Walking around Ljubljana’s Old Town, I looked liked a tourist and I didn’t care. With my vegan spinach borek from Back Werk bakery in hand, I marveled at the variety of architecture, reveled in all the dragons and enjoyed navigating the cobble stones in the pedestrian city. Already won over by my newest visited country, I look right and there on the side of a building was a drawn pig’s face and spray-painted underneath were the words, “Not Food”. Right then and there, I officially fell in love with Slovenia.
Not surprisingly, the majority of Slovenia’s vegan restaurants can be found in its capital city of Ljubljana. As we explored this incredibly historical history, we aimed to try as many vegan eateries as we could. We were very pleased with the variety of restaurants, all having a different vision, atmosphere and menu.
Our first vegan stop was to Gaudi Restaurant at Nazorjeva Ulica 10, very close to Neboticnik “skyscraper”, where you can get a beautiful view of the city. Like most European restaurants in the summertime, Gaudi offered both inside and outside seating. We opted for the daily menu for 11.90 Euros that included cream zucchini lime soup with coriander pesto, chickpea pancake with seasoned vegetables and a mint puree and a pumpkin and pistachio ball with pear-chocolate sauce. We enjoyed each dish, which had a very different flavor profile from the last.
After walking through a narrow, almost hidden corridor the passage opened up into a beautiful courtyard where we found Ajdovo Zrno (Trubarjeva cesta 7). Immediately, we could sense the nice, stress-free vibe of the place which was adorned with messages of peace and love.
We also had the good fortune to be able to speak with the owner, who emanated kind-heartedness. She shared with us that she used to be a lawyer working in a very stressful environment and after a life-altering event, she turned to veganism as a way to heal herself, which she did. She eventually decided to make veganism her career and opened a vegan restaurant, which has been open for 10 years.
Ajdovo Zrno’s menu focuses on healthy meals which always include cooked and raw options. The menu changes daily and for only 8 Euros we visited the salad bar, enjoyed a Tomato Cream Soup, a Peanut Curry with Zucchini & Bok Choy over brown rice, and an Apple Pie for dessert.
We thoroughly enjoyed our experience at Kucha, located at Mašera – Spasićeva ulica 8. We decided to have lunch at this eatery just before leaving Ljubljana to start our amazing Balkan road trip. This worked perfectly for us since we had just picked up our rental car as Kucha is not located in the city center. It was hard to make a decision at this restaurant as everything sounded amazing.
We finally settled on the Sesa Bowl with potatoes, lentils, mixed greens and pickle-zucchini crisps and a Serdzo Sandwich with smoked buckwheat pastrami, sauerkraut, sunflower seed mayo on fresh bread. The portions were large and eat bite was very tasty. We enjoyed the food here so much that we even considered driving back to Ljubljana an hour just to eat there again.
The owners were all from varying professions in life and all gravitated towards veganism and decided to open a restaurant together. They seemed to enjoy the science behind cooking, always wanting to come up with new amazing dishes from scratch. One owner told us that they were trying to redefine traditional Slovenian food. The next time we visit Ljubljana, a visit to Kucha is a must!
Located at Trg Osvobodilne fronte 14 (right across the street from the train station), Loving Hut is the perfect place to grab some delicious vegan food before a long train journey. After returning our rental car we simply walked across the street and checked out their menu. They have a buffet that you simply pay by weight. We each got a huge plate of food and only paid 5 Euros each! They also have an al la carte menu which included wraps, falafel, gyros, and more. We simply could not resist the desserts and so left with a piece of cherry pie as a treat during our 5-hour train ride to Munich.
Amazingly, Loving Hut all sold vegan cheese by the block! Upon discovering this, we knew that if we lived in Ljubljana, we would be regulars at Loving Hut! Just as we were leaving, the chef brought out some chocolate crèpes – it seemed you could spend all day there sampling the latest treat from the kitchen!
On the way back from hiking up to Vogar offering great views of Lake Bohinj, what quickly became our favorite lake in the area, we stopped in at Public Bar & Vegan Kitchen, located at Ljubljanska cesta 4, only a four minute walk to the iconic Lake Bled.
Everything sounded good on the menu but after our hike up the side of a mountain we wanted something heavy and filling so we opted for two burgers: the Club Burger with a corn bun; and the House Burger with a buckwheat bun. We also tried their refreshing watermelon juice and the ABC juice (apple, beet, carrot). The meal really hit the spot and exceeded our expectations.
We had also heard that Public Bar & Vegan Kitchen also offers a vegan version of a Bled Cream Cake, a traditional Slovenian dessert, but they said they only made that on Sunday so try to plan your visit accordingly.
With its stunning natural beauty and infinite whitewater rafting, paragliding and hiking opportunities, Slovenia’s Soca Valley should make everyone’s travel bucket list. Veganism, however, has not exactly made it to this area of Slovenia. We found that the bustling village of Bovec, the jumping off point for the many aforementioned outdoor activities was severely lacking in vegan options. We were very happy that we had brought our own food to the area.
Even the Mercator supermarket at which we had grown accustomed to shopping had very few of the vegan items at other stores. We did find Alpro brand pudding in two flavors (vanilla and chocolate) and since we didn’t have a spoon we bought bananas to use as a utensil and to give us some more sustenance after our afternoon of whitewater rafting.
Mercator, a Slovenian supermarket chain, can be found virtually everywhere in the country. They offer a bio section (usually on the right as soon as you enter) that includes milks such as rice milk and oat milk. We also found a vegan pumpkin seed spread, cans of chickpeas, tofu, fresh fruit and vegetables and LOTS of kinds of ajvar, a Slovenian staple that seems to go with everything.
We were thrilled to come across a Spar Supermarket while traveling in Slovenia because they offer Veganz products (a German company offering all vegan items). They also have a variety of vegan milks, lots of fresh fruit and vegetables, vegan cheeses and more. Most of the breads in their fresh bakery has cow’s milk in it so be sure to ask if there are any vegan varieties that day. The good thing is that most employees seemed to already know what vegan means.
When reviewing ingredients, be sure to avoid mleko (milk), jajca (eggs), sir (cheese) and med (honey).
Shortly before reaching the Croatian border, we decided to stop in at the Skocjan Caves, a UNESCO World Heritage Site that is not to be missed. After a short walk from the exit of the caves on a very hot July day, we were delightfully surprised to see an ice-cream sign that said, “vegan flavors”.
We immediately inquired about them and Mindy ended up trying the strawberry and I opted for the elderberry, something I had never had before. (I loved it by the way.)
Traditional Slovenian Blueberry Liqueur
Slovenia, like all Balkan countries, are filled with amazing fruit brandies, liqueurs and schnapps. We had learned that some of these may contain honey so we were on the lookout for “med” in the list of ingredients. While browsing at the Bled Castle gift shop, the cashier shared some advice regarding blueberry liqueurs. She said that every grocery stores carries a large variety of them and we should definitely try one. She couldn’t recommend a particular brand, however, because she she’d never bought it. Instead, her grandmother makes it! Now if that isn’t the best brand ever!!!! She did say to make sure that you can see actual blueberries in the bottle.
Sure enough, just like she said, there was a very nice selection at the local store and we selected one with lots of blueberries, excited to try it. Just remembering the experience of drinking the liqueur makes my mouth water – such a delicious (and strong) drink! Na zdravje!