Tasting on Split
Defining Croatian food is a bit challenging because different parts of the country have their own specialties. But Mediterranean influence is heavy, and seafood is a staple along the coast. It also features many sweets, like dried fig cakes. A little known tidbit is that Croatia has among the best olive oils in the world, and they have the awards to prove it.
The currency in Croatia is the kuna, and at the time of writing, the exchange rate was about 6.50 kunas to US$1. All businesses are listed from most budget-friendly to least within each category.
- Coffee & drinks
- Desserts & ice cream
- Grocery stores & farmer’s markets
Coffee & drinks
4coffee soul food
4coffee soul food does not serve food from the southern part of the US, but it is where I had some coffee brewed using a Hario V60 one morning for 30 kunas. It’s a tiny little shop in the northeast corner of Old Town, just outside the palace walls.
The owner prepared it with care and told me that he’s been running 4coffee for a year and a half. I hope he continues to do well: Split needs some specialty coffee in its midst.
Even the little details like how the cups are textured make me smile. (If you’re hungry, they also have sandwiches and cookies.)
Desserts & ice cream
Luka Ice Cream & Cakes
Near the Croatian National Theater, you’ll find Luka Ice Creams & Cakes with two ice cream counters and a formal entryway where you can buy their delicious-looking cakes. (I didn’t get to try their cakes, so I can only say that they looked mouthwatering.) I had ice cream for breakfast, so only one of the two counters was open. (Don’t panic if you don’t see ice cream in the counter you visit first: check the other side.)
Their ice creams contain all-natural ingredients and pack a huge flavor punch! You can get one scoop for 9 kunas, two for 17, or three for 24. It includes a homemade cone, but if you want the chocolate one, you need to pay an extra 2 kunas (worth it). I liked the combination of their pistachio ice cream and yogurt with forest berries.
While I was in Klis, I took a 30-minute factory tour of Stella Croatica for 30 kunas. (Notify them in advance by emailing them.) It’s a family-owned small business that primarily manufactures traditional Dalmatian desserts and other gourmet foods based on figs, oranges, lemons, almonds, and olives. In fact, their olive oil has taken the gold medal in OliveJapan’s international competition.
Ivana, my tour guide, told me that the buildings that make up their reconstructed Dalmatian village were purchased from an actual village and moved piece by piece to Stella Croatica’s property in Klis. The company really cares about carrying on traditions and sharing it with the general public.
At one point, you get to see the production area from the hallway. Through the large windows, you can see the staff cutting, cooking, and packing everything by hand. I saw a batch of cut orange peels ready for the candying process.
What happens to the rest of the orange? Stella Croatica doesn’t waste anything: I got to have a glass of fresh-squeezed orange juice, accompanied by a side of their Maraschino. (Interestingly, it’s the only Croatian product you can by in Vatican City.)
Be sure to allocate time after the tour to take advantage of factory pricing (i.e., half off retail) in their shop. I got a dried fig cake (53 kunas) to share with the Couchsurfers I would meet with later that evening, and people seemed to really love it. It was so big that I had enough leftover to snack on twice.
There is also a more thorough option if you have at least two hours: Stella Croatica offers a 90-minute wine, cheese, and olive oil tasting program for 150 kunas. A special feature of the agenda is getting to taste bread baked under a peka (iron bell). The wood-burning stove requires three hours before it’s hot enough to bake the bread, and the dough needs an hour to get ready. Needless to say, you must book this ahead of time so that they can prepare for your arrival!
Grocery stores & farmer’s markets
I did visit the Green Market on the east side of the palace, but after reading that you have to haggle to get a good deal and not knowing a lick of Croatian, I skipped interacting with any of the vendors and went to various grocery stores instead.
My first grocery store in Split was Konzum, and I went there twice in one day: once for breakfast and once for dinner. In the morning, they had a pretty nice selection of hot foods, but by 19:00, they had run out of everything except fries. I grabbed some Dalmatian smoked ham, semi-hard cheese, and a domestic dunkel to wash it all down. There was some bread involved, too.
Technically, Purex is primarily a poultry store, but I had asked the owner of Kruščić Bakery where to find peka-baked bread that I’d heard about from visiting Stella Croatica, and she pointed me to Purex. And yes, they sure did have the round loaves sitting behind the counter. You can buy either white or wheat, and they’ll sell it in a whole, half, or quarter loaf at 15 kuna per kg. I saved my quarter-loaf of wheat (3.75 kunas) for dinner that day, and it was quite nice: the edges are harder than the rest, likely because it is the thinnest part and more susceptible to the heat of the stove. But the center is fluffy and airy. (See the section about Tommy for a picture of this special bread.)
The staff member at Tommy was what stood out to me about this grocery store: she shared with me that if I bring back my empty beer bottle and my receipt, I can get my 1.25-kuna deposit back. I wanted to avoid eating 150g of cheese in one sitting this time, so at the deli, I asked for 100g of gouda and 100g of Dalmatina sausage. Wow, that sausage was quite delicious. I wonder if it’s possible to find it outside of Croatia.
The cucumbers were starting to lose their water, but the cherry tomatoes were sweet and satisfying, as was the orange I got. I happened to grab a bottle of beer made by a sponsor of the local football team.
This grocery store has signs posted all over the streets pointing you in its direction. I had low expectations going in since this heavy-handed advertising must not bode well, but I was pleasantly surprised at the size of the store and the quality and selection of goods. It’s even located inside a former palace!
A light dinner was all I needed, so I got some fried fish and cabbage salad before going to a Couchsurfing event. Billa charges 2 kunas for their plasticware sets, available at the prepared foods counter.
To continue my Game of Thrones themed visit to the Klis Fortress, I had roasted whole lamb on a spit for lunch at Krčma Uskok. The owner welcomed me to sit anywhere I wanted, and although the outdoor seats meant I would have to deal with flying ashes from the roaster, the lighting indoors was almost non-existent.
Service was fast and friendly, and the owner seemed happy to entertain my questions about where the lamb comes from (a nearby Dalmatian village that has been raising lambs for 800 years) and how long it takes to roast a whole lamb (somewhere between 1.5-2.5 hours).
I’d wanted to order some domestic draft beer, but he didn’t have any at the moment. I went with bread (5 kn: crusty on the outside, soft on the inside), mixed salad (12 kn: lettuce, finely-shredded cabbage, tomatoes, and cucumbers), and 300g of lamb (66 kn: kept hot on the table) instead. Mmm, that lamb was tender and was flavored so nicely. I soaked up all the juices with the bread. They don’t have desserts, but Stella Croatica satisfied that need after lunch.
Corto Maltese Freestyle Food
Corto Maltese is actually a comic book character that this restaurant is named after. Heretofore, I’ll be referring to the restaurant rather than the sea captain when I mention Corto Maltese. The ingredients they use are fresh, and their menu has some healthy options.
The first eye-catcher was that they had Vutra, a cannabis liqueur. I had never heard of this before, so obviously, I had to try it. The waitress recommended the Funny Honey (12kn for 0.03L). It was slightly sweet and strong, but I didn’t smell any hint of cannabis. Neither did I feel any effects later even though the producer says they use locally grown sativa. Maybe they’re using the male plants.
The mussels in Dalmatian sauce (82 kn) were all right, but I had a hard time keeping the mussel sauce off of my clothes. The tomatoes in the seasonal salad (21 kn: with lettuce, cabbage, and cucumbers) actually tasted like tomatoes, so I’m sure they sourced them from a farm.
What was really great was the anchovy sandwich (44 kn: with tomatoes, arugula, and minced garlic) that I returned for when they serve their breakfast menu (before noon). I think this is the best thing they have on their menu: what a shame they don’t serve it all day!