Traditional Romanian food is a mountain of indulgence and a broad landscape of local delicacies inspired by centuries of history, empire, and immigration. There is so much to love and explore in both the sweets and savouries of Romanian food that it’s vital to know the best restaurants in Bucharest, and to have a firm grip on the most unmissable Romanian dishes.
Here, you’ll find not only the five best restaurants in Bucharest – as well as their history and cultural importance – but also the four best cafes in Bucharest to relax at and take in the atmosphere. Finally, at the bottom, you’ll get a detailed guide to the very best of traditional Romanian food from Wallachia and Transylvania, including the Romanian national dish.
Everything we learned here was taught and shown to us by the amazing people at Romanian Thrills. Check them out to book a private tour of Romania’s history and natural landscape.
5 Best Restaurants in Bucharest
Everyone who visits Bucharest owes it to themselves to indulge in the local cuisine. Traditional Romanian food is delicious – all of it; every single bit. And Bucharest has some historic, beautiful, dedicated restaurants that serve up the best Romanian dishes around. Here are five to check out when you visit Bucharest.
Manuc’s Inn (Restaurant Hanu’lui Manuc)
We mentioned Manuc’s Inn as a place of great historic and architectural significance in our guide to things to see in Bucharest, but it’s also one of the best restaurants in Bucharest. In fact, Manuc’s Inn might be the very best, not only for its architectural beauty, history, and atmosphere, but for its menu – which is the real reason anyone eats anywhere.
You can scroll down to our guide to the best Romanian dishes, but you’ll also find almost all of them on the menu at Manuc’s Inn. Restaurant Hanu’lui Manuc, being the place of cultural history that it is, and once upon a time being a vital staple of Bucharest’s economy and politics, is a Romanian restaurant very much concerned with serving up real traditional Romanian food.
At this Romanian restaurant you’ll find the national dish of Romania: sarmale, as well as every local’s favourite skinless sausages (mici) and a soup originally brought to Romania all the way from medieval Persia: ciorba. For dessert, you can treat yourself to what is Europe’s most indulgently sweet and filling pudding: papanasi.
In short, if you want an affordable meal in a beautiful central location, drenched in Romanian history, and if you’re looking to try real traditional Romanian food – and the very best of it, no less – head to Manuc’s Inn, one of the very best restaurants in Bucharest.
Caru’ cu Bere
With a name that literally translates to ‘The Beer Wagon’, this restaurant in Bucharest Old Town is a symbol and a staple of Bucharest in more ways than one. The first being its neo-gothic architecture, which adds spectacularly to the collage of gorgeous architecture that makes up the style and aesthetics of Bucharest Old Town.
One of the family founders of Caru’ cu Bere took a trip to Germany in the late 19th century to learn about the process of beer brewing, and ever since Caru’ cu Bere has been a beloved pub and brewery for so many locals for over a hundred years. But Caru’ cu Bere offers more than just beer.
As a hub for traditional Romanian food, ‘The Beer Wagon’ is one of the best restaurants in Bucharest. Their menus offers a dizzying selection of homemade meals, from breads and salads to soups and grilled meats. The Romanian dishes we’ve already mentioned, and will continue to mention – like sarmale cabbage rolls and papanasi dessert – all feature on the menu.
With a huge history (which you can read more about on their website), grandiose architecture, a deep beer culture, and an extensive menu of Romanian dishes, Caru’ cu Bere is indisputably one of the best restaurants in Bucharest.
Perhaps it’s unfair to call this one of the best restaurants in Bucharest, since it’s not technically a restaurant but more of a street food stall/takeout place. Nonetheless, Scovergaria Micai is the best place in Bucharest to pick up some heavenly scovergi.
You can find out more about scovergi below but it’s vital that you know just how heavenly they are. In the UK, we have Cornish pasties; in New York, there are hotdog vendors; in Shanghai and Taipei, there are bao; in Osaka, you’ll find takoyaki. In Bucharest, the cheap, delicious, filling street food of choice is scovergi.
Scovergaria Micai can be found in Bucharest Old Town, and the end of Strada Lipscani and around the corner from the National Museum of Romanian History. It’s a simple hole-in-the-wall where you pick your scovergi of choice from a long menu, order from the lovely lady behind the counter, and walk away a very happy person.
Scovergi from this place are so cheap it feels dirty, and our scovergi of choice were filled with cheese, garlic, and dill. Find your own and then find yourself coming back every single day for lunch.
Read More: 9 Unmissable Things to Do in Bucharest
While we often consider Saint George the patron saint of England (and that’s true) he actually has enormous significance across Europe and beyond, including Romania. Born in Cappadocia, Turkey, Saint George is the patron saint of a number of nations and regions across the world, and in Romania Saint George’s Day is a pretty big deal.
So, it should come as no surprise that a restaurant that has taken his name has nothing to do with English food. In fact, Saint George restaurant is one of the best restaurants in Bucharest, offering both Transylvanian fare and, for those looking for comfort food, some fantastic Italian dishes.
All the best Transylvanian food can be found here, as well as reliable staples like ciorba soups and sarmale. There are a lot of meat-based dishes here, which is worth keeping in mind. But, if you are a carnivore, then you have your pick of beef, fish, and pork-based meals; and they’re all excellent.
While a market might not be a restaurant, the goal of this guide is to give visitors to Bucharest the chance to really understand Romanian food and to enjoy the best Romanian dishes. You can do both at Obor farmer’s market.
This market, which is open every day of the year, has an outdoor eating area where you can enjoy the very best mici in Bucharest. Just below, you’ll find out the story of mici and exactly how it came to be. But, put simply, mici are grilled skinless sausages. And the ones you can get at Obor Market are divine; their recipe is perfection, and they give an enormous helping of mustard to enjoy your mici with.
Aside from mici, Obor Market also allows visitors the opportunity to explore all the local ingredients and shopping items that Romanians typically pick up. Romania is still a very traditional place, and shopping at farmer’s markets (as well as at the supermarkets0 is the norm for the majority of people in Bucharest.
Because of this, Obor Market is the truest representation of food shopping and traditional Romanian food in Bucharest. You won’t find the best restaurants in Bucharest here; what you’ll find instead is something more valuable: a window into authentic Romanian living and eating.
4 Best Cafes in Bucharest
Bucharest is a busy place, and knowing where to take refuge and be able to relax when you’ve had enough of exploring and you need to recharge is vital to fully enjoying this bustling capital. It’s also important for coffee addicts like us to know where to get the very best coffee in Bucharest. So, here are four excellent cafes in Bucharest to relax in and enjoy.
Origo Coffee Shop
Origo is the speciality coffee shop of Bucharest. While Brasov is overflowing with great cafes and has a real coffee culture, Bucharest at first seems a little lacking. That might be because all the city’s creative coffee energy went into Origo.
If you’re looking to get your hipster coffee fill, with a post-modern artsy décor, friendly English-speaking servers, artisanal coffees, and packets of their own speciality coffee on sale for you to take home with you, Origo has it all.
There are multiple blends of coffee to choose from at Origo, from multiple sources around the world. The coffee experts at Origo experiment with blends to provide truly unique-smelling-and-tasting coffee. One that we tried was brewed in rum barrels and actually had a sweet rum flavour; it was seriously delicious.
For proper quality coffee, and if you’re looking for a coffee shop in Bucharest that’s designed for coffee lovers by coffee lovers, Origo is absolutely it. For the quality of its coffee alone and the dedication they have to coffee, Origo is the best café in Bucharest.
Carturesti Carusel Café
Carturesti Carusel, an enormous bookshop in Bucharest Old Town, is a place we recommend you visit for its selection of books, its atmosphere, and its architecture alone. But the cherry on top (literally, because it’s at the top) is its bistro café.
When you enter Carturesti Carusel, your breath will be snatched away by the white columns and staircases, the three balconies of bookshelves that surround you on all sides, and the huge basement of genre fiction, records, video games, and more.
Head up past the balconies of bookcases, and you’ll arrive at a bistro café that overlooks the entire store and all the shoppers happily flicking through books new and old. The café is often quiet and peaceful; a perfect hideaway to sit for hours and read, work, or chat.
No matter how good the coffee might be in a place like Origo, its atmosphere can’t compete with that of a bookshop café in the heart of Bucharest. Nothing marries as well as a bookshop and a café, and Carutresti Carusel is exactly what bookish coffee lovers like us have been searching for.
Grand Café Van Gogh
This café is exactly what it sounds like: a Van Gogh themed café. Walls are lined with replicas of every one of Van Gogh’s most famous artworks, and ‘grand café’ is right – the place is enormous! I’ll comfortably confess to not being the most educated art-lover in the world, but I absolutely adore Van Gogh (I have a little rug of his Café Terrace at Night and I bloody love it). So finding a Van Gogh café in Bucharest was the most delightful surprise.
The coffee at Grand Café Van Gogh is a little on the pricey side, at least by Bucharest standards (still cheaper than Starbucks), but it’s the décor and atmosphere that you’re coming for. High ceilings, an elaborate bar and staircase, and the aforementioned walls of Van Gogh paintings.
They also offer a sizeable menu of food options as well, including sandwiches and burgers, all-day breakfasts, various desserts, and more. Of course, if you’re just there for the coffee and the décor, you’ll definitely be satisfied.
Grand Café Van Gogh is a treat for the eyes and a truly exciting atmosphere to indulge in as you rest and take a break from exploring Bucharest Old Town.
Fox Book Shop & Coffee Lounge
Found at the side of a busy boulevard between Youth Park and Carol Park, Fox Book Shop & Coffee Lounge is a quiet haven for book lovers and coffee drinkers. It’s also not the only fox-themed bookshop and café in this corner of the world – Sofia in neighbouring Bulgaria has one, too, and each is as delightful as the other. There’s certainly some charming magic that brings foxes, coffee, and books together in perfect harmony.
At first, the location of Fox Book Shop & Coffee Lounge seems a little off, but actually it’s just what you need: a refuge from the busy streets and the brutalist architecture. A soft, quiet home for book lovers who want to browse, buy, read, and enjoy a soothing cup of coffee.
A Guide to Traditional Romanian Food
Now that you know where to eat in Bucharest, let’s look at exactly what you should eat. These are five Romanian dishes – including meals, desserts, and street foods – which represent the culinary range and beauty of Romania, including the national dish of Romania.
Mici (pronounced like ‘meech’ and often called mititei in Transylvania) are grilled skinless sausages which originated in Bucharest in the 19th century. Though they’re from Bucharest they can be found across Walachia and Transylvania.
Although they’re not, comparatively, all that old, mici are a true traditional Romanian food, and one of the most beloved Romanian dishes in their hometown of Bucharest. They’re also a really great entry point for trying Romanian food, since they’re so similar to a staple of British and German cuisine: pork sausages.
The story of their origin goes back to a rushed chef, a busy restaurant, and a moment of desperate ingenuity. When a Bucharest chef ran out of skin for his sausages, he though to just put some pork meat on the grill and serve it up with some mustard, hoping that his customers would be happy enough with what they go. And happy they were! Since then, mici have remained a staple traditional Romanian food.
Just make sure, when you try mici, that you eat them with a large dollop of mustard. Otherwise, well, you’re doing the beloved mici a disservice.
One thing to know about Romanian dishes is that they’re made up of three primary food groups: pork, carbs, and fried things. Even their desserts are fried, as evidenced by the queen of Romanian desserts: papanasi (pronounced like if you had a beloved grandfather who loved to chew things, and you endearingly called him Papa Nash).
At their heart, literally, papanasi are big lumps of fried doughnut. Sweet, warm, a little crunchy, filled with soft cheese, and coated with a generous helping of sour cream and jam – often blueberry. They’re also topped with another, smaller fried dough ball which makes them look a bit like a bobble hat.
When first shown Papanasi by the guys at Romanian Thrills, I asked what the little ball on top was, assuming it was fruit-based or something else entirely. Vlad shrugged and said, “More dough. We like dough,” which, honestly, is the best answer we could have received. It goes without saying that Papanasi are the most indulgent dessert you’ll ever eat in all of Europe.
It’s a wonderful feeling when you’re desperate to try the local dish of a place but you also have that guilty feeling where you’d rather just have something familiar like a cheeseburger or some cake. Well, papanasi is a true traditional Romanian food that’s also as familiar and indulgent as you can get.
It’s a thrill of a dessert that we recommend you share, because when it comes to papanasi, our eyes are often bigger than our stomachs. That goes double for those of us who have just gorged ourselves on a plateful of that most succulent of Romanian dishes: mici.
We’ve already mentioned which Romanian restaurant serves up the best scovergi, and just how ludicrously cheap they are, but what exactly are scovergi? Well, most nations around the world have their meals, their desserts, and a third thing. This third thing is usually cheaper, smaller, good for breakfast or lunch, often served as street food. Scovergi are exactly that.
Scovergi are flat slabs of fried dough, rolled into a pastry, and filled to overflowing with things that designate it either sweet or savoury. If you’re eating one as a dessert, it’ll be filled with yogurt or jam. If it’s a snack or a lunch item, it’ll be full of cheese, garlic, dill, and sour cream. Put simply, scovergi are heavenly.
They’re almost illegally cheap and a very simple, common Romanian food. Though ‘simple’ might be the wrong word, given just how delectable they are. While they might not be considered one of the great items of traditional Romanian food, scovergi are nevertheless an absolute favourite of ours, and a must-try when you visit Bucharest.
Scovergi tip: You won’t find scovergi outside of Wallachia. When we visited Transylvania, we were heartbroken to find this out (although we did later find out that the Hungarian equivalent in Tranalvanyia is called langos so keep an eye out for those). They are very much a Bucharest food, so keep that in mind and be prepared to have to go without when you leave Bucharest.
Ever wonder what is Romania’s national dish? It’s sarmale: cabbage rolls usually filled with pork, garlic, and possibly some onions and other spices (and pronounced like sar-mah-lay). It’s actually inspired from the Ottoman empire, supposedly inspired by the Greek stuffed vine-leaves dolma but, either way, it’s totally unique and absolutely delicious.
If you’re from the UK, like we are, you might have grown up assuming that cabbage is a dull and lifeless food. But travel to places like China and Eastern Europe and you’ll soon discover the versatility and mouth-watering deliciousness of cabbage. Prime example: sarmale.
When we sat down in a restaurant in Brasov, I indulged in my twentieth plate of mici, while Jess followed her curiosity and ordered some sarmale. At first, it looked pretty unappetising. But the flavour, texture, and smell make for one of the most delightfully filling and gratifying of Romanian dishes.
It’s honestly no wonder that sarmale are Romania’s national dish. They are made up of simple things that allow with enough experimentation to make them delightfully fun to try. They’re relatively healthy but also kinda not. And they really hit the spot on a cold winter’s day, especially. Along with mici, sarmale are the best example of a traditional Romanian food, and they really are excellent.
If you know your Persian, Arab, or Turkish foods then you might recognise this word. More commonly spelled ‘shorba’ in the Middle East, ciorba is a soup that originated in Persia and made its way to Romania centuries ago.
Ciorba, very simply, is a sour soup comprised of various meats and vegetables – often pork in Romania because, well, it’s Romania. Since the winters here get bitingly cold, ciorba is a lifesaver of a dish. When you order it at a Romanian restaurant, you’ll find that it’s often served with a generous helping of the local bread, as are most soups in Europe.
There’s no great secret to ciorba, except that its existence speaks to the fascinating history of Romania, a European country with a fascinatingly diverse range of culinary influences from the East. And, of course, if you’ve had soup in other countries, you know that every nation’s soup is its own, and ciorba is very much one of the beloved Romanian dishes.
Will predominantly writes about the books of Books and Bao, examining the literature of a place and how the authors have used the art of storytelling to reflect the world and the culture around them.