When you think of Culinary travel destinations you think of places like France, Italy, Japan, and Peru. Croatia generally doesn’t appear on any of those lists, but maybe it should. The food in Croatia compares to, and in some cases, is better than the food in those top culinary destinations. Even better than eating in those countries, a good meal in Croatia (or at least Zagreb) is extremely cheap. Thus far on my weekend trip to Croatia,I ate like a king. First I had an amazing Chicken and Truffle Tortellini dinner at Nokturno, Then I had an amazing burek at Burek; a breakfast I will always dream about. For all of this amazing food I spent just over $10. Next stop Plac Kitchen and Grill!
Getting to Plac
When my Croatia Airlines flight landed and I checked in at my hotel, my first stop was dinner. I wanted to go to Plac, but I could not find it. Google maps did not help me like it normally does, and i ended up at Nokturno. Luckily Nokturno was fantastic so it was a damn good decision. I ended up finding Plac the next morning as it was right next door to Burek. However, why I couldn’t find it was because it is in a really strange location. Both Burek and Plac are located right Near Ben Jelačić square. The center of Zagreb. If you walk through the square towards the Dolac Market, you will need to climb some stairs to get to the market. Both Plac and Burek are part of a tiny shopping Plaza built into the wall halfway up the stairs.
Google maps does not recognize this location. So it will put plac’s location somewhere in the Dolac Market Plaza on the top of the stairs. If you are aware, my guess is you will likely notice Plac as you are walking towards Dolac Market, but in my jet lagged haze I went up and down those stairs at least 4 times without noticing it. So it can be tricky… or I can be oblivious, I will go with the former.
Plac came up constantly in my research of the best cheap eats in Zagreb. It is known for their charcoal grilled meats; both for traditional Croatian dishes like ćevapčići (or ćevapi) and pljeskavica and their more globalized selection of burgers. If you know me or have followed this blog, you will know that grilled meats are my jam. While, I am always down for trying the city’s best burger, today was all about the ćevapi. One of my coworkers honeymooned in Croatia, and the second I mentioned my trip to Croatia, he went off about how amazing ćevapi is. I had to have it.
What is ćevapi?
For whatever reason Croatian food has not really made it over to the States. Maybe it is because in its current form Croatia is a relatively new country, but the food in the made in this region has been made for centuries. Regardless of the reason, I found myself having to not only research restaurants, but also research food. Ćevapi, one of the national dishes of Croatia, can be most easily compared to Turkish kebab. It is a grilled dish of minced meats (usually beef or lamb) served on top of a fluffy lepinja bread (a triple rise flat bread that looks like a pita but is closer to a focaccia) with onions, sour cream, cheese, and various local spices.
Plac Kitchen and Grill is a very small restaurant consisting of only two tables inside, but has ample seating outside on its patio area (again not sure how I missed it). There really isn’t much to say about Plac’s decor-wise as it is so small.
However they decorated it with these cool patterned tiles, which I am going to assume are traditional in Zagreb.
When I visited in late march/early April the weather was perfect (like no exaggeration, it was ideal). So their entire patio was full, while the inside was empty. They quickly showed me to on of their their two indoor tables.
Plac has a very simple menu serving variations on three main dishes: ćevapi, pljeskavica, burgers. Literally everything on the menu looked fantastic (and had English translation! Hooray!).
What first stood out to me was their colored burger buns, their Plac burger had a black bun, chili-burger red, veggie burger green, and chicken burger brown. That jet black burger was calling my name… it really was, but I was here for ćevapi. I could not let a burger tempt from my mission. I refocused my mind and ordered a full size beef ćevapi and a coke.
My goodness was it huge. It consisted of a monster piece of bread topped with ten beef sausages (i guess, they weren’t really sausages but they looked like one). Of some reason my brain just zeroed in on the mouthwatering meat and bread (they are my favorite things after all), and i didn’t get a picture of the full plate. However, my plate did consist of the bread, meat, sour, onions, and a clotted cheese known as kaymak. This was my reward for avoiding the tempting burger, and damn did it look good.
However, this plate was not all about the looks. This dish had the taste went far beyond its looks. I know I said this about Burek, but I will say it again about ćevapi. This was comfort food at its finest… Croatia is literally all about the comfort food. The bread was perfect. Soft, fluffy, buttery, and light. They seasoned the meat perfectly, and it was nice and juice. All the ingredients mixed together, god it was good. Seriously, unbeknownst to me when I booked this trip, Croatia is a comfort food haven. There is a reason these traditional recipes last hundreds of years… its because they are amazing.
How much will Plac set you back? Not much at all. A small portion of ćevapi will run you 26 Kuna (about $3.89), which would be sufficient for most people. While their most expensive veal dish sets you back 75 Kuna ($11.23). Most of their dishes, including my full portion of ćevapi (which I couldn’t finish without making myself sick), are only 42 Kuna ($6.29). So basically for less than the price of a value meal at McDonalds, you can enjoy some of the best traditional food Croatia has to offer.
Plac Kitchen and Grill will allow you to taste traditional Croatian Flavors at their best, for under $10. Their ćevapi is a can’t miss dish, but their burger is still calling my name.