I’ve lived in Bucharest for the past almost 30 years, and as a local and travel blogger, I know food is an important part of any escape. Bucharest food is diverse, and you’ll find anything from traditional dishes, to some tasty Italian food, Greek, Turkish, and anything in between.
Don’t worry if you don’t know where to start from, I’ll take you through it all. From some traditional dishes you shouldn’t miss to all the places I go to and specific food I eat in each.
Brace yourself because it will be a very comprehensive list. I want this to be a Bucharest food guide that will help you navigate the city, one dish at a time, and enjoy it as much as I do.
From where to have breakfast in Bucharest to the best brunch in Bucharest, insane pizza, and mouth-watering pasta or desserts. You’ll have it all.
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Bucharest food – an introduction to local cuisine
I often get asked what’s some traditional Romanian food, and I struggle with that. Mainly because plenty of these dishes you’ll find in some form or another elsewhere in the Balkans.
However, it is true that each country has its own interpretation, and what we call local in Romania might be slightly different from what you’ll find in Serbia for example.
When I look at the traditional dishes we eat for the holidays I can say we are a country that loves its meat. It is pretty hard, if not impossible, to find vegan or vegetarian traditional dishes. However, there are plenty of modern restaurants in Bucharest that offer vegan food, thus don’t panic.
Another thing to have in mind is that we don’t eat traditional food on a daily basis. Mainly because it is heavy and it has a lot of fat, but also because we live in a multicultural world, where globalization played a huge role in everyday life.
One other thing worth knowing is that you will likely find more restaurants serving traditional food in other parts of the country such as Brasov or the mountains towns, but there are a few also in Bucharest.
When you feel overwhelmed and don’t know what to try first, consider going on a Bucharest food tour with a local.
So, what are some traditional dishes to try in Bucharest and where to go to eat them?
Sarmale with polenta
Maybe the most traditional food you can get in Romania. As I’ve said, we rarely eat sarmale throughout the year, even though they are delicious.
This basically minced pork meat in cabbage leaves, and it is something we have for Christmas, Easter, and weddings or baptisms. They come served with polenta and sour cream.
Literally translated as “little ones”, these are Romanian’s favorite barbeque dish and you’ll see people eating them especially during summer.
A mix of minced meat with certain spices, they come served with bread, mustard, and go very well with beer.
Romanians think that you must eat at least a soup every day in order for your stomach to work properly. Consequently, there are plenty of soups and broth options that are really delicious.
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Some are sour, some aren’t, and some are the perfect hangover remedy.
You must try: ciorba de fasole cu afumatura (beans broth with smoked meat), ciorba de burta (broth with tripe), ciorba de vacuta (vegetable broth with veal meat), supa crema de ciuperci (mushroom cream soup), supa de pui cu taitei de casa (chicken soup with homemade noodles).
Ciolan cu fasole (pork knuckle with beans)
Simply delicious! This is something you don’t find everywhere, but you should try if you do.
Some of my favorite Romanian food, starters will make happy also the vegetarians visiting Bucharest. Most are spreads that we eat with bread, and some are normally done during fall for winter.
Zacusca – various vegetables (peppers, eggplants, onions) baked and cooked in a delicious spread. This is my all-time fall favorite, and the one my mother does is, of course, the best, haha. However, not everyone would have access to that one, but you will find it in most places with traditional food.
Tarama salad – that’s something I found only in Greece outside of Romania. It is a fish originated spread and everyone must try it at least once. I love it and have found some Greek versions in Hong Kong, but I still dream about the Romanian version.
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White bean spread – for the bean lovers out there, you shouldn’t miss out on this delicious spread. It is similar to hummus but made from beans, not chickpeas, and comes served with some baked onions.
Eggplant salad – this might look funny, but I guarantee is one of the best things you’ll ever try. There are certain variations to it in the Lebanese, Greek, or Turkish cuisines, and I honestly think that’s where we got it from as well. However, this is my favorite summer salad and I could have that with fresh tomatoes for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.
Various Romanian cheese and sausage/salami – I’m a huge cheese lover and I think I’ve tried almost everything out there. However, the cheese we have in Romania is special and has a different texture than most cheeses out there. It is close to feta cheese but yet different. Also, try meat appetizers such as traditional bacon, liver paste, all kinds of sausage, “drob” (a cold meat pie), or toba (a mix of different parts of the pork).
Ok, this is not a Romanian dish, but it has been adopted and you can find it in many places in Transylvania (a local dish because of the region’s history, but we’ll not get into that).
It is a veel broth with plenty of hearty vegetables, paprika, and much more. I love it and the one my husband does in the garden (he is half Hungarian) is the best one. It is true it might be difficult to obtain that wood fire taste and for the best version, you need to slow cook it for many hours.
Having to explain ciulama might be a bit complicated because the dish is not something I’ve seen in other places. It is usually done with chicken or with mushrooms for the vegetarian option, and it comes served with polenta.
This dish might not look so appealing because of its white sauce, but it is still delicious and filling.
Romanians have their polenta passion, that’s true. Bulz is another type of polenta with some kind of goat or sheep cheese, Romanian bacon, and a fried egg, baked in the oven so that the cheese becomes gooey.
I normally have it when I go to the mountains, but there are places in Bucharest where you can try it as well.
The Romanian version of pretzels, covrigi are the best friend of corporate people, students, and not only. They are cheap, filling, delicious, and easy to find almost anywhere.
We would eat covrigi with our coffee in the morning in the office, and there is always a line in the morning at the closest place selling them.
There are different types from the traditional poppy seeds and salt ones to the sesame seeds, sunflower seeds, or sweet ones with different types of fillings (chocolate, fruit, and much more).
What’s a meal without a dessert, are you with me?
I sure love my desserts (bye, bye, beach body), and the Romanian ones are some of my favorites, of course. Don’t leave without trying some of the below.
Cozonac – the traditional sweet we eat for Christmas and Easter. My mouth waters as I write about it and think about the best one I’ve ever bought from Cozonacul.ro.
This is a sweet bread filled with plenty of walnuts and cocoa. Some might also add Turkish delight or raisins, but I like mine simple.
Papanasi – a friend from Croatia called them “boobs” because they come served as a couple and have this small round “nipple”. Let me tell you, I eat papanasi every time I get the chance to do it! In Bucharest, in Vama Veche, or in the mountains, nothing can keep me away from this dessert.
They are basically 2 doughnuts made with cottage cheese, served with sour cream and a delicious fruit jam.
My grandmother’s walnut cornulete are the best in the world, but you can buy them also from different cake shops. You can find them filled with Turkish Delight, jam, or walnut and cocoa cream (like the cozonac one).
They are called “nuts” but they are actually some kind of “cornulete” with a round form, filled with a special cream I adore. You can buy them also from the airport at Art & Craft, order them online, or look for them at cake shops.
They make for great souvenirs to bring back home, or gifts for friends – we brought some to our Greek friends and they absolutely love them.
Whenever I eat them I get sent back to my childhood when I was looking forward to birthdays or holidays because my friend’s mother made some amazing “nuts”.
Many people might not know this, but Romania has great wine production and has many award-winning wines. I love my wine, and have been exploring the old Wine Route just outside of Bucharest, and have also done a wine tasting escape at Rhein wine cellars in Azuga.
You can choose to go to a wine tasting tour at Lacerta Winery only a few hours outside of Bucharest, and learn about the local wine and see some of the places I’ve visited on the old Wine Route on Prahova Valley. Just make sure to book it in advance because there are only certain days they organize it.
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If you don’t have the time to leave Bucharest, or you just want to stay in, there’s also the option of going wine tasting at First Wine Bar.
When you have more time and want to spend a night in between the vineyards, taste good wine, and eat delicious traditional food with a twist, book a room at Casa Timis. We went there for my birthday last year and I really loved how peaceful and rural it is, while still offering great quality and modern services.
Other food in Bucharest to try – a modern twist
Shift Pub – one of our favorite places, where I usually meet friends after work or for brunch during weekends. We usually go there for the small garden and their delicious pasta dishes. Try the pasta primavera or the ones with seeds and mushrooms, or their huge salads filled with all kinds of goodies.
You must call before and make a reservation if you want to find a place, and the alternative is their other location – Alt Shift.
Simbio – their location is pretty nice and the back garden is so cozy and lovely during summer. We go there for brunch or dinner, and I’ve celebrated birthdays in the past in their garden. Try their burgers, pasta, or eggs during the weekend.
It would be great to call for a reservation ahead of time, especially when you are more people.
Frudisiac – a Scandinavian concept in the heart of Bucharest, this is the place to go for great coffee and their famous pancakes. You’ll see that Bucharest has a thing for pancakes and there are plenty of good places, but I just love the ones at Frudisiac, whenever I can find a place.
They don’t take reservations and the place is rather small, thus you’ll have to be lucky to find a place. But that only means that the food here is great.
Mamizza Pizza – by far the best pizza in town, they make it as the one you’ll eat in Naples and use real Italian ingredients like fior di latte, scamorza, capocollo, and burrata.
Trattoria Buongiorno – I haven’t tried many things here, but we always go for the mussels in wine and garlic. They serve it with a hot butter and garlic bread baguette. I would say these are by far the best mussels in town.
La Placinte – Moldavian pies with different stuffing, and much more than that. They serve all kinds of Moldavian traditional dishes you won’t find anywhere else in Bucharest.
Vivo – many consider this place to have the best burgers in town. Honestly, I’m not a specialist, but they are pretty good.
Modern desserts in Bucharest
As you’ve seen, the food in Bucharest is very diverse, so that’s to be expected also from the desserts available to choose from.
You won’t find only the traditional desserts, and you’ll see those are pretty hard to find in restaurants.
However, Bucharest has a thing for pancakes and lots of French sweets, like eclairs, fruit tarts, croissants, and much more.
When you want to indulge in something good, here are a few desserts you shouldn’t miss out on.
French Revolution – they make not only the prettiest eclairs in town, but they are also delicious and airy. As you enter their shop you’ll be in difficulty because you won’t know which one to choose out of their huge variety.
Rue du Pain – they don’t only have sweets to die for, but make some awesome bread and have one of the best brunches in Bucharest.
Cremeria Gioelia – the best ice cream in Bucharest! So many delicious flavors to choose from made based on original Italian recipes, I would never say no to an ice cream from here.
They also make cakes, cannoli, and frozen cups to take home.
Address: various locations in town