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The bright red signage of the "Happy Bar & Grill" does give the impression of just another junk food establishment and when I first encountered it in Sofia I gave it a "Thumbs Down" verdict without even sampling its wares.
On re-encountering it here in Varna, where the chain originated and there is an outlet on just about every main street, I finally succumbed to its temptations and was pleasantly surprised. "Happy Bar & Grill" is pretty much what it's name suggests and it is indeed a fast-food establishment but not in the Macdonalds vein. Here the menu manages to take a good selection of the Bulgarian staples but adapt them to suit its buzzy, slightly brash, style and does so with a degree of panache which makes the restaurants very popular with the locals and deservedly so (and the pretty waitresses with their short skirts don't do it any harm either!).
Yep, another preconception destroyed!!
Favorite Dish: Definitely the "Meshana Skara" (Mixed Grill) which is basically a plateful of pork in various guises including sausage, schnitzel and meatballs in a creamy mushroom sauce, with a green side salad and a Kamenitza (golyama of course!).
Updated Jul 10, 2008
the nicest pizzas in Varna, very big and delicious salads, good service and the most important - CHEAP!!!
Favorite Dish: Godzilla salad is great andyou will love all the pizzas. There is a dessert with jogurt and jam or honey.
Written Mar 29, 2004
Address: Maria Luiza street and Kniaz Boris street
The main thing here is the salads...tons of thems and they come in portion size that is huge for the bulgarian/europian standard!Don't miss the pizzas and quick meals as well!
The staff is very friendly and the service is one of the best in Bulgaria (at least from my experience).
Everytime i go to Varna i stop by "Godzila" even if am not hungry!
Anyway, there are two "Godzila"s in Varna and the one on Maria Lousa has a patio.
There is smoking/nonsmoking sections and AC.
If u want to pay using a credit card be sure to tell them this in the beginning when you order, otherwise they'd come up with some explanation that does not make sense.
Favorite Dish: All the non meat salads!
(i'm sorry, i'm no expert on meat, but my family seem very happy from the meat salads....so i guess they work too!)
i know that my mom always orders the "Godzila" salad!!!
Updated Jun 3, 2006
Address: "Kniaz Boris I, #66" and "Maria Louisa #37"
I'm not quite sure whether this little restaurant, tucked away in a side street just off Varna's main square (Nezavisimost), is in fact as old as it looks or whether it is a relatively recent mock-up of a traditional Bulgarian "Mehana". But either way it certainly does have an authentic feel to it with its wood and brick facade and interior, the various museum-type knick-knacks hanging from the walls, the small charcoal grill in its alcove and the wood-burning stove nestled in the corner.
The menu however certainly is authentic, offering a range of traditional Bulgarian peasant dishes such as "Mozuk v Maslo" (which is beef brains stewed in butter) as well as the full gamut of salads and grills.
The restaurant is set out a little formally but in fact is pretty laid-back and you are as welcome to pop in for a snack and a glass of wine as for a full-blown repast. I was particularly impressed with the waiter who single-handedly managed to juggle serving what became an almost full restaurant, cooking on the chargrill and still found the time to give me few guidelines on the winelist and the Rakia menu.
Favorite Dish: On my only visit (this time round) I opted for the Rabbit (Zaek) in the Banskian-style which was bit like a Greek Stifado, cooked in wine with baby onions. As a salad I opted for the house salad, simply to find out what the "smilanski (??) beans" were - a sort of dark coloured butter-bean. Added a basket of local bread and washed the lot down with a bottle of excellent Mavrud (Assenovgrad 2003). Everything was absolutely Delish!
Feeling pretty stuffed I reckoned I needed a digestif and so followed the waiter's recommendation by having a large Slivenska Perla Rakia. Oooops! That stuff is lethal and I can see why it should only be consumed WITH food! It was a good job my hotel was less than 100 yards down the hill!!
With a bill of just over 32 Leva for the whole shebang I can certainly recommend Chuchura -just be careful with the Rakia!
Updated Jul 25, 2008
One thing I never did find here in Bulgaria was anything approximating a proper drinking pub, but I did try! Pub Alba is nevertheless an impressive edifice comprising 4 floors and a large beer garden and does offer a huge selection of beers as well as an equally extensive food menu.
I only visited once as part of my pub search and whilst I found it to be much more of an eating establishment rather than a pub I did enjoy a very pleasant light lunch washed down by a couple of bottles of the local Varna beer. The place wasn't particlarly busy on a damp midweek lunchtime and the upper floors and garden weren't in use but the ground floor "beerhouse" was buzzy, the service prompt and friendly and the 6 Leva bill more than reasonable.
Favorite Dish: If I remember correctly the menu was in Bulgarian but I found the salad section and opted for the Polska Salata (whose ingredient list was beyond my limited language capability) which turned out to be a deliciously fresh and generous salad with eggs, beans, tomato, cucumber and a few other salady bits, topped liberally with cured pork. What made it stand out from the crowd though was the excellent yoghurt dressing which really lifted the dish into the realms of delish!
Yep, an excellent lunch and excellent price tag!!
UPDATE Jan 2010 - For an excellent Winter lunch try the Bai Ganbo. It's a sort of savoury baked rice pudding with liver, mushrooms and ham - cheap (3.80 leva) and filling!
Updated Jan 5, 2010
Address: Maria Louiza Blvd 34
Like all typical Mehana's (traditional Bulgarian restaurant) also this one is built in Bulgarian national revival period architecture style. They serve very tasty traditional food for more then resonable prices.
Updated Sep 2, 2003
Address: Ulitsa Musala
Again typical Mehana with real Bulgarian athmosphere, professional service and excellent food. If you come here once, you'll come back for more!
Favorite Dish: They serve every national dishes, try to order something from "skara" - grill, don't forget to order a refreshing salat, also vegetarians can find something for themselves (see my Bulgarian Cuisine travelogue at my Bulgaria page).
Written Sep 2, 2003
Address: Behind Mc Donalds at pl. Nezavisimost
Whilst this is actually a "Turkish" restaurant it does have a definite Bulgarian slant to its menu and decor (and of course Bulgarian cuisine does have many Turkish influences).
This became my favourite restaurant for a multitude of reasons - the main one being that even from my first visit I always received a warm welcome from the very pretty little raven-haired waitress who ran the front of house. In fact all the staff here I found particularly friendly and my shy "Dobar Vechers" and "Blagodaryas" were always responded to with smiles.
The extensive menu centres around the expertly cooked kebaps and meats from the charcoal grill perked up with really tasty little garnishes such as grilled chilli peppers and roasted onions. Main courses cost on average about 5 leva and come complete with rice and salad garnish. In addition to the grill menu Orient offers a wide range of other dishes including traditional Bulgarian specialities such as Shopska Salata (and its baked variation "Sirene po Shopski), Stuffed Peppers, Tarator Soup and Gyuvech.
As well as the excellent food the restaurant also has a wide selection of drinks, alcoholic and otherwise and the wine list features some impressively inexpensive local wines.
This place is deservedly busy with a mostly local trade and has a pleasantly buzzy laid-back atmosphere enhanced by the blend of Turkish and Bulgarian decor.
As a quick footnote - the restaurant also does home deliveries and takeaways.
Favorite Dish: I ate here a total of four times during my first two-week visit to Varna and stuck pretty much to the grill menu, trying variously the Adana Kebap, the Lamb Shish Kebap, the Mixed Grill and the Kiofteta and all were equally delish! I also went through the range of salads with my favourite being their Russian Salad (which strangely was translated on the English menu as American Salad). Also on the salad side I tried their very tasty "Assorti" which was almost a meal in itself being a sort of mini meze of roasted aubergine, hummus, tzaziki, roast peppers and a couple of other delicacies.
I think my average bill here was about 12 leva, which usually included a couple of Zagorkas but even when I spashed out and had the mixed grill, the assorti, a bottle of Mavrud and coffee the bill still came to less than 25 leva - Yep definitely first on my list when I revisit, just to say "Dobar Vecher" again!
Updated Dec 27, 2009
Address: 1 Tzaribrod Street.
Phone: 052 602380
This was another place I sought out in my search for a proper pub only to find that it too was more of a restaurant than a bar. But never mind an excellent dinner was had washed down by a couple of glasses of the dark bock-style Stolichno.
Vikings actually looks like it should be a pub with it's long wooden L-shaped bar and barstools, but with no-one actually using them. It is a pleasant place though with a laid-back buzz and a mixed age clientele. The menu is pretty extensive (with English and German translations) mostly revolving around grilled meats - their "Meshana Skara" (mixed grill) served on a sizzling platter looked especially impressive.
I found the service excellent, though I was little disappointed to be handed the English menu without asking for it - Ach, maybe my Dobar Vecher needs a little tweak ;)
Favorite Dish: On my one visit I opted for the Balkan Sausages with a potato salad and cheesy garlic bread and of course a brace of Stolichnos. The sausages were superbly meaty, with an interesting ketchup and mustard dip, the salad fine and as to the garlic bread... well that came as almost a whole loaf, freshly baked and topped with yellow cheese and delish tho' it was that defeated me!
A very substantial dinner enjoyed and if I remember correctly the bill was well under 20 leva.
Updated Jul 10, 2008
Address: Ivan Aksakov Str 7
Phone: 223 147
UPDATE Jan 2010 - Le Baron is now closed but the site has been taken over by the Pub Alba people and so there's still a great selection of salads available.
Le Baron is a relatively new addition to the Varna dining out scene, having opened just before Chistmas in 2008. From what I gather Le Baron is part of a small chain of Bulgarian restaurants styling themselves as "Salad Saloons" with obviously the main offering being salads!
The Varna restaurant, with its brightly modern minimalism, is obviously targetted at the younger trendy crowd which it does seem to succeed in attracting, but even for this old untrendy I had a very pleasant light evening meal here on a quiet Sunday evening.
The menu consists of a choice of about 40 salads, in main course or side dish portions, with both traditional and exotic offerings plus pizza and pasta dishes. Service was a little hit nor miss though with one of the waitresses being bright and bubbly but totally unattentive whilst the other was attentive but very reserved - however between them they were getting the job done.
Favorite Dish: The menu was written in Bulgarian (tho' I believe there are plans to have an English version) and so it was a case of deciphering the salad's names and keeping my fingers crossed regarding what the ingredients would be. I opted for the Salata Arabiya which turned out to be some sort of fish with cashew nuts, chick peas, mozarrela cheese as well as the usual salady stuff. Why it was called Arabiya, I'm not sure (maybe on account of the chick peas?) but it was tasty, with a good dressing and for the large portion at 6.90 leva reasonably, if not particularly cheaply, priced.
Not the sort of place I would make a point in going back to but it seems to work for its target market.
Updated Jan 6, 2010
Address: 6 Alexander Batenberg Street.
Phone: 052 636336
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