Croatia’s old dining tradition is still strong, but it is changing as citizens shift their work hours, eating habits, and culinary awareness.
Breakfast & Gablec -- Western-style breakfast (doručak: eggs, pastries, meats, cereals) is served at larger hotels and restaurants throughout Croatia. In smaller towns and in homes, a glass of rakija (fruit brandy), a cup of coffee, and bread or a roll hot from the local bakery comprise the usual early-morning meal.
Around 10am Croatians who farm or start work early often stop for gablec(marenda on the coast), literally “breakfast eaten with cutlery.” This meal is a smaller version of lunch, Croatia’s main meal, but it sometimes substitutes.
Gablec was common in the former Yugoslavia because back then people started work and school around 6 or 7am, which didn’t allow time for breakfast. They were hungry around midmorning and a meal of homestyle food and sarma (stuffed sour cabbage) or gulaš(goulash) were customarily offered in factories, schools, and local restaurants.
Lunch -- Lunch(ručak) generally is Croatia’s main meal. It often begins with a bowl of soup followed by an entree of roasted meat, vegetable or salad, potatoes or noodles, and dessert. Croatians eat lunch anywhere from noon to late afternoon, and if they eat dinner at all, it usually is a light meal.
Dinner -- Dinner(večera) for Croatians often consists of a very thin-crusted pizza or a shared plate of snacks, such as čevapi (spicy grilled sausage), pršut (smoked ham) and cheese, or grilled sardines, usually served well after 8pm. If they aren’t eating at home, Croatians most frequently dine at restaurants or konobas, both of which serve a wide range of dishes but differ in levels of formality, with restorans being the fancier of the two.
Coffee & Ice Cream -- Drinking coffee is a social event in Croatia. People sipping espresso are a common sight on almost every street in every town at every time of day. Sometimes Croatian coffee shops are cafes attached to restaurants or pastry shops, and sometimes they are freestanding shops that serve only drinks (alcoholic or non-alcoholic). Ice cream shops—almost as ubiquitous as coffee shops—serve coffee and mostly non-alcoholic beverages, plus a huge array of frozen concoctions ranging from basic cones to multi-layered sundaes, as well as a selection of cakes and pastries.