Aubergine: A Tourist’s First Glimpse into Bulgarian Cuisine

“This was the best weekend of food in my life,” my friend, Claire, said – a finance student who will have visited her 27th country by the end of this May. 

After recently deciding, in the spur of the moment, to take a weekend trip to Bulgaria (all thanks to Ryan Air’s Fare Finder), my friends and I were introduced to an overwhelmingly delicious and healthy assortment of food we were not expecting. It turned into a trip where we, quite honestly, ate our way through two whole cities: Sofia and Plovdiv. 

Yet, there was one restaurant that stuck out the most.

The Restaurant

When we first arrived to our Airbnb, our host insisted we visit this local spot first, which, lucky for us, was just steps away from the apartment. The restaurant, Aubergine (a British term for eggplant), gave us a well-deserved first impression of the Bulgarian food culture.

We approached the three-story home that had been transformed into a quiet restaurant serving craft beer and food. As we pulled open the door, out poured a mixture of scrumptious scents, greeting us to our very first Bulgarian restaurant.

After climbing up a few stairs, we were welcomed by a short, dark-haired woman who confirmed that there were only the three of us. We could tell by the confused look on her face that she did not expect three young American girls to enter her restaurant. This is probably because Bulgaria doesn’t get many American tourists, as our Sofia Pub Crawl leaders explained to us later that night.

The hostess lead us to our table, as we passed a quaint bar to our right and one large dining room to our left that was separated by three bookshelves. Several lanterns were draped across the ceiling, watching over us as we were seated at our table. 

We sat down in our pastel-colored, wooden chairs, suggesting a light-hearted and awfully cozy atmosphere that made us feel like we were back in our homes. A collage of artwork hung beside our table while the window behind us previewed light flurries of snow – a perfect touch to the soothing ambiance created by the soft jazz music playing in the background.

The Food

We were left with a menu that presented to us a short, yet, incredibly unique assortment of dishes, including a vegetable stuffed Aubergine, grilled goat cheese, a beet hummus dish, and more.

Served to us first was our beet hummus with a hint of mint, alongside a few pieces of hearty, whole wheat bread. The amazingly sweet hummus that was rich in its magenta color exceeded our expectations. I found myself holding back from eating it with just my spoon.

Beet Hummus

Then, out came our second appetizer: the sweet potato risotto. This dish was by far one of the best meals I have ever ordered. The pictures will never do the creamy parmesan sauce any justice. Topped with small squares of sweet potato and a single mini tomato, this risotto was nothing like what you would find at any American restaurant.

Sweet Potato Risotto

Once completing my risotto appetizer, I was given my vegetable stuffed Aubergine. Its stuffing was robust in its vegetables, lentils, and Harissa spice – a combination that I never would have imagined.

Orient-style Aubergine

Lastly, we shared the cheesecake that sat on top of a chocolate spread and next to a freshly sliced strawberry. Just the perfect way to end an extraordinary meal.

Cheesecake

I couldn’t even attempt to cover the entirety of this trip when it comes to the food we ate. When I say we ate our way through two whole cities, I mean it, considering we weren’t quite sure what more to do in Bulgaria besides pop by a few of its hidden gems. Not to mention the prices, especially for these meals, were unbelievably cheap. Everything I just listed cost a total of around $21.

If you’re a foodie looking to immerse yourself in a trip with incredible food at insanely cheap prices, Bulgaria was made just for you.

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