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!).
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.
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!!!
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!
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!
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.
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).
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!
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.
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.
I could never work out from the riot of signage of this little place on the main square whether or not it actually has a name - the main sign above the window reading: "Always freshly baked...Specialities from Pleven". It certainly is, however, a very popular Varna institution and has a pretty much permanent queue of a dozen or so people from mid-morning until late lunchtime.
To say that there is a permanent queue isn't to say that that service is slow, in fact quite the contrary, but rather that the place is so popular that the queue never dies down. Forget about MacDonalds and others of its ilk, if you want good fast food at really cheap prices this is the place!
I must admit to having been pretty impressed with this as a slick operation and moreso impressed by the fact that the woman serving managed to do it with a smile. Just as an off-the-cuff estimate I reckon this place must serve at least a couple of thousand people a day from a simple menu of pizza slices and savoury pastries with everything being freshly baked in batches throughout the day. The place seems to be staffed by only two women, one doing the batch cooking and the other serving and taking the money, and boy do they work hard!!
This is where having learnt to read Cyrillic came in pretty handy as the pizza and pastries are served from behind a long glass-fronted heated counter with the items signed in Bulgarian. By the time you've got to the till to order your chosen item it is probably a couple of metres away and so my "Point and Edna Molya" technique would have only caused confusion. Confusion being the last thing that the woman serving would need with a permanent queue of people to serve!
Favorite Dish: Well it has to be Bulgaria's other Nationl dish: the pizza slice, which I probably had 2 or 3 times and at 1.15 leva made for a real value-for-money snack lunch. On the couple of other times I grabbed a quick bite from here I tried the "Balaton" (sausage in pastry) and the "Budapeshta" (ham in pastry) and both were equally up to the task of lining the stomach before the day's serious business of beer drinking began!
Mr Baba is a year round reastaurant , that offers the freshest fish and the most delicious dishes . Enjoy classy European cuisine in the unique atmosphere of a legendary battle ship. Every day the maitre patissier is preparing sweets are well known among the conoisseurs. Situated on the pier , Mr Baba offers a magnificent view to the sea , the Varna beach and the city. There is also a VIP hall on the ship , available for business appointments, the two decks are a great place to celebrate your holiday or arrange a party.
I promise to give it a try when the occasion presents itself :))
Working hours : 08:00 - 00:00h
UPDATE NOV 2009. The Preslav restaurant is no more but there is one not far away on ul Tsar Simeone I (??)
I'm not quite sure whether I've got the name correct for this restaurant, which seems to be part of a small chain here in Varna. But anyway this is where my hotel sent me for breakfast in the mornings (the hotel itself didn't have a breakfast room but instead gives a 2 leva voucher for the restaurant across the road).
This isn't a formal-type restaurant but more of a self-service cafeteria (and I think only open during the day) with the food set up behind hot and cold display cabinets. However, it was certainly fine for my daily light breakfast of savoury and sweet pastries and coffee.
Whatever time I went for my breakfast the place was always busy (bearing in mind that sometimes my breakfast times would coincide with normal people's lunchtimes!) and it certainly seemed cheap enough. Service is very "cafeteria" style, which for me was a case of pointing and saying "Edna Molya!" but is friendly enough and whilst a little plasticky decor-wise the restaurant is pleasant enough.
Favorite Dish: I was never sure exactly what I was ordering, having developed my "Point and Edna Molya" technique but I usually ended up with a pair of pastries and a decent cup of coffee. I think the larger pastry is a "Sigara Burek" but I've no idea what the sweet smaller one is! But delish they are and ideal for a light breakfast.
PS It does sell beer too!!
It's a bit glitzy for a local restaurant, but plenty of Bulgarians seem to eat there (not just a tourist trap!); a Mehana is a restaurant serving (mainly or exclusively) Bulgarian food cooked to traditional recipes, and many like this one have live entertainment: folk music, singing, dancing. On the expensive side at around twelve pounds for two including side dishes and drinks. Excellent band. Great atmosphere! Great service!
Favorite Dish: You won't be disappointed with anything. The garlic bread is almost a meal in itself!
We had intended to eat at Chuchura this particular evening but had both discovered, independently of each other, (Marina from a work colleague, myself from passing) that it was closed for refurbishment.
Serendipity then took over. I'd had a wander round the city looking for an alternative whilst Marina, once again independently, consulted one of her workmates. Strange, but true, we both came up with this place!! Me, I'd just liked the look of it from the outside, whilst Marina's co-worker had given it a definite recommendation.
YEP! Serendipity is indeed a powerful force. As soon as we stepped over the threshold we felt welcome and although classy the restaurant has a relaxed, informal, ambience. The traditionally-dressed servers add character, not kitsch. The dining room is spartan yet elegant. White and ochre tablecloths continue the theme set by the natural wood and plaster of the decor. Soft downlighting accentuates the polish of the furniture and the table settings.
With the stage set it was now time to consult the programme. The seasonally-changing menu is an appetizer in its own right, the freshly-baked bread with celery salt dip a perfect accompaniement. All the classics of Bulgarian cuisine are here, simply described and with little touches of the restaurant's individuality. There's grills and fish, pot dishes and salads, healthy stuff and hedonistic - about 8 pages in all. We only got as far as page 2!
Favorite Dish: Having already decided that we were going to commence with Rakia it was a matter of matching our starters to that. A meaty starter (Zimno Meze) and a salad of preserved vegetables (Salata Kiselo Zele) sounded ideal. The match turned out to be perfect - as Marina commented: "The vegetables are just like my mother makes. The winter meze (sausage, chunky salami and back fat) exactly what my Grandfather used to do with the trimmings when he killed a pig."
On page 2 of the menu the "Ivanchovski Guyvech" (literally "John's Pot Dish") immediately negated any further perusal. This is a one-pot meal for two - stuffed cabbage leaf, braised chicken and casseroled pork, cooked with potatoes, carrots and peas. The 40 minute cooking time perfectly suited to our mood as we liesurely nibbled our savouries along with a freebie top-up of bread.
This was just simply "Delish". Everything cooked to melt-in-the-mouth perfection in a flavoursome liquor and so much of it that we just had to get the leftovers put in a "doggy-bag".
With a brace of 100ml "Soungoullarska Grozdova" Rakias, an excellent bottle of Todorov "Boutique" Merlot and a couple of other drinks the 65 Leva bill was more "mehana"-pricing than restaurant and with a freebie Monday supper thrown in!
As a little update - I see that the "In Your Pocket" guide to Varna rates this as the best in town, and "maybe the best in Bulgaria". I'll agree with that!