A Guide to Bucharest: Eating & Drinking

Since I moved to Bucharest in February 2018, many people ask me, “So what’s the food like in Romania?” My answer usually touches upon the fact that traditional Romanian cuisine can be quite hearty, and that typical dishes include roasted pork knuckle (not actual knuckles), Sarmale (pork-stuffed cabbage rolls), and polenta (like in Italy) – which are all actually delicious. However,  Bucharest offers a lot more than just typical Romanian cuisine. In fact, many of the spots we frequent in Bucharest have more of an “international” style and serve pretty much everything. Below I outline some of my favorite spots for eating and drinking in Bucharest, from the traditional to the modern, from the beloved garden bars to the cool rooftops, from the cozy pubs to the swanky cafes. I will continue to add to this list as I discover more places to eat and drink during my time in Bucharest!

Traditional Romanian Fare 

Caru’ cu Bere. This place is a Bucharest classic and one of the city’s most well-known restaurants. Its traditionally decorated interior, complete with vaulted ceilings and stained-glass windows, makes it a very pleasant place to dig into Romanian dishes like pork knuckle and sauerkraut, the specialty of the house. Caru’ cu Bere also features performances of Romanian folk dances on weekends. Be sure to reserve ahead of time to secure a table.

Hanu’ Lui Manuc Restaurant. We love enjoying meals on the pleasant terrace  of this historic Romanian inn. On weekend evenings, folk dancing and singing serve as the perfect backdrop for downing a Timisoreana beer and the restaurant’s signature dish, caramelized lamb knuckle served with baked potatoes and a sauté of green beans. As a big fan of tripe (lol), I also recommend the tripe soup, a common specialty in Romania.

International Cool

Energiea. Energiea is one of my favorite restaurants in Bucharest. The food is tasty and the ambience is cool. We like the baked chicken wings and the artisan burger – yum! This place is particularly known for cocktails: they have a wide selection of twists on gin & tonics.

Alt Shift. I like to think of Alt Shift as a cross between Bucharest, Berlin, and Brooklyn because of its hipster, industrial vibes. The portions are HUGE, so beware. The Chupacabra is a deliciously enormous monster packed with nachos, ground beef, beans, and the works. The pasta dishes are also quite large. In the spring and summer, the Control Club terrace next door is the perfect place for an aperitif under a sunlit ivy canopy before heading to Alt Shift for lunch.

Shift Pub. This restaurant, actually Alt Shift’s predecessor, is nestled in a quieter part of the city but still quite central. Its menu is the same as Alt Shift’s, but the vibe is more airy: moss decorates the walls of this warmly lit bistro.  One perk is Shift Pub‘s garden terrace, great for enjoying drinks in good weather.

Joben Bistro. Joben is located in the heart of Bucharest’s old town. Compared to some of the other options in this area (parts of the old town can often be kitschy, tacky, and touristy), Joben stands out as a good call. The decor is industrial-chic and the vibe is fun, particularly suitable for eating dinner and drinking cocktails on a weekend night.

Grano. Grano, a popular restaurant in the neighborhood of Dorobanti, dishes out quality Italian food. With the benvenuto greeting at the door, this cozy eatery makes you feel like you’ve stepped into Italy. The menu features a variety of homemade pastas – we loved the truffle and parmesan ravioli!

Garden Bars

Cafe Verona. Garden bars are beloved in Bucharest, and there is no better place to get your garden bar fix than at Cafe Verona (see the main photo for this post above). This restaurant is tucked behind an old belle époque villa that is now the Carturesti Verona book store, which I also highly recommend. Cafe Verona is enchanting by day, when the sunlight trickles through the trees, as well as by night, when bistro lights illuminate the garden. Cafe Verona has a full menu, including burgers and a variety of salads.

Acuarela. This cool garden bar is set away from the action of other parts of the city, but it is well worth it. The decor is quirky and fun (look out for the bathtub benches) and the charming umbrellas create a unique version of an #umbrellasky, under which you can enjoy a beer, other cocktails, and, most notably, a delicious burger. Burgers are a centerpiece of the menu at Acuarela, and for good reason.

Gradina Eden. This is another popular garden bar, hidden in a lush terrace behind an old palace on central Calea Victoriei. Gradina Eden does not serve food, but it does serve juice and smoothies in addition to its full bar. Snuggle into one of the hammocks on the terrace and sip away!

Rooftops

Pura Vida Sky Bar. Pura Vida is one of my favorite rooftops in Bucharest for its views of the copper-roofed National Bank building across the street. Located on the rooftop of a hostel, this chill bar plays good tunes. It’s also a great place to catch the sunset!

Nomad Skybar. Nomad is a full restaurant with a small yet cozy rooftop terrace, perfect for overlooking the old town as you sip cocktails on a Saturday afternoon. The restaurant serves specialty dishes from all over the world, like the “Spanish plate” or the “American plate.”

Linea/Closer to the Moon. Linea gets a lot of Instagram love in the winter for its “igloo” tents that keep patrons warm on the rooftop. However, Linea becomes a regular rooftop bar come spring, with great views over sprawling Bucharest. Linea is also a full restaurant.

Pubs & Bars

Mikkeller Bucharest. This cool craft brewery specializes in interesting brews and also serves some yummy grub – read more about the brewery here. I don’t always love peculiar-tasting craft beer, but I thoroughly enjoyed my choice here: the Mikkeller Gose Yuzu, a cider-ish sour beer with lemony hints from the yuzu, an Asian citrus fruit that gives the beer its name. I recommend sitting on the upper terrace in good weather!

Primus. This pub is near and dear to our hearts, as it is right across the street from our apartment. This cozy spot is consistently buzzing with people day and night, and the outdoor tables are great for enjoying a beer. The menu offers a fairly wide selection of yummy pub-grub.

Biutiful by the Lake. This lakeside eatery and bar, with its floating terrace that sits right on the lake in Herăstrău Park, is the perfect place for a summer day! I especially enjoyed the cocktails: they have a wide selection of gin & tonics and other twists on classic drinks. Although Biutiful has a full menu, I think it’s ideal for a tasty drink and a killer lakeside sunset on a weekend evening.

The Urbanist. This trendy bar in the old town serves up some playful cocktails. Sometimes, you can just tell the bartender what you like and she’ll whip something up for you. The Urbanist is often bumping music (sometimes a bit too loudly), so I like sitting outside on the street terrace if the weather is good.

Cafes

M60. M60 is a hip Wifi-friendly cafe that serves coffee and food as well as craft beer and cocktails. As such, it’s one of those places where you’ll see someone working on their laptop drinking coffee while someone else is having a gin & tonic with a friend. This spot is close to my apartment, so I like stopping in every now and then to get some work done.

Origo. Origo is a popular specialty coffee hotspot. Its friendly staff and fun decor, featuring coffee mugs as light fixtures that hang from the ceiling, make for a great experience. Enjoy your beverage as your knowledgeable server explains the chocolatey notes in your espresso or the hints of fruit in your tea.

Rio Juice. Rio Juice, located in a little nook of Dorobanti, is popular for its delicious acai bowls, smoothies, and juices. As a lover of all things Brazil and acai, I think this place does a great job. In fact, the owner told us that after spending time in Brazil and eating acai every day, he decided to bring the beauty of acai to Romania. Saúde!

I enjoy eating and drinking in Bucharest, and I hope you will too. To any of my friends reading: come visit me already so we can enjoy these places together!

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