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Before I traveled to Bucharest in late October to visit a dear friend, I did what all vegans do when traveling, I checked out HappyCow to see what vegan or vegan-friendly options could be found at my destination. I didn't expect much, so I was filled with excitement when I saw not three vegetarian restaurants with vegan options but, rather, eight vegan places. Granted, this is not much compared with Western European or North American cities, but I'm in Athens, Greece, where we don't even have one fully vegan restaurant.
Update: I went back to Bucharest in August and realized that some of these places are closed now. In fact, I didn't get a chance to go back to any of these spots, and instead have some new places to add to this post.
Even though my friend is not vegan, she didn't mind at all going to some of the vegan places with me. Even though I stayed at her place, we actually ate out pretty much all the time, rather than cooking at home.
The first evening, after I arrived, we went to Super Falafel. Super Falafel is apparently the first fully vegan eatery in Romania. There are two locations - one in the old town, and another on Balcescu boulevard to which we went. The place was very clean and the staff were very friendly. The falafel was decent, but not extraordinary. I ordered my falafel spicy, but, as is the case most of the time when I order spicy food, it really just had a hint of spice. What I liked most about Super Falafel were the friendliness of the staff and the quickness of the service. They were pretty surprised when my friend ordered a second falafel for me, but I was starving after the flight. Super Falafel is a good option for vegan fast food, and both locations are much more central than some of the other vegan options in Bucharest. We thought about going back another time, but I was just there for a few days and wanted to check out other places as well.
Update: Super Falafel seems to have closed down. I went there and saw a sign saying they were closed for holidays for a month, but even after the mentioned date they were still closed.
The next day, my friend took me to Bohemia Tea House which offers a big selection of teas as well as some snacks. Unfortunately, the only vegan option was the tomato bruschetta which was actually toast instead of bruschetta. It was good, though, and we ordered a second plate. As the place specializes in tea, it's probably more important to mention that the walnut tea I had was really nice. The place was super cozy with several rooms upstairs and downstairs. We sat on floor pillows and the atmosphere was very calm and relaxed. Since it's not actually a place to go out to eat the lack of vegan options is not a real issue, but it would be nice if they added some vegan hot chocolate and cakes to the menu.
Strada Poiana Narciselor 1, Bucarest. Open Monday to Sunday 12-11pm. bohemiatea.ro/
At night, we met with a friend in the old town, and I ended up having one of the best vegan salads I've ever had, in a pub that, otherwise, served tons of meat dishes. The place was called Distrikt 42, and I also had some tomato bruschetta again, which was more traditional here. The food was surprisingly good for a pub. The salad contained tofu and vegetables and was quite different from what vegans are used to getting in places that have few vegan options. It's possible that the bruschetta and the salad were the only vegan options at this place, but they were really good.
Sfantul Dumitru 3, Bucharest. www.facebook.com/distriktpub
The next day we went to a cat cafe fittingly named Miau. It was in an area that, as a tourist, I found a bit shady. It's certainly not near anything of interest for the average tourist. However, once you arrive it brings a touch of freshness and color to an otherwise boring neighborhood. It had outdoor seating, but due to the cold weather we went to sit inside. There are two rooms, and the place was pretty full. Several times during our stay, people entered and had difficulties finding a seat because the place is so popular. It's very cozy with nice colors and furniture, and we sat on comfortable floor pillows. There are details of cats in the dÃ©cor, such as in the light switches as well as small cat-shaped mirrors.
The cats at Miau are all rescued and walk around happily or sleep in comfortable boxes. There was a bit of a smell in the air, so I think unless you're really fond of cats that could be a bit off-putting. The cats are also free to jump on the tables, which, I guess, is the reason the place only offers drinks and no food. All the smoothies were vegan, even though they didn't have everything available when we went.
The cats are really cute and seemed very happy and well-fed. What was a bit of an issue for me was the fact that some people there treated the cats as a form of entertainment trying to play with them while they were trying to sleep and grabbing and carrying them. I think it might be a good idea to explain to customers that the cats will seek company if they want to and that one should especially watch one's children's behavior with the cats.
Overall, I believe the place is only for people who truly love to be around cats. Since there is no food on the menu it's not necessarily worth the trip for vegans. If the place was closer to the center it would be great, but I understand that rent in a more central location would be much higher.
Update: Though I didn't go back to Miau, I can report that they changed location and have apparently become fully vegan. The new address is as follows:
Intre Garle 7. Open Tuesday to Sunday 12-10pm. www.facebook.com/cafemiau/
Afterwards, we went to RawCoco for dessert. RawCoco is one of several raw places in Bucharest and only offers desserts and drinks. The place is located in an upscale neighborhood in the northern part of the city, and this is reflected in the prices. It's a very small place, and I suspect that customers mainly come here to purchase cakes and take them home. There is, however, enough space to seat about eight to ten people.
When I opened the menu I immediately knew I had to order the snickers cake. Before I went vegan, snickers were my favorite candy, as I love both chocolate as well as peanuts. My friend ordered the Mademoiselle Coco cake, and her boyfriend had a brownie. We were all a bit underwhelmed with the brownie, especially as it was very hard and difficult to eat. The Mademoiselle Coco cake had some rose and ginger in it which made for an interesting flavor. Definitely not your typical dessert. And then there was my snickers cake - and, wow, was it just amazing.
Just goes to show that you should always follow your instincts. It tasted pretty much exactly the way I remember snickers to taste - but in a much higher quality.
I would say that RawCoco was my favorite vegan spot in Bucharest because the snickers cake was really outstanding, the service was very good, and the place was so cozy.
Update: RawCoco appears to only do catering now.
Open Monday to Friday 9am to 5pm. www.rawcoco.ro/
After RawCoco we went to a mall and I noticed a small raw vegan dessert place there as well. I was super full and couldn't handle another cake, but I was really impressed with the fact that there would be vegan desserts at a mall. It's just not something that exists here in Greece. I later had a decent falafel at the food court, but nothing worth elaborating on.
The next day, my friend and I headed to a place called Rawyal for brunch, and, as you can tell from the name, this was another raw restaurant. The place is hidden away in a residential neighborhood but looks outstandingly cute. They really put a lot of effort into the decorations.
Everything is made fresh, which means that you have to wait quite a bit for your food to come, and, unfortunately, there was a problem with the heat in the place, which ended up being a bit of an issue for us as it took so long for the food to be ready and we had originally come here to be warm.
I had a nice green smoothie while my friend had a tea and we waited for our food. My friend had "spaghetti" and I had a guacamole with crackers as well as a vegetable and "rice" dish with broccoli and cauliflower. The food was really good, tasted very clean, and was definitely filling enough (then again, I did have an entree as well as a main dish). I had a small cinnamon roll for dessert, which was a bit misleading as the menu stated "cinnamon rolls" in the plural, whereas I ended up only getting one. I realized later that some desserts contain honey, so watch out for that.
The service was incredibly friendly, and the food was really tasty, but the highlight of Rawyal was definitely the wonderful decor. I presume that it would be even nicer there in the summer.
Update: Just like RawCoco, Rawyal has switched to catering.
Open Monday to Thursday 9am to 5pm, Friday 9am to 4pm. rawyal.ro/
Later that day when we were hungry I was really done with raw food, so we went to a regular restaurant that had some vegan options. The place was called Aubergine, and it seemed like the perfect restaurant, for someone whose favorite vegetable is eggplant. Aubergine is another super cozy place, this time in the old town of the city. We ordered hummus as a starter with some homemade bread, and the portion was actually huge enough to serve one person as a main dish.
It was some of the best hummus I ever had, and while researching this blog post, I found out that the chef is actually Israeli which explains the high quality of the hummus. I also had pasta with eggplant, which was okay but nothing compared to the hummus. The service was friendly, even though they seemed a bit in a rush to remove our plates.
Strada Smardan 33, Bucharest. Open Monday to Sunday 12pm to 3am. aubergine-restaurant.ro/
We spent the last evening at the beautiful bookstore Carturesti Carusel in the old town with a friend. They have a cafe on the top floor which advertises raw vegan cakes as well as vegan hot chocolate, but when we asked for a vegan hot chocolate they didn't actually have any. This was a bit disappointing but maybe if you go you will be luckier.
While walking around downtown, a good option for vegans is to get the small pretzel-like foods called "covrig." They don't actually have much in common with the German "Brezel" other than the shape. In taste, they are much more similar to the Turkish "simit" and Greek "koulouri." You can get them with sunflower seeds, sesame, or poppy seeds.
Overall, Bucharest was much more vegan-friendly than I expected, and raw vegans, in particular, have many options to choose from. There were a few raw places that we didn't check out, because, honestly, after all this raw stuff I was beginning to get bored of it, but if you don't have a problem with that, Bucharest has you covered.
Update: On my second trip to Bucharest, I found it much more difficult to find satisfying vegan meals. Some of the places I had visited the first time have since closed down, and there was again an issue with places marketing themselves as vegan when they were only vegetarian.
On my first evening, we went to a place called Green Garlic close to where my friend lives. The atmosphere was really lovely. We were able to sit outside, and I was thrilled to see a listing for vegan pappardelle on the menu. Because I have learned not to trust places that serve meat, I asked my friend to check with the waitress if the "cheese" that was mentioned on the menu was indeed vegan cheese. You won't believe it, but the waitress told her that the cheese that comes with the vegan pasta at this place is not vegan. We ordered the dish without the cheese so it was fine for me, but it just goes to show that you always have to double-check the ingredients when you're not at a vegan place.
Strada Erou Iancu Nicolae 50. Open Monday to Sunday 11am to 12am. www.facebook.com/GreenGarlic.ro/
The next day my friend took me to a place called Barca. They market themselves as vegan, but they use honey in almost all of their desserts so watch out for that. About half of the menu is raw, but the rice and lentil dish I had was nothing special and neither was the flan de coco I had for dessert (the only vegan dessert they had). The homemade lemonade was very refreshing, however, and the restaurant is located in a very nice neighborhood that is perfect for walks.
It bothers me when people use the label vegan without understanding what it means, and for that alone, I wouldn't come back here. Veganism is not a label you can use to attract more customers, you need to know what it means to pull it off properly.
Strada Barbu Iscovescu 19. Open Monday to Saturday 12pm to 9pm. restaurantbarca.ro/
The next day, I finally discovered a fully vegan place with decent food! Sara Green is located not too far from where I was staying so I managed to make it there for a hummus wrap and a lemonade. The lady working there didn't speak much English but was really sweet, and as the owner herself was there, she explained what dishes they had.
What I didn't like about this little food truck next to a mall was that all the food was already pre-packaged. This makes sense given that there is no actual kitchen, but it seems quite wasteful. The wrap was tasty, but given that this place is quite far from the center, I don't think it's really worth making the trip for the average tourist.
Nicolae Caramfil 85. Open Monday to Friday 10am to 6pm. saragreen.ro/
Another place that had unfortunately packaged all the foods was Little Tyke at Promenada Mall. It is located close to the food court of the mall, and they don't have a kitchen so they same reasoning applies, but it's such a shame to buy a burger in a plastic box. The burger was pretty good, probably also because it's so difficult to find vegan food in Bucharest that my taste buds appreciated any serious vegan meal. My friend and I also got a brownie and a cake, though I must say they were a bit disappointing considering how delicious they looked. It wasn't that they were bad, but the presentation was so amazing that the actual taste couldn't keep up.
Thrilled to have found a vegan place, I took a quinoa salad home to my Airbnb* to be able to eat it the next day. The mall is located quite far from the city, and I didn't want to go back there the very next day.
We did, however, end up going back here the evening before I left. I got a salad and a burrito. I actually got the burrito to be able to take it to the airport the next day because I was sure I wouldn't be able to find any vegan food at the airport, and, of course, I was right and was glad to have the burrito with me.
Overall, Little Tyke was my favorite spot in Bucharest this time, but it's really far from the center, and again, I don't know if it's worth the trip for a tourist. What's worse is that I saw the Facebook page for this location was removed so we may be dealing with another vegan place in Bucharest that shut down.
The final restaurant I discovered this time in Bucharest was Rawdia, another vegetarian place. The location was quite nice, and we were able to sit outside which is always lovely in the summer. I ordered a burger and, because it looked really small, a spinach quiche. Only the spinach quiche was fresh, the burger was pre-packaged.
From what I understood, most of these places also do catering and delivery so they already package everything and then send it to the actual restaurants where you can order them. From an environmental point of view, I really don't like this at all. What I did like, however, was that Rawdia had fresh coconuts so I absolutely had to have one.
Both the burger and the quiche were decent, but nothing mind-blowing really. If you're hungry and in the area, come by, sure, but don't go out of your way to eat here.
Strada Putul Lui Zamfir 50-52. Open Monday to Friday 9am to 7pm, Saturday 12pm to 5pm. rawdia.ro/bucuresti/
Overall, I was very disappointed with the vegan food options in Bucharest that I can't even say if I would recommend a certain place or not. Some of the places weren't all that good, and the good places are so far from the center that I don't think most travelers would want to spend the time and effort to go there.
Personally, I took advantage of the fact that my Airbnb* was located in the same building as a supermarket and had a kitchen. I cooked at home a few times and had breakfast at home every morning. Otherwise, I find Bucharest really difficult from a vegan point of view.
Seeing how many places have closed down less than two years after my first trip to the Romanian capital makes me think that vegan restaurants simply can't make enough money in Bucharest. Catering seems to be more lucrative so business owners focus on that, with a stall at a mall or a food truck as a little addition. I may be wrong here, but that's the impression I got.
*Get 25 euros off of your first booking with Airbnb by registering through this link: www.airbnb.com/c/ninaf3363 It doesn't cost you anything extra, and I will receive 15 euros in travel credit.
Have you ever traveled to a city that really disappointed you with regards to food? Let me know in the comments!
Half Bulgarian Turk, half German living life as an expat in Greece.
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