No matter how many times I return the thrill never diminishes: Zadar is my favorite place in the world to eat.
Because as much as the memories of burgers and shakes in NYC or onion soup and croissants in Paris make me swoon, the simplicity of fresh seasonal food wins my vote, and my heart, every time. You won’t find a diverse array of international cuisines here nor any all-the-rage crazes, and there are indeed other parts of Croatia, most notably the Istra region, which are more highly regarded for their gastro tourism.
But Zadar is where the heart is. And despite living in Sydney, where you can eat just about anything you can think of at any time of day or night, and can usually even have it delivered to your door, what it doesn’t have is the small town village feel that seems to resonate with me more and more with each passing year. Simple food, fresh, local, and in season, is all I need. Pair it with a view of the blue Adriatic Sea and my favourite old cobblestone streets, and I’m in heaven.
Here then, long overdue and in no particular order, is why Zadar is my favourite city in the world to eat and drink in. I’ve also included a couple of places outside the old town, which fall under the region of Zadar.
All the cafes
There are literally cafes EVERYWHERE, especially in the old town. I don’t actually think you can ever walk more than a few metres before hitting the next one. Head for central locations around the cathedral of St Anastasia or nearby St Donat for people watching, or wind your way down a narrow alley to find a quieter place. All cafes serve alcohol from the minute they open, and I promise no-one will judge you if you order a beer at ten in the morning. Coffee and alcohol are both very cheap, while soft drinks, in comparison, are not.
- Kavana Lovre, Narodni Trg, Zadar Old Town
- Callegro, Široka ulica 18, Zadar Old Town
- Caffe Bar Noskic, Obala kraljice Elizabete Kotromanić 70, Novigrad Dalmatia
- Caffe Bar Luna, Marinka Vedrica 2, Posedarje
Hands down our favourite restaurant, and a place we’ve enjoyed more meals at than I could possibly even begin to number. Open seemingly all day, it’s a great spot for good food as well as a spot for people watching, Skoblar sits in the shade of a huge tree on the edge of an open square. The menu is the kind you will see all over the city, but it’s always done perfectly. They will often feature very traditional local specialities, so make sure to try some tripe, bakalar, whitebait, or a black cuttlefish risotto.
Another one we’ve enjoyed many meals at, Bruschetta is widely considered a step above the rest of the crowd. Their menu offers a bit more excitement, and the prices are a bit higher than the smaller places. But the food is always spot on, and it’s usually the place we’d go if we wanted to show Zadar to people seeing it for the first time. Open from lunch, Bruschetta is always on our list.
Restoran Malo Misto
I originally avoided Malo Misto because it looked like it was always chock full of tourists, but silly me because they obviously knew where to find some of the best food in the old town. Along with friendly and professional wait staff who greet you by name on your return every summer, this place has become one of our family favourites. The food is always good, the drinks and cocktails are excellent, and it’s one of the best spots on a hot day, nestled in under a massive tree. And make sure you do like I do and pop into the cake shop opposite before you head off.
About twenty minutes from Zadar’s old town is a gorgeous little seaside village, which is the place my family truly call home. It’s a few minutes from the village where my in-laws live, and is our local everything: cafe, pizza place, restaurant, swimming place, bar. Obviously I’m very biased, but it’s too much of a gem to leave it off this list. There’s also a town with the same name up in the northern Istra region which may be flashier and more popular, but there’s only one Novigrad for us, and I promise that Konoba Mika is more than worth the trip.
The best pizzas are NOT in Italy
I’ve eaten pizza in Italy. It’s good. It’s also overpriced and very hit and miss.
I’ve eaten A LOT of pizza in Zadar, and it’s cheap, authentic, and delicious every time. Think thin crispy woodfired bases with only a couple of toppings, which admittedly may not be everyone’s thing if what they usually order is a super supreme on a deep pan base, but if you want a pizza that won’t give you a sore belly after eating it then the pizza’s in Zadar are for you. And with lots of restaurants and cafe’s doing double duty and pumping out woodfired pizzas when the sun goes down, you don’t even have to think too much about where to go.
- Caffe Bar Luna, Marinka Vedrica 2, Posedarje
- Konoba Mika, Obala kraljice Elizabete Kotromanić 50, Novigrad Dalmatia
- Restaurant Antonio, Posedarje
We have better ice-cream too, just quietly.
You want a view with that?
With the blue waters of the Adriatic surrounding the old town and the Novigrad Sea snaking its way around endless seaside villages and towns, if all you want with your dinner is a view you have come to the right place. There are also the ancient stone buildings, churches, and ruins; as well as that magical and famous Zadar sunset to feast your eyes on as the aperitif arrives.
Novigradske dagnje and all the krafne
Do we eat out all the time? No, almost, but not quite. The Zadar fish market is widely acknowledged as the best in the region and then some, but make sure you get in early. And when seafood is that fresh all it needs is some quick time on the barbecue and a little olive oil when it’s done.
The Novigrad Sea is also home to the best mussels Croatia has to offer, and with a husband who is happiest submerged in the sea with his mask and fins we often enjoy spaghetti with mussels or crumbed mussels, straight out of his net bag that day.
My biggest weakness however are krafne: the fat fried donuts sold everywhere, filled with either jam or nutella, they have a tendency to sell out quick. I don’t even try to pretend anymore that I’ll have any self control whatsoever.
Then there’s the aunt who has a pancake stand and makes the best pancakes EVER…
So there you have it, my guide to our favourite places in Zadar and it’s surrounds. There are so many others I wanted to mention, places like Malo Misto in the old town and Cafe Luna and Restaurant Antonio in Posedarje, but the common thing with all of them is the simplicity, and not having to read pages of a menu and wonder what’s good, because it all is.
Zadar may not be where you go for the latest food trends and innovations, but for good food and wine paired with a killer view and zero pretensions, it’s my pick every time.
And with all the international accolades and awards it’s received in recent years, I dare say the secret is out.