Love the finer things in life? We all seek the best flavors and experiences to take on our travels, and although it is easy to find suggestions about where to have dinner on the internet, the little speciality food shops, private clubs, or cafes with that special oomph tend to stay off the radar and require a little extra effort to be discovered. Don’t you just love discovering a little family-run store and that feeling when walk in, like you are the only lucky person to ever have discovered it? Croatians have been indulging in all the bountiful flavors this country has to offer since time immemorial, but a traveller’s quest to get a bite of the good stuff has been a little trickier.
Reserve some space in your baggage as we take you to some of the best-kept secrets for foodies in Croatia. Use this list is as your guide as you traverse the country and find yourself in a city with a lust for a goodie bag. These are the places where you go to get that extra love from the people behind the counter and the unique products they bring you.
1. Kruščić Artisan Bakery, Split
Obrov 6, behind the fish market
Anand moved back to his native Split after spending years in New York to open Kruščić, an artisan bakery that undoubtedly makes the best bread in town: all organic creations, where all flours are unbleached, unbromated, without preservatives… You know the drill. Located behind the city’s main fish market, the peškarija, this is a compulsory stop for locals running their morning errands. The aromas of freshly-baked bread will lure you to join the crowds waiting in line for their famed Emperor’s Bread, a hearty loaf with honey and goat cheese, an ancient recipe used to feed Roman soldiers almost two millennia ago. Set your alarm if you want to make it to Kruščić before the selection runs thin (hours: Mon-Sat 8am-2pm), and then nibble on your bread of choice as you take in the most peaceful views from a bench on the nearby Riva promenade.
2. Cukarin, Korčula
In charming old Korčula, on the island by the same name, auntie Smiljana has been creating the most mouthwatering baked sweets for almost two decades. Smiljana produces fresh batches everyday, still using her grandmother’s old recipes alongside some of her own creation. The signature Cukarin dry sweet is a peculiarly shaped cookie with notes of lemon and orange that is best enjoyed after dipping it in some local prošek sweet wine. Among the mouthwatering offerings: Klašun, Marko Polo Bombica, Harubica, and Amareta–another favorite: a crispy bun with a soft filling of ground almonds, lemon and other tempting secret ingredients.
3. Mesnica Čučković Meat Shop, Rijeka
(Lučinici 41, Viškovo Rijeka)
The Čučković Brothers learnt well from their father, a master butcher with a sharp knife and a delicate palate who first opened the butchery in 1989. The brothers Danijel and Dejan will give you a warm welcome and only their bloodstained aprons keep them from giving their customers loving hugs; instead they spread their love by filling their stomachs with the best products there are. A true carnivore’s heaven, the Čučković Brothers store sells the finest meats in the country, carefully sourced from small local farmers. They offer the finest cuts: homemade sausages and salamis, cured hams, marinated meats and meat roulades–and so much more! If you don’t have access to a grill, opt for the dried meats. They are a perfect snack to enjoy on your hotel balcony with a nice glass of wine in hand.
4. Šinjorina Smokva, Zadar Area
Figs are one of the most distinctive Mediterranean foods. This versatile fruit makes its way into every Dalmatian home and fills it with many memories: devouring a bowl of fresh fruit after a swim in the Adriatic, picking figs with your mother, drying them on nets in the garden, granddad carefully infusing them with rakija (grappa)…. But the highlight is the jam-making!
After living the corporate life in Zagreb, Sandra and Alan relocated to their family farm in Zadar’s hinterland, dedicating their life to figs. The outcome was Šinjorina Smokva (Miss Fig), a prizewinning, mouthwatering fig jam that has stolen many hearts. The company now has also expanded their portfolio with sour cherry and quince jam. Yum! When on your coastal holiday, take the road less traveled and pay the family a visit to stash up on jam.
There are a so many hidden places to get the best of the best local produce made with love, but you will have to look a little harder to find it. A few other places of note include Eliscaffe (Ilica 63, Zagreb) for freshly roasted coffee brewed by passionate coffee geeks, Vitlov Chocolate (Borelli 7, Zadar), Harissa Spice Shop (Masarykova 3, Zagreb), Baccala Della Mamma (Bačva 3, Višnjan, Istria) for cod products, and basically every household in the countryside.
Do you know other Croatian foodie pit stops? Share them with us!