Food & Drink introduction
Dubrovnik has a lively restaurant scene and the walls surrounding the city certainly don't disappoint if you are looking for atmosphere and beautiful views. The busiest restaurant district Prijeko, runs parallel to Stradun, Dubrovnik’s main thoroughfare, but it can be crowded with touts outside trying to entice passing trade from the many tourists and is best avoided during the busy summer months despite the picturesque surroundings.
Instead visit the equally picturesque restaurants within the Old Town and along the waterfront, and ask around locally for recommendations to truly sample the culinary delights Dubrovnik has to offer. Narrow marble streets lined with cosy cafes and lanterns abound, lending a romantic and Parisian air to the city. In the Old Town expect to see plenty of grilled fish and shellfish, both of which should be experienced due to the incredible purity of the Adriatic on the South Dalmatian coast. Most of the more expensive restaurants tend to specialise in seafood and great quality grilled meats. However, a predominantly Italian influence means there are some fantastic pizza and pasta establishments across the city if you feel like something less formal and more al fresco.
Universally, it’s essential to book, especially during the busy season and at weekends. Also remember that some of the smaller restaurants and bars listed in this section may not accept cards and ATMs can be few and far between. However, this can be part of the charm, some of the more traditional restaurants seem to reflect a golden era, unspoilt by modern considerations and offer a glimpse into food heaven by way of local meats, cheeses and wines.
Croatian wine, or ‘vina,' and its production on the Southern Dalmatian coast, can be traced back over 2,500 years to the ancient Greek settlers on the islands of Vis, Hvar and Korcula and like many other old world wine producers, many early grape varieties still survive. There are currently over 300 geographically defined wine regions, and a strict classification system is in place to ensure quality and origin.
In Croatia wine is often diluted with either still or sparkling water; ‘Bevanda’ - red wine and still water - and ‘gemist’ is a combination of white wine and gently sparkling water. You could also sample the most popular spirit in Croatia, the home made rakija. This is a strong distilled drink made from a variety of fruits including ‘sljivovica’, made from plums, ‘loza’, made from grapes and ‘orahovica’ made with walnuts. ‘Pelinkovac’, a liqueur based on a wormwood distillation, is served almost everywhere and certainly offers a taste of true Croatia. Also try ‘travarica’ a sophisticated herbal spirit and a superb digestive tonic. All are quite strong but certainly a taste experience worth savouring, perhaps at one of Dubrovnik’s famous and picturesque ‘rock’ bars, small indeed, but the perfect place to enjoy a drink in front of the beautiful waterfront and only enhanced by the sunset and good company.
Gastro Tip: Look out for wines from the Pelješac peninsula, in particular the local red wine ‘Dingač’, known throughout Croatia and used as holy wine in religious ceremonies. ‘Dingač’ wine is far from just an ordinary wine, it has become a religious symbol in Croatia, rooted in the age old tradition of wine making in this region. The microclimate and micro-terrain of Pelješac are crucial for the overall quality of this wine and it is in ‘Dingač’ that the ‘Plavac Mali’ grape (closely related to Zinfandel) shows off its finest characteristics; giving the wine a smooth taste, harmoniously full and rounded. As a result of its ruby red colour and holy use, ‘Dingač is often known as ‘the blood of the soil’ in Dalmatia. Another distinguishing feature of ‘Dingač’ is the tradition of hand cultivation; the only cultivation possible as the region’s vineyards slope downwards to the sea. Look out for wines from ‘Matusko’ a famous large winery and vineyard in Pelješac and ‘Milos’, pioneers of family run, boutique wines in Croatia. Wines from ‘Milos’ have a cult following; the most well known is ‘Stagnum,' produced from the ‘Plavac Mali’ grape. There are only two vintages of ‘Stagnum’ on the market, 2003 and 2005, both of which offer wonderful ageing potential. Another great producer is the Vicelić winery, offering a fantastic version of Dingač thats not to be missed.