Traditional Romanian food is legendary. Why not travel to Transylvania and eat it at the source?
After a hectic month in Bucharest, we were ready to leave Romania’s biggest city and head to the hills of Transylvania for some much-needed rest and relaxation in the smaller city of Sibiu. Who are we kidding? Our top priority was to eat traditional Romanian food.
After getting our first taste of artisan Transylvania food products in Bucharest, we had high expectations of the food we would eat in Transylvania. However, we had little expectations of Sibiu, the town where we based ourselves for our week-long food quest.
As it turned out, we loved Sibiu. A former Capital of Culture, Sibiu is a charming town with a preserved city center featuring unique architecture with eye-like house windows that literally make the homes look alive, interesting museums memorializing Transylvania’s noble history and plenty of relaxing cafes to relax around a classic town square.
Hire a car from a reputable car rental company. Since Romanian trains are limited, you’ll be happy to have a car to drive to various villages in the countryside.
With so many things to do in Sibiu, we never got bored during our stay in the Transylvanian city. Our apartment was the cherry on top of our Sibiu sundae thanks to ultra-fast internet and a more than hospitable host who brought us fresh strawberries from his grandmother’s garden.
But what about the food?
Though we could have happily lingered in Sibiu and spent our time strolling through the winding, romantic alleys while drinking Romanian wine and looking for some of Romania’s most instagrammable locations, we had work to do. And by work, we mean food exploration both in Sibiu as well as in the Transylvania countryside.
How to Experience Traditional Romanian Food in Transylvania
Ironically, many people visit towns like Sibiu and spend their days eating pizza, pasta and Sacher torte. True confession – we ate pizza in Sibiu too. But there’s so much great food to eat in the best Romanian cities beyond typical tourist fare.
In just a short week, we found traditional Romanian food in Transylvania that brought back memories of our Eastern European grandmothers. We also experienced a local Transylvania food culture with simple deeply flavored stews and classically grilled meats along with lots of garlic.
Read on to see how you can do it too.
1. Dine at a Traditional Romanian Restaurant
Dining at traditional Romanian restaurants in Transylvania will give you the best introduction to local foods and drinks, many of which are based on traditional Transylvanian recipes that span generations and ruling monarchies. Similar to Romanian culture, Transylvanian cuisine has a storied and rich history that warrants exploration.
For our traditional Romanian restaurant experience, we chose Casa Terra based on a strong recommendation from My Secret Romania‘s Gabriela Solomon. After spending time with Solomon in Bucharest, we were more than confident in her knowledge of traditional food and the Romanian people who cook it best.
Located in a nondescript building in the sleepy town of Făgăraş, Casa Terra is a shockingly good restaurant led by Chef Dana Graură along with a staff who welcomed us as if we were old friends. The homey dining room also screamed Transylvania with antique furniture, candelabras and walls filled with black and white family photos.
A former chemical engineer and self-taught chef, Graură wowed us with her passion as well as with her execution of traditional Romanian dishes that combine local farm products with the best flavors of Romania, Germany and Hungary. Graură’s scientific background gives the chef a unique mastery of Romanian recipes with an accurate nod toward Transylvania’s rich history.
After starting our meal with refreshing elderflower juice, we settled into our first course of Drob, a popular Romanian Easter dish with lamb and eggs, a well as herbs, veggies, salted sheep cheese and super garlicky eggplant salad.
Before we knew it, the next course arrived – Spring Borscht with two kinds of salad (red and green), bacon, and scrambled eggs. This was a uniquely Romanian borscht with stewed greens and a garlicky white broth, unlike the red beet borsch more commonly seen in Russian cuisine.
We sipped on Polinka, the plum liqueur that is so prevalent in Romania and ate Sarmale, Romanian Stuffed Cabbage topped with sour cream and dill and served with a side of succulent pork ribs. The stuffed cabbage at Casa Terra, with classic meaty yet acidic sour flavors, ranks for us as both the tastiest and prettiest food we ate in Romania.
Like all good things, our lunch at Casa Terra finally came to an end… but not until we ate a lamb stew followed by small bowls of Rice Pudding served with Plum Jam and Peach Mint Jam. We departed Casa Terra with a shared food coma and a new respect for typical Romanian food. We should have also left with a jar of their wonderful jam which was for sale next to the restaurant’s front door.
Do your research based on where you’re staying and make reservations to avoid disappointment. Popular restaurants like Casa Terra tend to book in advance.
Casa Terra is located at Strada Negoiu 2A, Făgăraş 505200, Romania.
2. Eat at Local Restaurants and Cafes
In addition to eating epic meals at restaurants like Casa Terra, travelers can experience Romanian cuisine at local restaurants like the casual eateries we found in Sibiu. Frequented by both locals and tourists, these local restaurants serve tasty food at affordable prices compared to much of Europe.
When in Sibiu, you can enjoy hearty beef soup and lamb burgers at Pasaj, a casual restaurant located by the 13th century Passage of Stairs that connects the city’s Upper Town and Lower Town. You can also eat elevated bar food at Gradina Restaurant if you crave hamburgers and feel like getting away from the city center.
Discover more of the best soups in the world.
Or, you can go to the down and dirty, super casual Bistro Cibin on the edge of the central Cibin market. More of a cafeteria style cafe than a bistro, Bistro Cibin serves local classics like cabbage soup, beef stew and the Romanian sausage known as mici.
For the unfamiliar, mici are the grilled caseless sausages, similar to kofta kebabs, that are popular throughout Romania, especially during the summer months. If you’re feeling thirsty, beer flows freely at all three of these Sibiu restaurants.
Add Don’t worry that you’re leaving good coffee in Bucharest behind. You can find decent coffee in Transylvania at cafes like Arhiva de Cafea and Ceai.
Arhiva de Cafea and Ceai is located at Strada Arhivelor 2, Sibiu 550164, Romania.
Bistro Cibin is located at Piaţa Cibin, Sibiu 550197, Romania.
Gradina Restaurant is located at Bulevardul Victoriei 34, Sibiu 550024, Románia.
Pasaj is located at Strada Turnului 3A, Sibiu 550197, Romania.
3. Shop at Local Markets
Markets play a big role in Romanian life. Both housewives and chefs shop daily for seasonal, reasonably priced produce, cheese and meat while mingling with farmers and other vendors. Savvy shoppers shop with the season for the best Transylvania market experience.
4. Eat With Locals
In an ideal world, Transylvania locals will welcome you into their home and ply you with tiny glasses of plum Polinka. Don’t worry if that fantasy doesn’t come true.
Instead, do a little research and find a culinary event where you can eat with locals for a small fee like we did with Eat Local while we were in Transylvania.
For just 75 Lei (under $20 USD) each, we hiked the lush Cisnădioara hills and caught timeless country views of Transylvanian villages that we could never see from a train or highway. We then ate a picnic feast filled with food including fresh cherries, local cheese and meat plus an assortment of homemade baked goods like cherry-topped chocolate and vanilla cakes.
Go out of your way to talk to locals in Transylvania. We found the people to be friendly. Plus, the majority speak English.
Romanian Food in Transylvania Video
Watch our YouTube video for the full story about our lunch at Casa Terra.
About the Authors
Daryl & Mindi Hirsch
Saveur Magazine’s BEST TRAVEL BLOG award winners Daryl and Mindi Hirsch share their culinary travel experiences and recipes on the 2foodtrippers website and YouTube. The married Food and Travel content creators live in Lisbon, Portugal.
Original Publication Date: October 16, 2017