When it's mealtime, look for a restoran, restauracija or konoba (tavern) –the decor may vary but the food will be much the same. A gostiona (inn) is a more basic version of a restoran. For Croatians, the most important meal of the day is lunch (ručak) which they eat relatively late in the afternoon. For visitors, lighter meals (low-cost smaller portions) are available during the marende, a kind of brunch snack, between 10.30 and noon.

For a picnic lunch, the nearest open-air market or samoposluga (supermarket) will carry the bread, cheese, meats, fruit and vegetables that you need. Bread can be bought at a pekornica (bakery) and sandwiches can often be made up or on request. Burek is a delicious Croatian pastry filled with cheese, which makes a good quick snack, oryou can try grilled kebabs served in a somun (a flat bread bun).

In Dubrovnik,and all along the Dalmatian coast, plain,grilled seafood dishes are the bigfavourite;all are seasonal and supremely fresh.The classic is grilled fish served with olive oil and lemon with blitva so krumpirom (swiss chard and potatoes with garlic and olive oil) as an accompaniment. Another favourite is shellfish na buzaru (quickly cooked with white wine, garlic and parsley). One shellfish not to miss, particularly if you get to Mali Slon, is ostrige (oysters) or dagnje (mussels) –you won't find them fresher or more tasty anywhere.

Croatians like to serve their cheese first, before the main meal, often with pršut, a home-cured ham from Istria or Dalmatia. This  typical and delicious delicacy goes through a long process of cleaning, salting, hanging and smoking; it will melt in your mouth. Poški sir comes from the island of Pag and is a hard, piquant cheese that has a taste somewhere between Parmesan and mature cheddar. Soups are usually clear and light and served with very -nin noodles.

For main courses, grilled or pan-fried chops are popular, and come either plain or as a schnitzel (bečki odrezak), or stuffed with cheese and ham. Mješano meso (mixed grill) is on most menus and consists of pork or veal cutlet, a few rissoles of minced meat and perhaps some spicy kobasica (sausage). Lamb is often prepared as a spit-roast;you can sometimes see a whole lamb being cooked beside the restaurant. Stews reflect the central European heritage, with gulaš (goulash) done as a sauce over pasta and pošticoda (beef in vinegar, wine and prunes). Italian-influenced risottos are a popular accompaniment to the main course, especially'black risotto' made with squid ink.

For dessert, try a Dubrovnik speciality called rožoto, the local creme caramel. Other typical desserts include slodoled (ice cream), torta (cake) and palčinke (pancakes, which are usually served with marmalade, walnuts or chocolate sauce).

Most restaurants serve wine by the glass, carafe or bottle, while kovonas have a full range of alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks as well as pastries and ice creams. A kafic is a smaller version of a kavona and usually caters to a younger crowd. Cafes and cafe-bars open early for that mandatory morning espresso and start serving alcohol from 09:00.The usual closing time is 23.00, although they sometimes stay open later in the summer. Pubs tend to look a bit British; they serve both local and imported beers. Croatian beers are usually high quality–two good local brands are 0žujsko and Karlovačko, or Tom is lavwhich is a domestic dark beer. Croatian wines, both red and white, are good, with the best of them being from the Peljesac peninsula or from Korcula (try the fruity dry whites from Posip and Grk). Prosek is a sweet wine,tawny red in colour, which is usually chilled with an ice cube or two. Tmvarica is a strong grappa flavoured with herbs, while slivovica (brandy) is made from plums.

Service charges aren't usually included in the bill, so the common practice (as when paying for a taxi,too) is to round up the bill to the nearest ten kuna or so. If the service has not been good, then it's up to you whether you tip or not.


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