Let your inner gourmet be engulfed implacably during a gastro-tour, immerse yourself in the heavenly dishes of a town so full of marvelous places. Food is good, but it’s even better when being tucked in among some good company, so don’t hesitate to paint the town red with your best pals, and discover worthy eateries. Here are my top 10 recommendations to excite your taste in Cluj.

Dish & That

If you are looking for the perfect spot to indulge your inner gourmet while tucking in food that is beyond your health-guru’s dream, then Dish & That will definitely be your cup of tea. You can easily run out of superlatives at a quite splendid lunch spent there, as not only they offer love-at-first-bite-dishes, but also, the whole atmosphere is serene and mesmerizingly cordial. But these aren’t the only draws at this new joint (the restaurant being a fairly new one- it has been running for two years now), as attention to each and every small detail and the generosity of the staff distinguishes the place from many downtown eateries. What makes this place look and feel like the real deal lies in its virtue: it was aimed to serve as a place with a dizzying variety of healthy, finger-licking dishes (made of the freshest ingredients) that satisfy the body and the soul alike, and it nevertheless lives up to that “That”, which stands for a feeling beyond words: that something that lures and invites the guest to pay a follow-up visit and feast on as much of the dishes as possible.

The menu has recently gone through a spring breeze’s innovatory gulf, since at the moment it offers a wide variety of Italian dishes. You can find seriously good classics here, along with some yet unfamiliar names such as Tagliere diAffettati, Risotto Veneziano, Baby Calamari alla Griglia, Rombo al Forno. Nothing hints at the brilliance of the slightly velvety Ravioli Bresato Barolo: the beef inside is tender, layered by home-made pasta. It isn’t over-packed with flavor, but this dish doesn’t need anything in addition to the butter-based sauce, tasty cheese and a bit of sage to be this scrumptious. And to drink there’s the Mint Lemonade, a real oldie but goldie. Speaking of the dishes,vegetarians can also find some exquisitely matched ones.

Every good dish deserves to be enhanced by an equally tingling dessert: the tiramisu is a must once you try these Italian-inspired spreads. Of course, this place is a little pricy, but every once in a while the culinary experience outweighs the financial drawback (which is understandable, taking in consideration the first-class experience offered). You can find Dish & That in Iulius Mall’s neighborhood, on AleeaSlanic 3 A, in Riviera Complex. Tables are served for walk-ins on Monday to Saturday between 9 am and 10 pm, and on Sundays it is open from 12 am till 10pm. Also, students get a 10% discount. Buon appetito!

Emilia Cremeria

For those who think that the best of summer can be found inside a cone (nevertheless I doubt anybody could say no to ice cream, especially on a blazing day), opt for Emilia Cremeria, for a sensory overload. Without a single shadow of doubt, this pastry shop is among the best ones in town. Offering a veritable fandango of flavors, you’ll probably have a hard time choosing the right one for you: Cioccolato Belga, Pistacchio, Siciliana, Cuore Crocante, Dulce de Leche, Pesca e Mango, Panacotta, Melone and Fragola… but obviously, the line doesn’t end here. Among the cremeria’s main characteristics there are simplicity and tradition, of course, above all. With their desserts rooted in tradition and infused with simplicity, their motto is “return to simplicity…”, which pairs with freshness, delicacy and uniqueness in taste and also with quality.

As an added bonus, I hasten to add that part and parcel of the sweets are freshly made each day at the parlor, using craft methods and high-quality raw ingredients that are environmentally friendly. Creamy and with bursting taste, Emilia’s craft ice cream is made of free range eggs, organic milk, fresh fruit, and cane sugar. Also, they provide the customers moments of absolute sweetness. Anyway, if you don’t feel like you have a thing for ice cream, you can find some fancy desserts at Emilia Cremeria, too: Minuetti, Bicchierini, brioches, granitas, but a frappe will as well cater your needs in the heat. As Emilia Cremeria can be found in Iulius Mall, the best way to feast on your dainty is to head to Iulius Park and enjoy it while sunrays caress your cheeks.

Bulgakov Literary Café and Culture Bistro

Bulgakov is a place where tradition blends well with culture, while cuisine keeps on top of things with toothsome traditional meals, all of them taken to the extreme. A nice spot that is considered to be one of the major literary cafés across Transylvania, Bulgakov is singular due to the fact that here gastronomy, musical experience and literature are flawlessly intertwined. Starters and salads are here the only break from the richness and lushness of the main dishes, soups and impressive desserts that are, frankly described as “sweet as a kiss” by the owners themselves.

When it comes to the pleasingly ambitious menu there are some undeniable classics and masterpieces, Bulgakov’s delicacy is something that you shouldn’t miss once you get there: this exquisite dish is made of  pork sirloin or chicken breast with quattro formaggi and cream sauce, infused with truffle oil, and incredibly well paired with mashed potatoes as a side dish. However, if you are lured towards something more traditional, then there’s Chicken Paprikash to spellbind your tastebuds. Also, they serve a lot of incredible cocktails if you’d love to get a bit tipsy, other than that their Coconut Coffee is literally of another level. The atmosphere is quite an amicable one here, you can find yourself lost in their several dining rooms and indoor areas, but a picturesque outdoor area also stands at your disposal during summertime.

What might definitely enchant all the literature-lovers here is the literary pantheonon the ground floor, the area where literary evenings are also held. Talking of events, not only bookworms can enjoy the time spent here, this place being marked by its diversity, it caters all the needs of the guests: there are parties organized on weekends, while Thursday nights are meant for keen lovers of folk music. Bulgakov is to be found on Str. Inocentiu Micu Klein nr. 17, in the old town of Cluj, just in the heart of the city-center. Opening hours vary, depending on the day: from Monday to Wednesday it opens at 11:30 in the morning and closes its doors at 1 a.m., while on Thursday, Friday and Saturday it opens at the same time, but it welcomes visitors till 2 or 5 a.m., depending on the last customers. On Sunday it follows the same timetable as on the first weekdays.

Roots

Roots is the place to kick off your day- if you are in search of a stunning brunch-spot. As the name suggests, it’s that kind of Urban Tastery where you will be bound to wander through the true origins of food, as well as find authentic flavors to feast on. What is a really kind gesture from the behalf of Roots is that you get fresh water on the house as you arrive. To put it bluntly, coffee gets no better than the one served here. I highly recommend their Latte Macchiato made with great love and with Columbian coffee beans, rich, lush and intense in the taste. It will venture you to coffee farms in Columbia.

The food is also on point, but frankly, it takes some time till you get served. French Florentine is quite a good choice when it comes to your breakfast: first-class salmon topped with luke warm poached egg and Hollandaise sauce on fresh, wholemeal bread, perfectly paired with slices of avocado and baby spinach, infused with olive oil and lemon juice, emblished with a cute little edible flower. These cleverly calculated ingredients are exquisitely combined, however the hard poached egg was some kind of a culinary mistake as its yelk should’ve been more fluent than it actually was, it might have been a bit over-boiled (at least when I got to visit the place), other than that the whole meal was on fleek. The spread of the dish feeds you well, in spite of the fact that, at first glance, it appears to be a not quite a riotous one in the amount.

One of the strongest points of this eatery is that you can soak in its amazing and tranquil vibes while indulging yourself. What really sets the mood at Roots are the botanicals hanging all around, making you feel as if you were having your breakfast amid a downtown jungle. By the way, if you are not an early bird, you shouldn’t hesitate to drop by in the afternoon and sip in heavenly wine. You can find Roots either on Bulevardul Eroilor 4, or on Str. Alexandru Vaida Voevod 16, near FSEGA.

Casa Boema

A sure-to-be-a-hit restaurant on every gourmet’s list, Casa Boema will doubtlessly steal the show with not only its triumphant dishes, but also, with its historical past and location, seasoned with a dash of diversity and multiculturality, that turns out to pair flawlessly. In fact, I would call this place a haven where you can immense yourself in a mesmerizing array of finger-licking dishes while spending real quality time in a peaceful atmosphere, this quiet but exclusive place is an escape from the hustle and bustle of the city and generally, from your everyday life as well.

Veering towards that particular type of bright and champagne-popping, smartish-upscale style, this restaurant is unlike any other, as, at the same time, it picks up a more boho vibe. As you’ll cross the threshold of this house, you’ll be part of an awe-inspiring visual experience seeing the trees some meters tall up in the sky, that will be enhanced even more after the first bite of the food that is really on point, maybe beyond that. The “Boemian” type of flavors are characterized by multi-diversity: here, Romanian-meets-Hungarian, yet Mediterranean, Mexican and Arabian plates are taken to a soaring point, to make the guests lick their lips in anticipation after feasting on food.

Vegetarians can find something to match their taste, too. For a start, a mix of bruschettas is such a scrumptious hors d’oeuvres. Then, followed by the signature-Hungarian Gulash Soup (with various vegetables and beef) or a yellow pea cream soup (in which the taste of ginger highly dominates), and finishing up with a true Italian Lasagne, or even a salad with mango and avocado, studded with peanuts as a break from the rich food, will easily be the best things you’ve eaten in a while.

As the drinks, a two-for-one Bohemian Mojito or an aromatic wine are really good to go for. Casa Boema is something about everything: style, hospitality, excellent food from multiple corners of the world, and the perfect setting are all to be found in Casa Boema. Located on Str. Iuliu Maniu 34, the aforementioned restaurant lays in the heart of the Cluj, and after visiting it, it will also carve a tiny one in yours, too. You should have yourself seated in their terrace during summer.  Be aware of the fact that due to being filled to the brim most of the time (however, it’s quite spacious and the tables are not too close to one and another), you’ll better make reservations. Also, you’ll have to get your pocket ready once you intend to enjoy this place, as it’s quite pricy.

Wok’n Roll

I’ve first bumped into Wok’n Roll at Electric Castle Festival. Ever since, that Wok taste unceasingly haunted me, I considered their so-called “Hangover soup” (you can find it in the current menu as tomato cream soup, it’s pretty toothsome with celery, heavy cream, basil, parmesan cheese and last but not at least, served with warm baguette) to be my number one to-go, and now, that I am in Cluj, they didn’t disappoint me. It’s crazy how they pay tribute to culinary art through offbeat flavors mainly typical to the East (you can find quite a lot Asian food), but a simple, yet scrumptious Italian dining is also an option here.

What will also fascinate every foodie is that the dishes are not only unbelievably colorful in the taste, but also, they are colorful in the appearance as well,taking you on a journey of global cuisine. Healthiness of food is a priority at Wok’n Roll, and both vegetarians and vegans have various options to choose from in the menu. I strongly recommend their Spicy Asian Burrito for all lovers of piping hot food. Wok’n Roll is located on Calea Dorobantilor 24, it’s a nice small place with cordial vibes, its brick walls are adorned with vivid hued paintings of women which is the most interesting detail of this closet-sized restaurant.

Photo from Wok’n Roll official Facebook page
Photo from Wok’n Roll official Facebook page

Klausen Burger

Feel a bit mesmerized by the cityscape and you think you have a thing for craft beer and delicious fare? Well, then this place is to live up to your standards of any kind. With a diverse array of native Bavarian goods, Klausen Burger keeps on top of things when it comes to the vibrant layers of food, the dishes brilliantly enliven German cuisine, while boozing unique craft beers emphasize the gastro-experience even better. Also, their mint lemonade, signature burgers and pizzas are of another level. And as with everything here, aspiration towards perfection is at helm: the setting is simply scenic, quite opulent with those round, jewelry-like chandeliers hanging on the ceiling, and if this wasn’t enough, if you are seated on the terrace, the whole city unravels before your eyes, and basically, you can enjoy your meal from a bird’s eye view perspective. However, it is advisable to book a table in advance, as most often, walk-in policy doesn’t really work here, particularly in view of the fact that it’s a really popular dining spot. You’ll find Klausen Burger on Str. Regele Ferdinand 22, on the 4th floor of Central Shopping Center (Centrul Comercial Center).

Rooftop view
Photo from Klausen Burger official Facebook page

Che Guevara

Most probably, you’ve noticed so far that there’s a really appealing place on Piața Unirii, the one that is lit up by thousands of candles and all kinds of lightsources, the place that reminds you of a fairytale and makes you feel as if you were right in the middle of a midsummer night’s dream. Sure, it’s called Che Guevara. With its terrace-like, kind of indoorish- yet outdoor area that is open all year round, Che Guevara is really one of a kind. Lounging in this chilled-out terrace and sipping quality wine while listening to reggae music, this spot is genial for late-lunchers. Che Guevara’s burgers are game-changers when it comes to the burgers of Cluj: they are packed with flavor, are just perfectly seasoned and the rare meat between the top and button buns defines what all burger meat should be like.

Mint Bistro

A paradise for vegans and veggies alike (but not necessarily only), Mint Bistro offers simple yet singular culinary experience. Since the menu doesn’t include that much of a variety when it comes to the dishes themselves, you won’t have a hard time choosing your go-to course. But be careful when opting for a dish, as, most probably there are two scenarios awaiting for you: the first one is the luckiest, of course, as you might fall head over heels for the eerie taste-scheme of vegan food, or, the other possible situation would be that you might experience a shocking twist in the tail of a dish, not liking it at all.

However, if you aren’t accustomed to vegan food, I would still encourage you to give this awesome place a try. For vegans and for the braver ones, the fully vegan Kedgeree would be an excellent choice, as this dish basically unravels stunning layers of food, yet it might seem a bit odd in case you haven’t tried something like this before. It is a dish with the heathiest ingredients: basmati rice, green peas, lentil, pumpkin seeds, cashew, cherry tomatoes, avocado, coconut milk, and it’s slewed with curry and coriander. In fact, it’s such an experience savoring this edge-cutting and offbeat main course! And for the more orthodox clients, so to say, there is the Quesadilla with cheese, mushroom, spinach, sweet chili sauce, and, of course, avocado as well (this is a vegetarian course). Sincerely, this quesadilla was one of the best and definitely the healthiest I’ve eaten so far, and I bet you’ll like it as well.

Also, what sets the mood in particular, besides the fact that it is quite a pretty gorgeous-looking bistro, are the dish pads. Whenever visiting this eatery, you might find yourself traveling back in time, recalling childhood memories, in the sense that their dish pads are rather coloring pads and you’ll also have plenty of color pencils to fill in the white vegetables on your pad. Nothing hints at the brilliance of this idea, time just passes so easily coloring that the next moment you’ll be served with your delicious meal. For those who crave to hang out in a cozy wine cellar, they are still in the right place as the room downstairs serves as a perfect spot to enjoy the best drinks while listening to jazz music. You’ll find Mint Bistro open from Monday to Friday from 11 a.m. till 11 p.m., and in the weekend it welcomes all guests from 11 a.m. till 4 p.m., on Str. Gheorghe Șincai11.

Rhédey Café

You can even titillate your tastebuds with a well-deserved cocktail that you should sip right in the heart of the city. Cosmopolitan is invincible! Should see for yourselves. You can find Rhédey Café on the main square, on Piața Unirii 9.Cheers!

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