Eating and Drinking in Split, Croatia

Split is the perfect place for a scenic picnic!

Split is the perfect place for a scenic picnic!

Split’s food scene has a little something for everyone. With bargain basement prices, Eating and Drinking in Split, Croatia is a complete joy. We didn’t have high hopes for this small city based on things we had read in guidebooks, so we were pleasantly surprised with the restaurant and wine options. While the food definitely won’t hold up if you measure it against places like Italy or France, it’s got a few hidden gems that will satisfy any seafood craving or sweet tooth.

If all else fails, you can hit a supermarket to pick up sandwich supplies and hike to the top of Marjan Park to have a wonderful picnic with unparalleled views. I mean, LOOK at the photo at the top of this post. Incredible. Now, onward to the eating and drinking!

First, Booze.

Have you ever seen a Croatian wine at your local grocery store? No one has! So we were surprised to find that Croatia produces some really fantastic wines. Anthony Bourdain even came to Croatia to do an episode of his show “No Reservations” and visited a bunch of the wineries up and down the wonderful country of Croatia. I don’t know much about wine, but I’m told the weather here is great for wineries. Something about how the hot sun and cool wind is like a magic playground for grape vines to live in. (News flash: being abroad hasn’t made my wine palate more refined…)

We tried some nice wines, like this one from the little island of Hvar:

Juho'v wine from Hvar.

Juho’v wine from Hvar.

But we found a place that was REALLY our speed after living in Split for a couple of weeks. Come with me to the magical place that is the Iločki Podrumi winery store. It’s a bit hard to find online, at least for English speakers, but it’s located here on a map. For between $2.25 and $4 you bring in your own 1 Liter bottle and they’ll fill it up with the wine of your choice!

Wine Heaven

Wine Heaven

If wine isn’t your thang, then boy have I got a surprise for you. You can buy a giant 2-liter plastic bottle of beer at the grocery store for just $2.50!

Enormous beer from the Croatian grocery store.

Enormous beer from the Croatian grocery store.

I honestly can’t imagine a better drink to be sold in a beach town than these plastic 2-liter bottles of crappy beer. I bet they sell like hotcakes in the summertime in Split. Just grab yourself one of these puppies, throw on your speedo, head to the beach, and you’ve got the perfect Saturday on your hands.

If you value quality over quantity, Croatia has you covered (barely). The best beer we found in Croatia was Tomislav:

Tomislav, a dark beer. Turns out, this is the only Croatian beer we tried that we'd deem worth buying again. We miss Seattle beer!

Tomislav, a dark beer. Turns out, this is the only Croatian beer we tried that we’d deem worth buying again. We miss Seattle beer!

Our advice with regards to booze in Croatia? Focus on the wine, skip the beers.

Paradox Wine and Cheese Bar

Since we’re focusing on Wine, let’s talk about one of wine’s best friends: cheese. If you’re not going to order Paradox Wine Bar‘s Island of Pag cheese trilogy when you’re in Split, you might as well stay home. If you come here and do not get it, I will never speak to you again. For realsies.

Allow me to share with you a few quotes from Kevin and I when we shared this cheese plate: “I’ve died and gone to heaven“, “OMG SO GOOD I WANT TO EAT ALL OF IT“, “Holy **** this **** is amazing“, “This is better than our wedding day“. Ok that last one is an exaggeration (albeit a small one), but I’m serious, this cheese…

The Island of Pag is famous for its cheeses, so famous that it has its own Wikipedia page. The reason their cheese is so stellar is that Pag has very, very special climate. The weather apparently makes the island a mystical wonderland full of unicorns and rainbows for the happy cows and sheep that graze there. They produce the milk that is turned into this delicious cheese that I would happily eat for every meal for the rest of my life. (Alas, one cannot survive on cheese alone… can you even IMAGINE attempting that?!)

Without further ado, here’s a look at the glorious plate of goodness from Paradox:

The Island of Pag Cheese Trilogy.

The Island of Pag Cheese Trilogy.

It has three types of cheese (hence the name “trilogy”). Bottom right is Pag’s most famous cheese, Paški Sir, which is made from sheep’s milk. Our favorite was the top left, an aged cow’s cheese. Also included was the delicious mix of cow and sheep’s milk cheese on the bottom left. Each one was paired with its own jam (strawberry, fig, or quince), and it came with dried fruits and a basket of bread. All of this for about $12.

While you’re at Paradox, you obviously have to try some of Croatia’s wines. They have glasses ranging from about $3 all the way up to $8.

Enjoying some wines with Kevin.

Enjoying some wines with Kevin.

One of the best thing about Paradox, though, was the friendliness and unpretentiousness of the waiters. They were super knowledgable of their wines and didn’t make you feel bad for not being a wine expert yourself. On our first visit, one guy even told us all about what makes Croatian Pršut (Prosciutto) so special and gave us a free sample plate cut fresh off the house pork hock. (Pršut is smoked before curing, giving it a distinct flavor when compared to cured Iberican Ham in Spain or Parma Ham in Italy.)

Best Menu: Villa Spiza Restaurant

The inside of the small but mighty Villa Spiza restaurant in Split.

The inside of the small but mighty Villa Spiza restaurant in Split.

I am a HUGE fan of places that base their menu on what was freshest at the produce and fish markets that morning. Villa Spiza‘s constantly changing menu is handwritten each day based on what they got from the market. They specialize in seafood, which is definitely what you should eat when you visit coastal Split. We had everything from boiled shark to shrimp pasta to the freshest most enormous prawns I’ve ever seen in my life.

Enormous prawns!

Enormous prawns!

Awesome pasta with shrimp.

Awesome pasta with shrimp.

Boiled shark! Can't believe we ate shark!

Boiled shark! Can’t believe we ate shark!

Villa Spiza also serves a local Croatian specialty, Bakalar. Locals go nuts for it. In fact, we walked up to a different restaurant one day and were looking at the menu when a group of folks walked up and looked at the specials on the chalkboard. When one guy saw Bakalar, he raised his arms in the air and hollered “Bakalar!!” with the biggest grin on his face you’ve ever seen.

Bakalar at Villa Spiza

Bakalar at Villa Spiza

What is Bakalar? It’s dried salted cod, rehydrated and cooked in a tomato sauce with potatoes. I prefer my fish fresh instead of dehydrated, but you gotta try it once. Kevin had this at a different restaurant, and said it was MUCH better at Villa Spiza.

They also make amazing soups that look ugly but taste great:

We also had fabulous meatballs there. Comfort food at its finest:

Delicious meatballs at Villa Spiza.

Delicious meatballs at Villa Spiza.

But the ONE thing that kept us coming back is their sandwiches. Oh, the glorious, wonderful sandwiches. They’re a little different each day depending on who makes it, but that’s half the fun.

The best sandwich ever: ham, egg and cheese.

The best sandwich ever: ham, egg and cheese.

Runner up: braised pork with brie. YUM.

Runner up: braised pork with brie. YUM.

I don’t know about you, but I’m a little hungry now.

Best Desserts: Luka Ice Cream & Cakes

I’ll keep this brief, because honestly it shouldn’t take much convincing to get you to go to Luka. A scoop of ice cream at Luka costs just 7 Kuna, or just shy of $1. ONE DOLLAR! With tasty “normal” flavors like tiramisu, chocolate, and pistachio, and “adventurous” flavors like carrot and pink lemonade, there is something at Luka for everyone. I also love that they make their ice cream in-house with high quality ingredients; this means flavors are constantly rotating and their ‘scream is always the freshest.

A terrible photo of their wonderful Ice Cream.

A terrible photo of their wonderful Ice Cream.

If you don’t like Ice Cream (though seriously, who doesn’t like ice cream?!), try their cakes:

Chocolate Hazelnut Cake and Tiramisu. YUM.

Chocolate Hazelnut Cake and Tiramisu. YUM.

Drinkable Coffee: Viva Cafe

A "Coffee with Milk" at Viva Cafe.

A “Coffee with Milk” at Viva Cafe.

First, let me say, there is a LOW coffee bar in Croatia. In fact, there’s a pretty low bar for coffee in all of Europe from what I can tell. This may be my Seattle roots talking, enhanced by my time in the coffee mecca that is Chiang Mai, Thailand. (Who knew Chiang Mai would have SUCH a huge coffee scene?!)

However, if you’re in Split on a sunny day, there’s really nothing better than hunkering down and having yourself a mediocre latte while soaking up some sunshine. (Okay, maybe soaking up sunshine while having a delicious latte would be better, but I take what I can get.) If you care more about the views than the coffee, pick any place along Split’s waterfront “Riva” area.

Soaking up some sunshine at Viva Cafe on People's Square. Split's clock tower is there over my left shoulder.

Soaking up some sunshine at Viva Cafe on People’s Square. Split’s clock tower is there over my left shoulder.

If you prefer to have a coffee that’s drinkable and not like a cup of burned mud, we recommend Viva Cafe, located here on People’s Square in the heart of Split’s Old City.

Must Have Snack Foods in Split

I’ve probably said enough already to cause any traveler to gain at least 10lbs on a visit to Split, but I’m going to step completely over the line into greasy Snack Foods. Come on this journey with me; trust me, these foods are worth it. You can eat healthy when you get home.

What is the snack-food theme in Split? It’s anything cheesy, greasy, and starchy. In short, it’s the perfect vacation food, or hangover food, or it’s-a-sunny-day food. Make up your own reason to have these treats, I won’t judge. I would consider any of these snacks to be the perfect sinful companion to a huge 2-liter bottle of Ojuško beer.

The single best treat-yo’self snack food in Split is Burek. It comes in several different varieties, but traditionally is just salty cheese baked inside a puff pastry.

"Burek Sir", or Cheese Burek. Definitely yummy.

“Burek Sir”, or Cheese Burek. Definitely yummy.

The best place in Split to get Burek, hands down, is St. Burek, located here. It’s just 10 Kuna (about $1.40) for each enormous piece of Burek. Be sure you try their Apple variety (totally our fave) and the Spinach and Cheese version.

Look for this little hole-in-the-wall place called St. Burek to get the tastiest best value Burek in town.

Look for this little hole-in-the-wall place called St. Burek to get the tastiest best value Burek in town.

Spinach Burek from St. Burek. I kid you not, this pastry was the size of my face.

Spinach Burek from St. Burek. I kid you not, this pastry was the size of my face.

The clear winner, Apple burek. This is only my half what Kevin and I split. This one, too, was the size of an adult face. We weren't hungry for like 6 hours afterwards...

The clear winner, Apple burek. This is only my half what Kevin and I split. This one, too, was the size of a fully grown person’s face. We weren’t hungry for like 6 hours afterwards…

If you want something a little lighter, but still a bit greasy, I recommend Soparnik. It’s a local Croatian specialty of swiss chard, onion, parsley, garlic and olive oil inside a flatbread. The best place to get this snack is at the Green Market on sunny days in the morning.

Soparnik, one of Croatia's favorite snacks. Fair warning, after eating this you'll smell like garlic for approximately 83 hours.

Soparnik, one of Croatia’s favorite snacks. Fair warning, after eating this you’ll smell like garlic for approximately 83 hours.

We Want to Hear From You!

What is the BEST food you’ve ever eaten on any of your travels?! Crêpes in Paris? BBQ in Texas? Tacos in Mexico? Lobster in Maine? Curry in Thailand? Leave us a comment to let us know!

2 thoughts on “Eating and Drinking in Split, Croatia

  1. This is a great post! We are heading to Split in less than a week and we are going to look up a couple of the places that you’ve mentioned. We are only in Split for two days and then we move on to Dubrovnik, Montenegro and finally, Sarajevo. Thank you for the suggestions!

    • Thank you Stephanie! I hope you enjoyed your trip to Split – it’s cold in the winter, but just incredible to have the town almost all to yourself. :)

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