Dining in the Balkans is an interesting experience. There are lots of restaurants, but there is not much variety. For one thing, except in the capitals, we didn’t see ethnic restaurants such as Chinese, and even in the capitals, there seemed to be only one or two.
Instead, the restaurants tend to be pretty much straight up meat and fish restaurants, although the Italian influence is also widely evident with lots of pizza and pasta joints, but with nothing like the variety of food one might expect to find in a restaurant in Italy.
However, the standard of everything was excellent – fresh products generally prepared simply, with few sauces. The quality of the fish was as good as the best I’ve eaten anywhere and I don’t think the restaurants serve any that didn’t come in on the boat that morning. If you don’t eat meat, but do eat fish, you’ll eat very well in this region – especially by the coast, but even inland we had excellent river and lake fish such as trout. If you are a vegetarian, your choices will generally be simply prepared vegetables (generally meant as a side dish to meat or fish), pasta, or pizza. If you are a vegan, pack a lot of your own food!
We were led to expect poor service in restaurants, but our experience was otherwise. Yes, the service is slow, but this is more a reflection of the relaxed lifestyle in this part of the world. The waiters were very friendly and helpful in helping us avoid things we couldn’t eat and generally being attentive in their own way.
On the liquid side of things, there were always plenty of drink options. House wine and beer is very inexpensive, often about the same as bottled water and less than soda. There were also some unusual options such as – grapefruit “beer”, lemon-mint cider, elderflower cider, etc.
For those with a sweet tooth, Ice cream joints are ubiquitous and generally very inexpensive – about $1 a scoop or less in most places. There are also innumerable bakeries, which tended to stay open late and in addition to providing fresh bread, also sold pastries of some kind. Sometimes these were just chocolate croissants or similar (often not bad), other times, they had a wide variety of cakes and baked goods which were excellent and on a par with what one might find in France or Austria (maybe a legacy of the Austro-Hungarian influence).
Costs were interesting and for the for most part increased as the trip progressed as our latter destinations were more popular tourist spots. By European standards, I would say that at the most expensive (e.g. Dubrovnik), prices were on a par with good restaurants in other major European capitals such as Dublin or Paris. However, for everywhere else, the costs tended to be significantly less.
While the quality of food we experienced was very good, on a longer trip, the lack of variety, especially with our restricted dietary preferences, meant that mealtimes sometimes felt a bit repetitive.