- MAKE IT QUICK
- SEE AND BE SEEN
- HOLD THE MEAT
- IF IT AIN’T BROKE
- START ME UP
- THE HOT SPOT
- UNDER THE RADAR
- DOLLAR STRETCHER
- ONE FOR THE FEED
- ON THE STREET
- LOOKS CAN BE DECEIVING
- FANCY SCHMANCY
Photo Illustration by The Daily Beast/Getty
This is the latest for our destination dining guide, Eat Sheet. For more on how we do these a bit differently, head here first.
People don’t come to Belgrade to eat. Mostly European tourists flock here to dive into the Serbian capital’s roaring Berlin-esque nightlife scene where thumping clubs are fashioned out of old factories, on boats docked along the Sava River, and even in erstwhile silos. That said, you have to eat. And the restaurant scene in Belgrade is getting better every year. There is everything from flavorful stomach-filling street food that will help prolong a night of boozing in the city’s great cocktail bars to gastropubs to elegant eateries serving up creative and elevated takes on Serbia’s heavy meat-centric fare.
MAKE IT QUICK
If you’re yearning for a sandwich in Belgrade, point yourself to Mesozder. Located in Sava Mala, Mesozder is a casual/fast food joint making American-style over-stuffed sandwiches, including an excellent pulled pork sandwich and a version of the chopped cheese, the melted-cheese-and-ground-beef bodega sandwich that originated in east Harlem.
SEE AND BE SEEN
Courtesy of Ivana Larrosa
Dorćoleta, located in an erstwhile industrial zone that has slowly seen hip clubs and restaurants begin appearing in the last five or so years, may not be for everyone: come before seven or eight in the evening, and you’ll be treated to above-average pan-Asian fare. Come any time after that, especially on Friday and Saturday nights, and a DJ is spinning pop music, much to the delight of the dancing 6-foot-tall cosmetically enhanced Serbian women and the usually seated wealthy men who love them. The cocktails, created by veteran mixologist, Dejan “Tomke” Tomović, are fantastic.
HOLD THE MEAT
Rai Urban Vege
In a city where meat is the master of the palate and stomach, a good plant-based restaurant seems like it would be hard to find. In fact, there are a handful of good veg-forward spots scattered around the city. One of the best is Rai Urban Vege. That is, if you can find it. Located a few steps from Kalemegdan Park and the Belgrade Zoo, you have to navigate an unmarked passageway, descend some stairs, cross a tree-shaded courtyard and there you will find a menu of magnificent meatless pad Thai, enchiladas, curry bowls, and soups. And just to remind you that you’re still in Serbia, Rai has potent rakia, gin, and beer on the menu too.
IF IT AIN’T BROKE
According to lore, this ancient restaurant originally wanted to name itself after the church across the street—the oldest church in the city. But after a protracted battle, the restaurant conceded and, unsure what to call itself, the owner wrote a temporary question mark on the door. It stuck. And so today, Znak Pitanja, the Serbian word for “?,” is not just an ancient temple to Serbian gastronomy and a tourist and local haunt, but a good one at that. If the leafy and atmospheric back courtyard is open, cozy up to a table and feast on rich beef goulash or a karadjordjeva, a 10-inch breaded pipe-shaped piece of kajmak-cheese-stuffed pork, nicknamed by local Serbs as a “young lady’s dream,” most likely because of the size and the shape of it.
The burger has hit the Serbian capital in a big, all-beef-patty way. The city center is littered with burger spots, but Ж Burger, pronounced “Zh Burger,” is one of the best. After all, it took the top prize at this year’s Belgrade Burger Festival for its mozzarella-and-pesto-topped masterpiece. If that’s too rich, the double-patty bacon cheeseburger is also excellent and will either ease a hangover on Sunday morning or provide fuel for more imbibing on Saturday night. It’s located in the Cetinska complex, an erstwhile brewery that’s been turned into a magnet for bars and restaurants in central Belgrade.
START ME UP
Courtesy of Ivana Larrosa
Located in the hip, leafy Dorćol neighborhood, Bloom is a bustling, bright and airy bi-level all-day breakfast and brunch spot that serves up excellent egg dishes, avocado toast, and açai bowls as well as salads, soups, and cold-pressed juices—much needed restorative ingredients in this meat-and-booze-centric city. Expect to wait a bit, particularly on weekends.
THE HOT SPOT
Iva: New Balkan Cuisine
Iva: New Balkan Cuisine may have first fired up its burners in 2019 but it was only after Michelin published its guide to restaurants in Belgrade in late 2021 when everyone was clamoring for a seat at this spot in Dorćol. That’s because it was the only restaurant awarded a Bib Gourmand, the highest rated restaurant of the handful of places Michelin set its gaze upon in Belgrade. Chef-owner Vanja Puškar is the toque who is trying to push the boundaries of Balkan fare with well-executed dishes like lamb that falls apart at the touch of a fork and unctuous oxtail gnocchi in a bone marrow reduction.
UNDER THE RADAR
Courtesy of Ivana Larrosa
Endorfin shouldn’t be an off-the-radar restaurant and bar: Talented chef Uroš Zivković, late of ultra-upscale spot Langouste and a long-time resident of Trieste, Italy, is the man in the kitchen cooking up Balkan, Italian, and Gallic-inspired fare, including lamb tartare cradled in a burek crust like a taco, ultra-tender duck a l’orange, and homemade gnocchi doused in a rich rabbit ragu. Owner Miloš Vuksić, a veteran of the New York City bar and restaurant scene, has created the excellent cocktail program. The wine list is loaded with Serbian natural wines and the restaurant regularly puts on weekly prix-fixe multi-course dinners paired with local wines.
The tipsy old man sitting in the corner is Dragan and he doesn’t want to be bothered. Which is fine, because you’re at Kod Dragana—At Dragan’s Place—to tuck into very affordable, big-portioned Serbian staples in the Stari Merkator section of Novi Beograd, or New Belgrade, across the Sava River from Old Town. The rakia, the potent, stomach-melting fruit brandy that is ubiquitous in the Balkans, is likely of the moonshine variety and the beer is cheap. Fill your stomach with things like sarma, meat-stuffed cabbage; čevapi, veal sausages, and roasted pork. Vegetables hardly exist here.
ONE FOR THE FEED
Located in the hip Vračar neighborhood, Pietra serves up some of the best pizza this side of Naples. The pizzaiolo is a Serb who worked in Naples for years and now he’s crafting incredible pizzas for local Belgradians and homesick Italians. The pizzas, topped with tangy, bright red San Marzano tomatoes and gooey mozzarella di bufala, may pop on Instagram, garnering ample amounts of approval among your followers, but it’s your palate that will give you a big fat “like” for coming here. Even better, the cocktail program here is stellar—the drinks get just as much effort and attention as the pizza at Pietra.
ON THE STREET
Buregdžinica “Naša Priča”
Belgrade has a few different street food staples—namely, Pljeskavica, a bun-less, well-done beef-and-lamb hamburger patty, and čevapi, finger-sized minced meat sausages that can be excellent, especially when wading in soft, butter-like kajmak cheese. Superior versions of both can be found at sit-down restaurants around town. But the one street food visitors should seek out is burek, a meat-and-cheese-stuffed pastry found mostly at bakeries around town that came to the Balkans via the Ottoman occupation starting in the 14th century. One of the best is at Buregdžinica “Naša Priča,” or “Our Story.” Your story is this: super flaky, pie-like slices filled with feta and cream cheese and sometimes beef or lamb that are downright addictive. Located in Skadarlija.
LOOKS CAN BE DECEIVING
Set right on the Sava River in the Beton Hala complex among a handful of other trendy restaurants, it’s easy to dismiss Ambar as a see-and-be-seen spot, a restaurant clad in designer clothes whose main raison d’être is to be one of the popular kids on the block. But Ambar, which also has an outpost in Washington, DC, happens to serve up some of the best Serbian fare in the city. Juicy lamb čevapi, the ubiquitous finger-shaped minced sausages, are some of the best you’ll find in this metropolis of 1.5 million people. Plus, bacon-wrapped, goat-cheese-stuffed prunes, hearty lamb stew, and the red pepper spread ajvar are all excellent here.
Homa is not the stuffiest, fanciest restaurant in town but it is, by far, the finest fancy restaurant in town. Located in lower Dorćol, Homa serves up takes on Serbian staples that are elevated to the nth degree: slowly braised tender beef tongue in a bone marrow sauce with mustard ice cream, perhaps accidentally has the flavor profile of something you might eat at a Jewish deli in New York. It’s also no accident that it tastes delicious. The creative deconstructed scrambled egg burek—usually a meat-and-cheese-filled pastry—is also worthy of your stomach space. The wine list is big on Serbian natural wines.