Review: Belgrade Food Tour

Introduction: Transatlantic Insanity
Review: Aeroflot Business Class 777-300ER Los Angeles To Moscow
Review: Aeroflot Lounge Moscow Airport
Review: Aeroflot Business Class 737 Moscow To Belgrade
Review: Metropol Palace Hotel Belgrade
Review: Belgrade Food Tour
Review: Air Serbia Lounge Belgrade Airport
Review: Air Serbia Business Class A330 Belgrade To New York
Review: Air France Lounge New York JFK
Review: Azerbaijan Airlines Business Class 787 New York To Baku
Review: Hyatt Regency Baku
Review: Baku Airport Lounge
Review: Ukraine International Airlines Business Class 737 Baku To Kiev
Review: Kiev Airport Lounge
Review: Ukraine International Airlines Business Class 767 Kiev To New York


This year I’ve started doing more and more food tours when I travel. Ben and I did a “pub crawl” style tour in Madrid last year, I took my family on a crazy tuk-tuk tour in Bangkok, etc.

Food tours are a really fun way to get a taste (hah!) of a city in a short period of time, and provide a good introduction to local cuisine, so we definitely wanted to try one in Serbia, as neither of us have spent much time in the Balkans. After a bit of research we decided to book a Belgrade food tour with Food&Culture, which offers three different itineraries:

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Although we booked on very short notice, they were able to accommodate us for the “On Your Plate” tour. Given that we were there in off-season, we ended up having the tour to ourselves, which was an extra nice treat.

We met our lovely guide, Jovana, outside St. Michael’s Cathedral. After exchanging pleasantries she led us to our first stop, in the oldest kafana in Belgrade.

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The name was actually “?” as in “We need a new restaurant name, because we got in trouble for calling ourselves ‘the bar by the church’ but before we came up with something, the ‘?’ stuck.”

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We started with traditional Turkish coffee, and were welcomed with bread and salt. One of my favorite novels is The Bridge on the Drina, and I particularly loved the descriptions of people drinking coffee in the Balkan style, so I loved this as a starting point. (Side note, does anyone want to start a sort of virtual/travelers book club? I think it could be fun.)

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Delicious plum dumplings followed.

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Meanwhile, Jovana shared a brief overview of Serbian history to provide some context to the culinary culture, then gave a lighthearted but too-accurate-to-not-be-sorta-creepy reading of my coffee dregs.

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Off to a good start!

If our first visit was a reflection of Old Belgrade, the next was as modern as can be. Crna Ovca (Black Sheep), a new ice cream boutique on one of the main shopping streets.

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And of course they had all the varieties you’d expect, like chocolate and pistachio and a salted caramel, but the creativity went far beyond the traditional.

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I think we tried every kind of nut, from chestnut to walnut to hazelnut, along with black currant, brown butter blueberry and mascarpone raspberry. One of the standouts was a less-sweet sesame with chunks of dark chocolate and coffee beans.

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Seriously, I think we sampled 25 flavors of ice cream, and they were all delicious.

Stop #3 was a bit of a walk, and by this time we were getting more comfortable as a group. We talked about travel, and shared experiences, and the challenges of entrepreneurship. Serbia doesn’t seem to have the same startup culture that you see in some other places, so a group of young people started their own hospitality/tourism brand is quite unique.

Along the way, Jovana pointed out key sites, like the last remaining mosque in Belgrade.

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Nestled between a park and a school, and down a garden staircase, was a charmingly old-fashioned restaurant.

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From our window seat we enjoyed a lovely Serbian mezze, with prosciutto, bresaola, ajvar (a Serbian roasted pepper spread),  multiple cheeses and a cornbread muffin. During our time in Belgrade we saw these items everywhere (even on our Air Serbia flight), and it was nice to know what everything was.

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And that ajvar – my goodness! I could eat that every day with just a spoon!

This was also our first taste of Serbian wines, which were consistently impressive.

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Our next stop was on a side street of a residential area, at a truly ridiculous hipster-Bohemian bar. I don’t actually know how to describe the décor, so will let the pictures speak for themselves.

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On the menu here? Serbian brandy, or rakija.

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And not just one variety, of course! There was the traditional plum, and also quince, along with raspberry, apricot, and a honeyed plum.

Because what everyone needs at 11:30 on a Thursday morning is five shots of brandy.

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While I was enjoying our time with Jovana, who truly could not have been more gracious or lovely, this could have been the last eating stop on the tour for me. Serbian food is filling, and the portions had been quite generous!

But with three stops left to go, we pressed on.

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Our next stop was through the Skadarlija neighborhood, which was so charming. Cobblestone streets, flower vendors, and cozy street cafes.

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The destination? A corner bakery, famous for its Serbian goulash.

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The goulash was accompanied by a Serbian cheese of some sort. It was different than other goulash I’ve tried, but was quite good.

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Pressing on, we then visited one of Belgrade’s “green markets” – essentially a produce market, with stalls piled high with seasonal fruits and vegetables. Pears, quince, and grapes were in abundance, given the time of year.

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Adjacent to the produce stalls were a collection of low buildings that served as butcher and dairy markets. Jovana introduced us to her “cheese guy,” who delighted in passing us samples of fresh Serbian cheeses.

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At this point we were so full that every bite was painful, so we went somewhat reluctantly to the final stop.

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This was a more upscale restaurant, with a formal dining room. While we waited for our order, Jovana shared stories of Serbian weddings and celebrations, and patiently answered our questions about being a child in Belgrade in the 90’s.

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A traditional mixed grill soon arrived, and while everything on the plate was divine we couldn’t manage more than a few bites.

Which was too bad, because the meats were very high quality, and the preparation was perfect.

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The start of the East Coast business day meant we had to make rushed goodbyes, but it was such a lovely way to spend a morning. The tour was scheduled for four hours, but we ended up spending about four and a half due to all the great conversation.

If you’re ever in Belgrade I highly, highly, recommend a Serbian Food & Culture tour. Heck, it’s worth adding a stopover in Belgrade just to enjoy this experience!

Jovana and her business partners are delightful people, and tremendous ambassadors for a city that is trying to find its tourism footings. Truly enjoyable.

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Any other “can’t miss” things you’d suggest people experience in Belgrade?

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Comments

  1. Thanks Tiffany.

    Lovely pictures & nice places to visit.

    The food seems very good too.

    That’s great you write a post about your tour.

    Thanks again.

  2. Have you read “The Fortress”, by Selimovic? One of my personal favorites, highly recommend.
    Seems like you managed to get quite a lot covered in such a short time in Belgrade. I’d add a few things, but that requires a longer stay 🙂

    On a side note, if your trips bring you to the Balkans again, Bosnia in particular, I’ll be happy to show around 🙂

  3. Good report. Thanks. I wish I had been aware of this tour when I was in Belgrade in May. I did stumble across that quirky bar – fun place to have a drink – and several nice restaurants on my own though. Belgrade is not nearly as pretty as any of the other places I visited in the former Yugoslavia, but I may have enjoyed my time and the people there more than elsewhere.

  4. Thanks for a review of the food tour! I hope to see more reviews like this in the future as well as activities you guys did during your trip! It’s nice to read about other things once in awhile =)

  5. I am happy to see a post about getting outside the hotel that doesn’t involve a taxi scandal. 😉

    But seriously, food is a big part of travel and the above adds much to the repertoire of the site.

    I do love pictures of caviar, but also of local and street food.

    You should make plans to do food tours on all your trips.

  6. Tiffany,

    Thank you for sharing this…I lived in Belgrade for 2 1/2 years, so it was nice to take a stroll down “Memory Lane”.

    – Nick

  7. That’s awesome. Serbian food is not for the faint of heart.
    Ajvar is one of my favorite things EVER, but it’s not easy to find in the US. You can find it, just not easily. However, Trader Joe’s sells a knockoff (I’d say 96% of the original), they call it Red Pepper spread. Who knew?

  8. I’m in for the Travel related book club.

    One of my favourite parts of trip preparation is the pre-reading list! We are off to St Petersburg next year, so I have set myself to read the Robert K Massie trilogy of Peter the Great, Catherine the Great, and a re-read of Nicholas and Alexandra.

  9. This is excellent. I love food tours, they are to me the best way to get to know a new city, and I try to do one on my first day there. I mostly travel for the food anyway, but the walking part gives you the lay of the land, and you usually come away with some additional places to visit on your own time.

  10. Food tour amateurs! 😉 You ate too much too early and didn’t have room later. But you’ve written this post in a way that makes me want to visit Belgrade. It’s a great gift you have, Tiffany.

  11. Great post, and I wish I had read it before I visited Belgrade about two months ago. Unfortunately, my wife and I didn’t have such a great time in Serbia. We have toured Romania, Bulgaria, Slovenia and Croatia, and I spent 6 weeks in Macedonia a few years ago. Serbia is the only country in the world where I encountered unfriendly people, was cheated multiple times by taxi drivers, called a f**king American a**hole and threatened with physical harm if I didn’t pay the grossly inflated meter charges. I’m glad that you had a much better time with a local guide, but I must say I found the cultural offerings in Belgrade to be underwhelming. We were only there for two days and booked some restaurants in advance. We enjoyed Ambar, along the riverfront, which has an eclectic menu. Sadly, I won’t be returning to Serbia. It’s a totally different and disappointing experience when compared to its neighboring countries.

  12. Thanks for a great post, Tiffany. I buy ajvar from my local Big Lots store in Arizona. It’s usually in stock. It is a 540 gram jar made by Konex Foods in Bulgaria. The ingredients are red peppers, eggplant and garlic. Only $3.00, and has no preservatives, so it should be consumed within 3 days of opening… but that sounds like it wouldn’t be a problem for most of us to eat it all up!

  13. I did my first food tour last month in Melbourne and LOVED it. I am not a foodie, but my cousin is and I did it for her. It was ridiculously fun. And, a great way to see the city from a local’s perspective.

  14. We did the food tours in Paris, Milan and Venice earlier this year and all are highly recommended, lovely mix of a little history, culture and some great food and drinks. On each one our guide was fantastic, interested, interesting and fun. We are complete converts of food walking tours as a great way to gain a little knowledge and some of the atmosphere of a city.

  15. Wow, I am so happy you liked your Belgrade tour. Next time, you should taste sarma, and more sweets! 🙂 Ajvar is pure delight, I eat it almost every day when it gets chilly outside. It’s actually pretty easy to make.

  16. I’m a Belgrade native, and although I love and enjoy my hometown with all it’s quirks and imperfections, this whole “Belgrade experience” (AirSerbia Lounge/Business class/Hotel) feels too much like an advertisement paid for by some Serbian tourism lobby. I’ve been fortunate enough to be able to sample many different business class products, stay at nice hotels and lounges, so I believe my point of reference is quite healthy. Don’t get me wrong, Belgrade can be a lot of fun (when you know where to look for it), but come on, lets be real. I’ve been an avid follower of this blog, you’re gonna make me second-guess every recommendation from now on :(.

    To Jerry, the taxi-victim. Cab drivers are a vicious breed (not just in Serbia), and I myself have been swindled numerous times. When in Europe, make sure to always use legitimate taxi services, by either calling and ordering a cab, or by taking one from a valid taxi station (clearly marked). Never hail one on the street, unless you’re completely confident in what you’re doing.

  17. I love the idea of a virtual book club. You’re more than welcome to start with my book, Room 702. 🙂

    I also sincerely enjoy a food tour. Bali Food Safari is a great one if you ever visit.

  18. @ Milan — Huh? We had a genuinely good time. That isn’t the case everywhere we go, but was here. Not sure how to be more “real” about the experience than that.

  19. Ajvar is not actually hard to find — just go to your local Russian grocery store and they’ll have it there. The ones near me (in Miami) each have 10-15 different brands/styles of Ajvar, depending on the day

  20. @Tiffany – I might’ve misplaced my comments in your thread, because I’m sure you had a great time roaming the streets. Plus you had a local guide, and people here are the real Belgrade treasure. I was mostly referring to “The best business class lounge in Europe”-type of headlines. Plus the rave reviews of the BEG-JFK business class experience. I’ve tried both, and it’s fine. But, just fine. I’m sorry if this sounds like a rant, its just that I’m such a huge fan of onemileatatime, I would absolutely hate to see it biased in any way.

    Happy travels!

  21. @ Milan — Oh, that’s fine, I am just confused as to what you think the bias is, and would like to assuage your concerns if I can.

    I don’t think either of us had high expectations of Air Serbia, so the surprise probably influenced our perspective. The lounge was great, which I would expect of a brand-new lightly-used Etihad-funded lounge. The service on Air Serbia was fantastic, but when Ben does his full review he’ll go into some of the missed opportunities with product. I think overall it was impressive though, especially for an airline that only has one ultra-longhaul flight.

  22. Thanks for posting this. For the past decade, every time we go to a new country, we try to do food tours. I am always on a lookout for reviews of these so that i can make note of them for the future. If you can, please keep posting about these when you take them. Heading to Rome and Milan next year and would love to do a food tour in either city!

  23. ‘Love this review of a food tour in Belgrade. Very nice indeed!

    I’m actually a lifestyle travel blogger & foodie and enjoy reading about different ways of travelling hence, a follower of Lucky (who I think is hilarious and quite awesome by the way) and this blog.

    However, I very much enjoy your reviews as the angles are slightly more descriptive and personal. I remember reading abour your post on a cathedral (I think) and your description of it was interestedly impressive!

  24. Dear Tiffany,

    An enormous thank you for this extensive and lovely blog you wrote about Food & Culture Tours! 🙂

    We feel honored and thankful for your words. Several guests have already found and visited our tours through this blog only!

    We hope you and Ben are doing well and we send you lots of warm huggs from snowy Belgrade,
    Jovana, Ana and Đorđe

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