused to sell his house to the authorities, saying "The Tsar in Vienna is mighty and great. He deserves all my respect but he doesn’t have money to pay me for my delight” and sat tight until it was agreed that his house would be moved to the opposite bank. So that's what happened - the house was carefully demolished and rebuilt across the other side of the river and the embankment work was completed.
The Austrians, intent on city improvements, then came up with plans for a grand City Hall and Library, and they knew just the place they wanted it to go. There was just one problem - an old house was in the way and, yes, you've guessed it! This time, it took a considerable financial inducement as well as the moving of the house to clear the land for the new project. And where did the house end up? Just about where it started.
Favorite Dish: We'd been promised the Begova corba (Bey's soup) was delicious, so that's what we started with. It came in big tin bowls, though apparently it's cooked in an earthenware pot to give it its particular flavour. It's true, it is delicious - a thick broth with finely chopped vegetables and shredded chicken all through it, a hint of lemon and that unmistakeable smooth thickness that comes from okra,, not that there was any identifiable okra in the bowl.
Inat Kuca prides itself on its authentic Bosnian cooking, so we opted for two traditional dishes - both stews.
Mine was just called Bosnian Pot - a deep earthenware bowl filled with a rich veal and vegetable stew, about three big chunks of meat cooked to melting tenderness in an aromatic sauce flavoured with cinammon, cloves and cardomom. It was wonderful and I made sure I had a spoon to finish off every last drop of the sauce.
MrL's choice answered a question for us. Bamija was a veal and okra stew. We'd seen the strings of tiny dried okra in the market - here they were in the stew, along with flavourings of black and red pepper. Simple but delicious.
A most acceptable bottle of Hercegovan red went down really well.
The Morica Han building is from the 16th / 17th century. Ambient is renovated with an authentic look, and wise words from the Koran (i think?) on the walls, written both in arabic and bosnian. Service is good, food is good and prices are low compared to Norway. Take a look at the menu in picture 3.
Favorite Dish: Hmmm, sarme! I have always preferred them in sauerkraut, but they tasted real good in wine leaves, too! (Sarme is meat balls rolled in cabbage or wine leaves, see pic 5.) And for desert: Baklava. And Bosnian coffee, of course, which is the same as turkish. For all this + a coke I paid 14,50 KM (7,25 Euro)!
We ate here out of default because we were in the old part of town and hungry. The waiter was standing outside, trying to get people to come in and eat, and we were suckered into it. Although it meant blowing our lunch budget way out of proportion, it ended up being very good. I couldn't eat like that all of the time, but once every few days was all right.
Favorite Dish: I had the traditional spinach/cheese layer thing. I know, i should remember the real name of it but I don't. For dessert I had crepes, but there was a strange, vanilla-esque liquid on top that I didn't care for. My meal was very good, however, and it was right in the middle of the old town.
Cevap is Kebap in Bosnia.Their food like turkish food.Cevapdzinica means Meatball shop.This is hodzic is best.It is in the middle of the old turkish quarter and very crowded.all th elocals goes that shop.watch its chimnee.Always pumping delicous smelly smoke.
Favorite Dish: Cevap and Jogurt and Kopus (Cabbage )salad.