Vegetarian in Belgrade? What and where to eat?

stories-about-belgrade-vegeterian-in-belgradeMost sites about Belgrade and Serbia warn you to prepare yourself for horrifying quantities of meet lurking around every corner, three times a day.

This is, to a large extent, true and if you’re into cheap and tasty street food or into greasy but oh so flavorsome Balkan specialties, you will have a time of your life here. But how about vegetarians and vegans, those categories of people whose preferences still raise many eyebrows here.

How difficult it really is to be a vegetarian tourist (or resident for that matter) in Belgrade? Can you relax knowing that you will eat well and sufficiently and enjoy the town or you will still have to be tense about what and where to eat?

Belgrade is not as harsh to its vegetarians as it once was. Though it would be hard to claim that there are many more vegetarians here than before, they are at least understood better. The biggest distinction to the times a decade ago however is that vegetarians needn’t only go for self-catering but can indulge in having proper meals in specialized restaurants.

Of these, the best reviews are received by the vegetarian and macrobiotic restaurant Joy of the Heart, a small, unpretentious joint in a basement of Svetogorska St no. 18, close to the Parliament building.

Just around the corner, in Palmoticeva 5, is Indian-themed Mumbai Restaurant which caters mostly for business people during their lunchtime break so that it can get a bit disappointing in the evening.

Cafe-bookshop (sic!) Everest (Gospodar Jevremova 47a) offers only snacks (such as wraps and smoothies), which are fresh and tasty but also quite pricier than the first two places.

“Priroda”, the pioneer of vegetarian restaurants in Belgrade, is still there and rocking, but its location (Batutova 11) won’t do for most guests since it’s way out of the city centre. If you decide to go there and check it out, take the trolleybus no. 28 and ask someone to tell you when stop “Batutova” comes. Another central option is the old, socialist era kafana “Sunce” (Decanska 1) which offers a buffet “fasting table” (posni sto) at a fixed price.

However, note that this option is, as the name says, available only during the times of the feast according to the calendar of the Orthodox Church. Also be warned that many dishes here are fish-based; ask which don’t contain any (bez ribe).

If you’re running with a larger crowd and get seated in a regular restaurant ask for a vegetarian platter (vegetarijanski tanjir) that is nowadays available in a good number of restaurants and even in some kafanas. Most of the restaurants also offer a variety of salads.

In a kafana (an olden days Serbian restaurants) the choices are narrower. Most of the vegetarians go for sopska salad (tomatoes, cucumbers, onions and cottage cheese on top of it), or srpska (same as above, just hot peppers instead of cheese, which comes handy for vegans).

You shouldn’t miss the local delicacies such as kajmak (midway between a cheese and a cream), ajvar (pepper, eggplant and garlic relish) or prebranac (casserole of beans and onion) that will do for a filling main meal. If you get to like kajmak, and most people do, go also for the lepinja s kajmakom, a sort of kajmak sandwich available at some fast food stalls.

As for the numerous pizzerias around, those that care about their reputation should have a choice of at least one or two vegetarian pizzas.

If you’re eating a pie or a burek in one of Belgrade’s ubiquitous bakeries try to inquire if it was baked on oil (na ulju) or on lard. That goes for many other pastries as well.

For those who intend to cook for themselves a visit to one of Belgrade’s green markets is a must. From mid springtime to late autumn you will find there all the fresh fruit and veggies your heart desires at bargain prices; the choice is much more narrow, but not uninteresting, in winter.

The number of stores specialized for selling unconventional (for Serbia) food items, which include a variety of organic and whole food products, is also on the rise and there is one now in almost any neighborhood. These are called prodavnica zdrave hrane. Here are some centrally located ones: “Bio Market” (Svetogorska 18 & Marsala Birjuzova 37),just a few doors down from the Joy of the Heart, Nutricia (Skadarska 47), Carobna bundeva (Makenzijeva 21), Hema-kheya-neye (Hilandarska 24), “Ana” (Cika Ljubina 10), “Bio bazar” (Cara Dusana 7).

Before you start, don’t forget to memorize the crucial phrase Ja sam vegetarijanac / vegan (“I am a vegetarian / vegan”). Now you can enjoy Belgrade the vegetarian way!

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