This is Part III of a three-part series about Bulgarian food. In Part II, I wrote about five cabbie-recommended places to eat in Sofia. In Part I, I wrote about 13 of my favorite things to eat (and drink) in Bulgaria.
If you ever decide to attempt a taxi adventure anywhere in the world, the conversation, give or take a few minutes of lead-in time, might go something like this:
You: I have sort of a random question.
Cabby (smiling with what may be amusement, or apprehension): Okay…
You: Where is your favorite place to eat?
Cabby (without hesitation): I like to eat at home.
You (nodding): Home cooking is the best…(deep breath) But what about when you don’t eat at home? Is there somewhere you like to go?
Cabby (scratching his head, or stroking his mustache, if he has one): You want a restaurant? Well, there’s always [Insert name of touristy place].
You: Actually, I’m looking for someplace you like to eat, say with your family or your friends–
Cabby (shifting in his seat, or adjusting his grip on the wheel): Someplace I like to eat?
You (smiling, encouragingly): Mmmmm hmmmm.[Silence, which can last anywhere from 30 seconds to several minutes, and/or a possible change of subject, which eventually circles back to — ]
Cabby: Well, there is this place I go sometimes…
The conversation during the ride to Sofia-Vrazhdebna airport with a cabby named Netko — a former machinist from a village near Berkovitsa, who, like many Bulgarian men, makes his own rakia — went pretty much like this.
In the end, the place Netko told us about sounds almost scripted for cab drivers: “It’s not a nice place,” he warned us. No problem, we said. “It’s something between a garage and a food stand.” Perfect! we assured him. “There’s no name, and no address. It’s where taxi drivers and policemen and gypsies go…”
He didn’t recommend any dish in particular. They have ‘everything’, he said, soups, fish — and there’s always a daily special. There are about 20 tables. For 5 leva (3 dollars), you can eat like a king. In summary: “There are a lot of places with worse food.”
That doesn’t sound like much of an endorsement, I know. But we were intrigued, anyway — and sorry that we were leaving Bulgaria, that we have to wait until next year to try it.
In the meantime, though, if you happen to be in Sofia, and if you’re in the mood for a food adventure, here are the coordinates for Netko’s restaurant: It’s in the Slavia district/ kvartal Славия, southwest of the city center, on a street called “Zhitnitsa” / ul. “житница” across from number 255, open from 7:30am to 9:30pm.
If you go before we have a chance to check it out next year, tell us about it!