Food and drinks are some of the things in Serbia that always need to be both good and plentiful so that one can get lost in it and that one should allow enough time for.
We didn’t see any really pricey restaurants like the ones in other bigger cities. Keeping the cost for food and drinks low is not rocket science in Belgrade.
Meat. Meat everywhere.
Travellers should be prepared to increase their meat consumption in Serbia as meat is a staple food. I ordered a salad once and was immediately asked which meat dish I wanted as a main.
We went to a variety of restaurants in Belgrade and tried many different dishes. Prices were so low that we never paid more than 15€ in total for two mains and at least two drinks, even in the fancier restaurants on the Skadarlija which are swamped by tourists.
Kahvana Mali Kelemegdan
We were invited to a typical Serbian meal by the Tourist Organization of Belgrade on our first day. There is a restaurant in the Kalemegdan Park (Kahvana Mali Kalemegdan) which is not only visited by tourists but also highly valued by locals. They serve sizeable portions and prices are surprisingly low.
We were lucky to have found a nice little spot in the shade on a day where temperatures surpassed 30° Celcius. The glimpse that we caught of the food on the neighbouring tables already told us that this is going to be more than an ordinary meal.
First, we were served a starter platter. Different deli slices, sheep cheese, Ajvar (Bell pepper and aubergine mix), Kajmak (some kind of sour cream) and Tschvarci (pulled meat that looks a bit like frayed wool), as well as an overflowing salad bowl and the characteristic flatbread, were placed on the table. Good thing that we were warned that these are only the starters. It was delicious and the amount of food was easily enough to fill the three of us up. This course cost just under 10€. I am especially sold on the taste of the Tschvarci. It looks a little odd but the taste of meat is intense.
Soon after we displayed the first signs of a full stomach, the second course was served. Bowls were set out and a waiter with a tureen came to our table. He used a ladle to serve the soup directly at the table. I managed to stop him right after the first scoop otherwise I think even more of the well-seasoned meat soup would have found its way into my bowl. Only on a few occasions, I have had such a high-quality meat in a soup. It almost melted in my mouth.
We were granted a short breather but then they brought out the mains. We were served a platter to share between the three of us. The thought alone of filling this amount of food into our stomachs seemed like a hopeless endeavour. Ribs, pork, beef and chicken were balanced on a mountain of chips. Everything was fresh from the grill and of an impeccable quality.
Another quick glimpse over to the other tables revealed that most of the guests struggled with these quantities of food and had the leftovers packed up to take them home.
The finale of the meal was a characteristic Serbian coffee. The coffee grounds are doused in hot water directly in the mug. With that came a very sweet slice of cake.
After eyeballing the menu, we guesstimated that the cost of this opulent meal came to 25 – 30€ each. To me, this is a reasonable price for a very good meal in Belgrade.
Cost effective food on the go
There is another way to do it and that is even more cost effective.
We ate ¼ of a pizza with ample toppings in a little snack bar near our apartment for only 85 cents for example. The snack bar was always busy whereas another pizza place only three shops further down was practically empty. Especially the youth of Belgrade kept coming in to eat Pizza (with cold ketchup) no matter what time of the day or night it was.
There aren’t very many supermarkets in the city. Fresh produce can be found on smaller markets across the city (Green Markets).
One of the markets was close to our apartment so I made use of that one of course and went looking for cheap food.
One kilogram of cherries was offered for 1,20€ and raspberries (500g) were sold for 1€ on the market. We ate a salad with tomatoes, cucumber and onions for under 2€. We also bought bread for 50 cents.
A visit to one of those markets is a very justifiable bullet point on the itinerary even though communication is sometimes difficult as the old ladies on the markets often don’t speak English. It still works using hands and feet though and sometimes you are lucky enough to bump into a young vendor that explains in his finest German that he used to live in Dortmund.
Beer tour in Belgrade
We were invited to take part in a beer tour by the Tourist Organization of Belgrade. This experience is just the thing for us craft beer fans. A good opportunity to see a bit of Belgrade together with someone who actually is from Belgrade.
We met our guide at the Square of the Republic. We headed off together. Our destinations were three different bars, some of them with in-house breweries. They were all within a 15-minute walk from one another.
We sampled 7 beers in total. We had everything from pils to dark beer to wheat beer. The tastes of all the beers were distinctly different. They catered to all tastes and ranged from fruity to bitter. We had a little more beer than what I would have fancied. 7 beers, each in a 0.2l glass, is far more than what I would normally consume. The runtime of the tour is limited to 3.5h and that doesn’t leave much time to try the beers at each individual stop.
During the tour, we were fed many interesting facts about brewing, Serbian beer culture and the history of beer by our guide. Since we were the only ones participating in the tour we also got to have lovely conversations about the life of a student in Belgrade.
The tour is optimal for beer fans to discover a part of Belgrade that isn’t frequented by many tourists, the bars we went to were tourist free. We went back to one of the bars a few days later and the beer was still great!