Tis the Season... To Eat Out

Advent in Zagreb as we know it is not happening this year, due to the obvious circumstances. One of the things we usually look most forward to at the Christmas market is winter street food. And in this category, the winner is always sausage.

Dozens of types and styles, but in the end it all boils down to a warm sausage in a bun, with different condiments. A classic nobody can refuse. Not only are there no Advent food huts and stands this year, but all restaurants are closed down, too. Still, neither Grinch nor Coronavirus can steal away the pleasure of nibbling tasty winter street food and washing it down with mulled wine. Yes, you can still grab a piece of winter comfort food and enjoy it outdoors, strolling through downtown Zagreb illuminated by Christmas lights and decorations.

“Local classics – buncek and sauerkraut – served in a bun.” Image credit: Vinodol FB

To keep the business going, most eateries have switched to delivery and takeout services. Some of them, on convenient and busy locations in central Zagreb, have adapted wisely to the situation. There are still people moving around, walking the streets, being hungry and wanting to feel some of that good old Christmas market spirit. Even if that means sitting on your own on a bench in Zrinjevac Park and chewing a juicy buncek (smoked pork hock) sandwich, while listening to Christmas songs coming from somewhere in the distance. (Yes, I'm speaking from my own experience.) The procedure is simple. You either phone the place up or go directly to their little take-out window to place your order. While you are waiting, you can always warm yourself up with a glass of their homemade mulled wine. Here is my list of go-to places this holiday season, to bring some Christmas cheer to your stomach.

“We’re used to sarma in a large pot, but it can also be served as street food.” Image credit: Market FB

Lažni svjedok bistro in Amruševa Street just across Zrinjevac is a new place, and due to their terrific location, they have actually made a name for themselves now, in this lockdown situation. They actually have quite an extensive selection of food and drinks you can get from their little window, but the absolute hit is buncek sandwich and buncek pizza. Apart from the meat, the sandwich consists of sauerkraut, melted cheese and horseradish sauce. The best thing is it does not come in a regular bun, but in a crispy pizza-like crust. For 25 kn, it's the perfect winter snack. A few blocks away, in Gundulićeva Street, on the doorstep of Market you can pick up another winter classic transformed into street food. A couple of years ago they became famous when they served traditional sarma (minced meat and rice rolled in sauerkraut leaves and slow-cooked) in the form of a sandwich, with brown bread, soft cheese sauce, chives and shredded sauerkraut. No point in changing a winning horse, so sarma-to-go is back!

“And now for something completely different – tuna sausage.” Image credit: Theatrium by Filho FB

There are a few other popular bistros or street food places offering signature winter sandwiches of their own. An upscale version for serious foodies comes from Theatrium by Filho restaurant – Adriatic tuna sausage, homemade bun, wasabi mayonnaise, collard, scallion, spicy ajvar spread. Rougemarin’s headquarters is a bit further from the centre, but it’s worth getting there for excellent bites, like spicy Italian sausage, chorizo sandwich, pulled pork and other internationally flavoured bestsellers. El Toro beckons with salsicha navidenas, while Vinodol is more focused on local stuff like duck burger with mulled wine sauce or veal sausage with onion chips…  Downtown Zagreb is definitely still alive, and let’s face it – a lot of holiday joy comes from food. I know it's not the same, but we can try to bring at least some of the old cheer to our lives, any way that it's possible. Remember, it's the little things!

And now for something completely different – tuna sausage.” Image credit: Rougemarin FB

Header image credit: Beštija FB

Author: Morana Zibar / Taste of Croatia