“Whatever is fresh that day is what is on the menu. Plus, grappa.” Welcome to Croatia’s food scene—a salt-of-the-earth approach to dining that had us hopping jet boats to uninhabited islands and plunging our arms into mussel traps. As we ate our way along the Adriatic Coast of Croatia we found untampered ingredients, off-the-trail hideaways specializing in leisurely afternoons, and producers eager to share their process.
From 13th-century Hvar to the scattered Pakleni islands, Croatia’s rising food scene is as much about the landscape and culture of Croatia as it is about dining. To find the real deal, you’ll need a boat and an of-the-land host to lead you to the unmarked vineyards and rock-side cabanas. We can help with this. Below we share our favorite discoveries.
An island vineyard off your map
We found a haven. This is how you get there: meet our local oyster hunter at the designated spot halfway between Dubrovnik and Korcula. He’ll be waiting to take you on his boat to his family’s island. No one lives there. It doesn’t have a famous name. There are no signs and it isn’t in guidebooks. It’s totally wild except for the land the family has converted into vineyard and a little kitchen with a picnic table outside. This is precisely why we love it. Word of this experience spreads only by viva voce. If you’re lucky enough to hear about it, you’re in for unmarred ocean views and a meal as delightful as it is simple, served with local wine pairings poured from wide-mouthed carafes.
But first, the view. A short climb through rows of vines will lead to the tippy top of the island. As you breech the hill, everything will clear away and you will be able to see straight out to the surrounding islands. From the shade of the little kitchen, the rest of the family will be waving to you, gesturing for you to come sample the garden vegetables, sausage, and fresh catch they’ve just peeled off the grill. When you’re not sure you can take another bite, they’ll follow with a string of oysters still dripping seawater and a seemingly bottomless pot of muscles (you will eat them all).
Bubbly on the rocks
Lagunini Beach Club is pure fun. You’ll want to book a cabana with day beds right on the water. Then, you can have your private server make runs for bottles of champagne and seafood towers all day long while you swim right off the dock. Tip: the people watching only gets better as the sun sets and the DJ ramps up.
Dalmatian cuisine within 13th-century walls
At some point during your Croatia trip, changing out of your swimsuit and sitting down to candlelight may seem like just what you need. Cue Passarola. Not too buttoned up, but with a healthy dose of ambiance, Passarola’s rooftop terrace offers iconic vistas over the city’s terracotta rooftops and serves traditional dishes like gregada (fish stew).
Outside of town, an around-the-bend beach bar
Skip the restaurants made for travelers in the Old Town, and instead head directly to the heart of the local scene at Falko. Follow the path out of the walled city, go around the bend, and you’ll find yourself at a little beach bar and restaurant tucked beside the rocky shore. You can sip fresh juices at the picnic table in the sand or take a bucket of champagne down to the rocks for a quick dip.
WHERE TO STAY
A former queen’s residence
We’re cheating a little since the Aman Sveti Stefan isn’t in Croatia, but right next door in Montenegro. It’s worth the slight detour! The property is a triumph which incorporates the former summer residence of Queen Marija Karadordevic and a 15th-century walled village. There are so many hidden patios, private pink-sand beaches and coves, and wisteria-lined paths you could get lost here for days. You can continue your cuisine tour on property sampling Mediterranean tapas in the al-fresco Piazza or beside the fire place in the bistro.
Meet a Europe Travel expert: Martina Reznick
Ready to go?
Whether she’s eating her way through Italy, losing herself in Amsterdam’s museums, or photographing turkey’s historical landmarks, Martina is sure to find the most charming boutique hotel and an unforgettable restaurant each stop of the way. Then she’ll make sure to make friends with the inspiring people behind these special places, and introduce her travelers to them, too.
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