These Tacos Are Made for Dunking
Vienna's only double-Michelin-starred restaurant is Steirereck, an alpine estate and former dairy pavilion steeped in opulence. Here, white-gloved waiters parade Austrian wines and an epic trolley of over 120 kinds of cheese (and pastry) past diners, who can also enjoy one of the best wiener schnitzels in Austria.
This modest farmhouse does very immodest French food. It’s known for complex tasting menus and serving a pre-dessert before dessert (so prepare for a post-dinner paunch). Hof van Cleve also uses ultra-rare meat knives made from narwhal tusk and walrus penis bone, so yeah, there's that.
This Sofia restaurant -- a favorite of Bulgarian stars and international VIPs like Vlad Putin -- is renowned for its platters of spit-roasted pork and some of the city’s juiciest lamb. Guests also enjoy traditional folk dancing and an ancient barefoot fire-walking ritual.
Korcula’s oldest family-run tavern is kitschy, hectic, and overflowing with tourists. If you can roll with that, then you’re in for an unforgettable meal. Fresh seafood barbecue, simmered stews, and local wines culminate into a feast for the Slavic gods. Prime seating is on the rooftop terrace, where you can enjoy a striking view of the city over the orange and lemon trees.
Syrian Arab Friendship Club is a groundbreaking restaurant in a country that’s roughly 78% Greek Orthodox. It’s became an institution by introducing delicious meze platters to the mainstream, including foreign delicacies like muhallebi (cherry pit and rosewater pudding) and arak (40-proof Arabian booze).
Opened in 1543, U Maliru’s elegant interior looks like the film set from a period piece -- but it’s a real restaurant, serving unbelievable Czech food. As the story goes, King Rudolph II's royal tasters gave it an unprecedented three-star (three-crown?) status back in the day (as in mid-16th century). Today, warm candlelight, ceiling murals, and aristocratic furniture make this a must-dine establishment for your Instagram.
Noma could be the world’s most hyped restaurant for revamping modern gastronomy. Seriously, convincing people that rock moss is edible, much less tasty, has been no easy feat. And the well-established restaurant has taken its most fearless leap yet, announcing its end-of-year closing to reopen elsewhere in Copenhagen. The new set-up will be a former navy building covered in graffiti, with an onsite urban garden.
Opened last year, Estonia’s biggest restaurant is the definition of modernization in a picturesque medieval city. Housed in a former factory for railway cars and machinery, Dvigatel is now a lunch mecca that can feed up to 3,000 hungry Tallinners a day. And it isn't Communist cafeteria food from days of yore either, but rather a mix of fresh Estonian and Mediterranean cuisine.
At this extraordinary greenhouse restaurant, guests dine under citrus trees and alongside herb and tomato plants. Many tomato plants. Which explains the famous seven-course tomato menu, which stretches from creamy soup to ice cream. Everything else on offer is as fresh as you'd expect (since you're eating next to plants) and done up with eclectic Finnish sauces from licorice to cloudberry.
It’s hard to pick an iconic restaurant in the world’s gourmet capital, but the nearly 400-year-old Tour d’Argent is a worthy contender. Its most famous dish is the pressed duck, raised on a farm owned by the restaurant. And while, no, we're not referencing an episode of Portlandia, everybody who orders it does get to keep the duck’s serial number (FDR, Marlene Dietrich, and Charlie Chaplin all had one). The wine cellar also has its own bodyguard, with over 450,000 bottles totaling around $27 million.
Tim Raue may be the only Michelin-starred restaurant in the world where waiters wear sneakers and jeans (albeit matching ones). But meet the chef, and you’ll understand why. He’s a real Berlin fairytale (if there is such a thing) -- high school dropout in a Turkish gang cleans up his life and travels Asia, hustles in local kitchens, and now serves his own Wagyu and black truffle dim sum. It may not be traditionally German, but the food has a story that’s as raw and gritty as the country’s history.
Athens has plenty of traditional restaurants swimming in fresh seafood and tzatziki, but that’s what makes Funky Gourmet the standout -- it’s Greek cuisine like you’ve never eaten before. Dishes are playful and theatrical, molecular gastronomy served on stones, shells, and sticks. Beside the funky takes on Greek classics like pastisio and galaktoboureko, the sweets -- smoked ice cream sandwiches, anyone? -- are also worth a flight.
This venerable Hungarian-Jewish restaurant is one of the last family-run eateries in all of Budapest. Opened right after Communism fell, Rosenstein’s got quite the reputation for its cozy atmosphere and Jewish delicacies, from gamey goose fat and smoked brisket to a billowy traditional cake called flodni.
Ireland’s oldest pub dates all the way back to 1198 and boasts a rambunctious history as a favorite watering hole for many a local maverick. Today, it's admittedly kitschy, but in the best way -- that is, with live music and frequent bouts of Irish folklore storytelling. The entertainment's even better with all that Guinness and stout stew.
If you’ve watched Netflix’s Chef’s Table, it’s hard not to fall in love with the cooking of Massimo Bottura, founder of Osteria Francescana; Bottura's food is the perfect blend of nostalgia and trendiness. Take the Caesar salad in Emilia, for example. It looks like a regular old head of lettuce, but inside, there are 22 gussied-up ingredients, including tomatoes strained for 12 hours and eggs cured in sugar and salt.
Carlstons is an eatery that hits a lot of the right notes -- it's a steakhouse that also serves Italian, the interior ranges from a mahogany tea room to a bright blue-and-red dining hall, and the chefs make their own homemade barbecue sauces. But the concept works, especially when you throw in a solid Sunday brunch, family-friendly ambiance, and really popular cheesecake that's often called Riga’s best dessert.
The capital’s oldest restaurant, Restaurant Neringa, offers the best setting to try authentic Lithuanian cuisine, hands down. Its interior hasn’t changed since opening in 1959, a bohemian wonder with mosaic floors and frescoed walls designed by the same creative elites who used to be regulars. Neringa’s famous dish is the chicken Kiev, a menu mainstay since the beginning.
Ma Langue Sourit does vibrant, French-inspired plates, so think lots of amuse bouche, fresh fish, and organic vegetables. The weekly Saturday cooking class is definitely an experience to remember as well, as chefs teach guests how to prepare the same popular dishes they serve in the restaurant but in an atmosphere that’s anything but hoity toity.
Don’t let the tourist strip that Ta’ Kris is located on fool you, it's a legit Maltese trattoria. The signature bragioli (sliced beefsteak stuffed with minced beef and breadcrumbs, cooked slowly, and served in a massive portion) and traditional Maltese-Med fare will make you feel right at home. You know, if you're from Malta. The pastas and sauces are all homemade too, so wear fat pants for this one.
De Librije is a fine-dining restaurant that’s never satisfied with doing things the way they've always been done. In 2012, the eatery nixed tasting menus in favor of more personalized dinners where guests choose a seasonal ingredient and (not joking) a color, and their meal is built upon that. Classics from the last 20 years, like the monkfish and deconstructed apple pie, are still available timelessly à la carte.
Atelier Amaro is Poland’s first Michelin-starred restaurant, and only the third in all of Central Europe. It’s known for doing Polish slow food but with gastronomical twists, so think traditional heavy cream and cheese dishes with epicurean flair. Oh yeah, and every course comes with a spirit pairing. Ummm... smooth infused vodka.
Although technically a market, Mercado da Ribeira still deserves to be on this list. For over a century, it played home to fresh produce and flower vendors, and in 2014 was restored to include Lisbon’s largest gourmet food court. Come here to sample the best regional delicacies like sheep’s cheese, ham from the Alentejo, Santini gelato, and all kinds of cooked local dishes.
Open since 1879, this is the best spot in Bucharest to get acquainted with Romanian beer and cuisine. The building itself is a treasured historical monument for its stunning gothic revival design. The inside is more Art Nouveau, furbished with dark wood, vaulted ceilings, and frescoed walls -- no wonder everyone from The Rolling Stones to the Crown Prince of Japan have dined here.
1st Slovak Pub is a 14-room local institution known for traditional songs and accordion music. It may be swimming in tourists, but that doesn’t mean it’s a trap. The restaurant runs its own organic farm, sourcing only the freshest ingredients for its fare. Try the house specialty: potato dumplings cooked in bacon fat and covered in sheep’s cheese.
Lolita Café is the kind of hipster haunt you’d expect in a bigger European city. Located on the riverside with lots of natural light, you could call it the most Instagram-friendly spot in Ljubljana -- especially the cakes, which are sky high and always brightly hued. The interior, a former warehouse where exposed brick and suspended ceiling have given way to floral murals and velvet touches, has won multiple design awards.
Despite having three Michelin stars, El Celler de Can Roca is totally unpretentious. And how can it not be with dishes named "pig -- delicious" and "all the prawns." But this really is avant-garde cooking, and it's complemented by unbeatable service -- a staff of 60 caters to the max 45 guests. Of course, it all comes at a price: expect to drop $325 a head.
Fäviken’s been called the world’s most remote famous restaurant, located in the boonies next to Norway’s border. And considering this 12-seater is on the bucket list of every hardcore gourmet foodie, you'll understand why it's worth the trek. In the region, extreme cold is a natural pesticide that helps produce an overwhelming bounty of unbelievably organic produce. It’s hard not to feel like a Viking as you eat food cured and prepared using ancient Nordic techniques while sitting amongst wood palettes and fur pelts.
London’s flush with epic restaurants, so Dinner by Heston Blumenthal is our choice on two counts: 1) originality, and 2) daring to bring the 1300s back. Blumenthal’s claim to fame is digging up weird recipes from medieval scrolls for state-of-the-art treatment. The restaurant’s celebrity dish is meat fruit, which is a chicken parfait that looks like an orange. It's not everyone's cup of tea, but there's no doubt it's a gastronomical masterpiece. The fruit of this labor requires three cooks and around 15 hours combined over days to create.
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Barbara Woolsey is a Berlin-based writer who prefers her meat looking less like a mandarin, and more like a dead animal. Check out her gluttonous adventures around Europe on Facebook and Twitter.