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The Sofia food scene represents Bulgaria’s rich gastronomic tapestry in its flavors and culinary delights.
Find flavorful Bulgarian cuisine made with seasonal locally grown produce—and good wines made from indigenous grape varieties.
While exploring the local food specialties in Bulgaria, Sofia food surprised us with the breadth of offerings available.
Our Sofia food guide highlights 10 of the most popular dishes to try and the restaurant to eat them.
Know what and where to eat, from breakfast to dinner, on your culinary travels in Sofia.
10 Sofia Food and Best Places to Eat Them
1. Mekitsa – Bulgarian Donuts For Breakfast
Start your day in Bulgariia’s capital city with breakfast in Sofia like a local. You want to have Mekitsa with a cup of coffee.
Mekitsa are Bulgaria’s famous traditional breakfast donuts. These fried donuts are made with flour, egg, and yogurt and dusted with powdered sugar.
Together with a cup of coffee, you’ll be fueled for the day.
Where to Eat The Best Mekitsa in Sofia
Mekitsa & Coffee, a small bakery in Sofia, is the best place to try this traditional Bulgarian breakfast food.
The bakery is owned by young passionate entrepreneurs who traveled the country in search of the most authentic mekitsa recipe.
In addition to the traditional Mekitsa donuts, you’ll also find versions made with chocolate, honey, walnut, sirene cheese, and more.
AUTHENTIC FOOD QUEST TIP: One of the best ways to explore Bulgarian food in Sofia is with a local guide. This private 3-hour Bulgarian food-tasting tour in Sofia takes you on an exciting culinary adventure to restaurants, bakeries, and street food stalls to sample some of the best traditional Bulgarian specialties.
2. Banitsa – Sweet or Savory Bulgarian Pastry
Banitsa is a traditional Bulgarian food and one of the most popular foods for breakfast.
It is a round-shaped pastry that is typically savory though you’ll also find sweet pies widely available.
This Bulgarian pastry is typically prepared with eggs, Bulgarian yogurt, and sirene cheese, filled in thin layers of filo dough.
Most Bulgarians enjoy Banitsa for breakfast, paired with Ayran, yogurt, or boza. Banitza is easily available at most local bakeries and restaurants.
Where to Eat The Best Banitsa in Sofia
For the best banitsa In Sofia, head to Rainbow Factory known for its exceptional homemade banitsa.
You’ll find the traditional savory version with white cheese and sweet ones made with seasonal fruits.
Enjoyed cold or hot, Banitsa makes an absolutely delicious breakfast food or snack.
3. Bulgarian Cold Cut Meats
In addition to good food, traditional Bulgarian cuisine also offers a vast selection of cold-cut and cured meats.
Before eating a traditional Bulgarian meal, locals usually start with cuts of cured meats served on a charcuterie board. This custom is popular in other Balkan countries as well.
Some of the most famous cold cuts are Panagyurska Lukanka, a sausage from beef and pork.
Elenski, dry-cured meat made from pork leg and air-dried for a minimum of 6 months is one of our favorites.
Another widely available one is a flat sausage known as Gornooryahovski Sudzhuk, or simply Sudjuk.
Resembling salami, Sudjuk comes from the city of Gorna Oryahovitsa, where it has been prepared since 1538.
Where to Eat The Best Bulgarian Cold Cut Meats in Sofia
While in Sofia, check out Hadjidraganov’s Cellars.
Surrounded by stone walls and barrels, taste the cured meats paired with delicious Bulgarian wines.
Please note this tavern is in an old cellar, and not the main house called Hadjidragana Tavern that’s worth a visit too.
4. Lutenitsa, Lyutenitsa – Bulgarian Spread
Lutenitsa, also spelled Lyutenitsa is an iconic Bulgarian food. It’s a spread or relish made with tomatoes and red peppers and at times referred to as Bulgarian ketchup.
In Bulgarian restaurants throughout the country, this traditional dip is usually served as a starter.
You can spread it on bread before your meal or as an accompaniment to traditional Bulgarian cuisine.
Different restaurants each add their own touch to Lutenitsa. It is generally not spicy, though you’ll find variations in texture and taste as you try this local food at different places.
Where to Eat The Best Lutenitsa in Sofia
You can find Lutenitsa in most restaurants in Sofia city center. Check out Moma Bulgarian Restaurant, a popular and recommended place to eat in Sofia.
In addition to great Lutenitsa, their menu also features a wide selection of traditional Bulgarian food and local wines.
AUTHENTIC FOOD QUEST RECIPE: Bulgarian Lutenitsa is easy to make at home. See our simple recipe with video, to make this flavorful Bulgarian dip. Easy Lutenitsa Recipe: How To Make The Best Bulgarian Spread
5. Shopska Salad, Shopska Salata – Bulgarian Iconic Salad
Shopska salad is considered a Bulgarian national dish and one that we enjoyed throughout our stay in the country.
The salad is made with just a few simple ingredients, juicy tomatoes, chopped cucumbers, and Bulgarian white cheese known as Sirene cheese.
The colors resemble the Bulgarian flag, white, green, and red, adding to its Bulgarian tradition and identity.
What makes this simple cold salad stand out is the quality of the local ingredients.
The vegetables grown in Bulgaria, and other Balkan countries, are full of flavor from the favorable sun conditions.
Where to Eat The Best Shopska Salad in Sofia
You’ll find Shopska salad everywhere in Sofia from the best restaurants to local traditional eateries.
One of our favorite places to eat in Sofia is the Little Things Restaurant. It’s a cozy eatery offering a seasonal menu and delicious traditional Bulgarian food.
There’s also a gorgeous outdoor patio restaurant where you can savor your Shopska salad with a cold beer or local wine.
AUTHENTIC FOOD QUEST TIP: Taking a cooking class in Sofia is a delicious way to immerse yourself in the local culture. This private 3-hour cooking class will teach you how to make a traditional 3-course Bulgarian meal starting with a Bulgarian salad like Shopska to dessert. Located in the city center enjoy a cooking class experience for lunch.
6. Tarator Soup – Cold Yogurt Soup
Tarator Soup is a traditional Bulgarian food and a favorite soup in the hot summer months.
Served cold, this traditional food is made with cucumbers, Bulgarian yogurt, chopped dill, garlic, walnuts, sunflower oil, and water or ice.
Rooted deep in national folklore, this refreshing soup is considered a symbol of generosity and hospitality.
Tarator is typically served as a starter or a welcome dish, and it is very tasty.
Bulgarians are superstitious and say that if you spill Tarator soup on you while eating, you will have good luck.
As part of traditional Bulgarian cuisine, you’ll find it on most menus in Sofia and especially in the hot months.
7. Bulgarian Grilled Meats
In Bulgaria, grilled meat is one of the most popular dishes you’ll find on menus around the country.
Most grilled meats are pork, veal, lamb, and chicken. The cows in Bulgaria are raised mostly for milk, therefore you’ll not find many beef dishes.
You can eat grilled meats at most Sofia restaurants as it is considered a traditional Bulgarian food.
Two popular meat dishes are Kyufte and Kabapche, made with minced meat, usually pork and veal, seasoned with spices.
Kabapche has a sausage shape, while Kyufte is like a grilled flattened meat patty.
Another popular dish is Meshana Skara, which is a mixed grill that combines sausages and minced meats.
Meat skewers or Shashlik is another one of the main dishes you’ll come across.
Where to Eat The Best Grilled Meats in Sofia
One excellent place in the city center to try grilled meats is Hadjidraganov’s Houses.
On the menu, you’ll find a great variety of grilled meats and several traditional dishes. For non-meat eaters, there are also vegetarian and vegan options.
Be sure to leave room for dessert.
8. Katino Meze – Bulgarian Hot Starter
Katino Meze is a Bulgarian food originating from Bansko in southwest Bulgaria. Available across the country is a popular Sofia food.
Typically eaten as an appetizer, Katino Meze is baked in a clay pot and consists of fried veal, pork, onions, bell peppers, mushroom, and leeks.
It is cooked in white wine and topped with parsley. This traditional starter can be quite hearty and is perfect for sharing.
Where To Have The Best Katino Meze in Sofia
Different restaurants will add their own twist to this Bulgarian food. It can be spiced up with hot pepper or cheese can be added.
Be sure to seek out this starter from Bansko while in Sofia Bulgaria. One of the best Sofia restaurants to try Katino Mezze is Under the Linden Trees.
The menu focuses on traditional dishes and Sofia-style foods.
9. Bulgarian Cheeses
Cheese in Bulgaria is an integral part of the cuisine. Bulgarian cheese is used in many dishes including to stuff Banitsa and Shopksa salad.
The cheese in Bulgaria comes in many shapes, tastes, and textures, The most popular cheese is a white cheese known as Sirene Cheese or Bulgarian Feta.
It’s a delicious crumbly cheese that you can order from Amazon, made from sheep or goat milk.
Another famous cheese is Kashkaval, a yellow round cheese made from cow or sheep milk or a mixture of both.
Where to Have The Best Bulgarian Cheese in Sofia
One of the best places in Sofia to see all the different Bulgarian cheeses is at the Zhenski Pazar Market.
Commonly known as the Women’s Market, it is the oldest market in Sofia established more than 140 years ago. Visiting the market is a feast for the senses.
Next to the open-air stands of seasonal fruits and vegetables, you will also find dedicated huts with a wide selection of cheeses. Walk-in to try some of the iconic local cheeses.
AUTHENTIC FOOD QUEST TIP: If you want to explore the market at a deeper level, we recommend taking an off-the-beaten-path Sofia food market tour. Visit three markets including Zhenski Pazar with a local guide and sample a variety of Bulgarian specialties. Over three hours, learn about the local market life in Sofia and discover the rich history of Sofia.
10. Bulgarian Wine
Winemaking in Bulgaria has a long history dating back to the ancient Thracians more than 5000 years ago.
There are five main wine regions in Bulgaria each one with its own unique characteristics.
One of the main Bulgarian wine varieties is Mavrud, an indigenous red oaky wine.
Melnik wine from southwest Bulgaria is another red wine we enjoyed tremendously in Bulgaria.
In addition to the other varieties like Rubin, Gamza, or Misket, you’ll also Cabernet Franc, Pinot Noir, Cabernet Sauvignon, and more.
Where to Have The Best Bulgarian Wine Tasting in Sofia
To try Bulgarian wines in Sofia, we recommend visiting a local wine bar for wine tastings.
Garafa Wine Shop in Sofia is a great place to try wines from all over Bulgaria. They also produce their own wines in northwest Bulgaria.
Tempus Wine is another boutique wine bar in Sofia, which offers guided tastings of Bulgarian wines.
At both these wine bars, you can also enjoy Bulgarian cheese and cured meats to go along with your wine tastings.
AUTHENTIC FOOD QUEST TIP: Get to know Bulgarian wines on a guided wine tasting in the heart of Sofia experience. Spend one hour with an expert guide tasting wines from all five regions of the country. You’ll learn about winemaking in Bulgaria and enjoy your wines with local Bulgarian cheeses and local bread.
Where to Stay in Sofia
The best area to stay in Sofia is anywhere near the city center. The closer to the center the more expensive the accommodations.
However, you can find affordable options within walking distance of the main Sofia attractions.
There are many apartments to choose from for a short stay in Sofia. We personally stayed at two different apartments located between the Lion’s Bridge and Aleksandar Nevski Cathedral.
For their central location and access to Sofia foods and restaurants, here are some of our top recommended places to stay in Sofia.
AUTHENTIC FOOD QUEST TIP: While not culinary-related, we recommend taking a Communist walking tour of Sofia to learn about life in the communist era. This 3.5-hour walking tour will take you to the main sites in the city while sharing about everyday life in Bulgaria during the cold war period. This was one of our most enlightening experiences in Sofia and an experience we highly recommend.
Located right in the city center, the Grand Hotel Sofia offers a luxurious stay within walking distance of the main sites.
Find spacious rooms, a fitness center, and a spa for the ultimate relaxation experience.
The hotel has an excellent gourmet restaurant, Shades of Red, where you can enjoy local Bulgarian cuisine. Enjoy the daily free breakfast buffet in the also have an open-air terrace.
See prices, read reviews, or to find similar hotels, check: Booking.com.
This boutique hotel with only 12 rooms offers is located in the Centrum district near the historic buildings in the city center.
Design Hotel 36 offers stylish accommodations and all the modern conveniences.
There is a daily continental breakfast offered, and several restaurants nearby.
See prices, read reviews, or to find similar hotels, check: Booking.com
For budget-friendly yet exclusive accommodation in the center of Sofia, consider Este Apart.
This newly renovated apartment comes with a fully equipped kitchenette and a small balcony, perfect for a short stay.
Centrally located and with the conveniences of home, you’ll also find many nearby restaurants to try Sofia food specialties.
See prices, read reviews, or to find similar hotels, check: Booking.com
What Sofia food would you like to try or have tried before? Please let us know in the comments below.
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Rosemary is the editor-in-chief and strategist at Authentic Food Quest.
Traveling slow since 2015 with her partner, Claire, she has explored the cuisine in 45 countries and more than 240+ culinary cities.
Her writing about local food specialties has been featured in Lonely Planet, Business Insider, Honest Cooking, Food Insider, and Huffington Post.
As a food and travel writer, Rosemary has co-authored three books, including one in collaboration with Costa Brava Tourism.
Rosemary is an avid runner when she’s not eating and exploring new destinations. She has run ten marathons and counting.
Before Authentic Food Quest, Rosemary held senior-level strategy positions in advertising.
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