This is a contributor post written by local vegetarian Aglaia @ aglaia.me
Bucharest? This city's appeal is definitely its oxymoronic nature. Between the dynamic and sometimes luxurious or even progressive atmosphere, people and places, and its ex-communist appearance, this city will shock you. For us vegetarians and the question we so often ask ourselves ("what will I eat?"), I want to report that Bucharest is both a very easy and a very difficult place to live in or visit.
Vegetarianism/veganism are new for the service and dining industry in Bucharest. Unfortunately there are still not so many places where menus are vegetarian friendly. By that I mean that the vegetarian courses are not marked accordingly on the menus and often, even if you read the ingredients list carefully, you might still find out that the oven baked potatoes ("cartofi ţărăneşti") are actually made with bacon or that the tahini sauce served with your falafel actually contains yoghurt.
Tip: ALWAYS ask the waiter if the course you are about to order is meat free. If you are a vegan (eating a plant-based diet) it's best to make sure the course is "de post", meaning it doesn't contain any animal products -- "de post" is the way Romanians traditionally eat during Lent, meaning no animal products. Yes, even pizza can be transformed into a "de post" dish at almost all pubs around town.
Romania has a meat and potatoes culture. This means that your greeters might have a hard time pointing you to a vegetarian friendly restaurant or pub and that there is a slight chance that the said place won't have even ONE veggie option for you. Don't stress, it's always easier to ask them to forget the chicken or the feta than to ask them to add something to your meal.
Tip: If you are the one choosing your restaurant, look for one that has a fair number of starters ("aperitive") and side dishes ("garnituri"). You should be fine if you avoid restaurants that only serve signature dishes. You always have the option of ordering two side dishes (potatoes or veggie rice and a side salad). If you go for a main course salad ask for a Greek salad (vegetables and feta) and ask for the feta free option if you are a vegan.
If you're stuck, ask your Roaring Romania guide or drop us an email, we can point you in the right direction.
Street food is also a big part of the Romanian eating habits. If you go clubbing in the Old City area of the town, you might be tempted by our late night tradition of eating a "shaorma" (shawarma or flat bread döner kebap, if you will) late at night. If you walk around the streets of Bucharest during the day, pastries or pretzels might be tempting as well.
Tip: You can always ask your shaorma guy to not put any meat (or dairy based products) in your wrap. Pretzels are usually vegan - at least the most common options: salt and poppy seeds or sesame. Avoid cheese filled pastries, although normally the same places also sell vegetarian friendly pumpkin or apple pie. Just ask the server; the "de post" phrase will get you a long way.
Vegetarianism might not be very common in Bucharest just yet, but if you are into healthy food, this is definitely the right place to come to. No matter how many countries and cities I visit, I always come back home longing for all the fresh fruit and vegetables I find at our local famer's markets. Most of the times these products are organic and taste way better than anything you can find in a supermarket abroad. Depending on the season, there is a wide variety of local fruit and veggies to enjoy.
If you have access to a small kitchen, you can cook delicious plant-based meals that are also very very cheap. Local favorites include: tomatoes, cucumbers and bell peppers, butterhead lettuce, carrots, celery and other root vegetables, potatoes; and apples, peaches, apricots, grapes, cherries and sour cherries, delicious strawberries as well as a large variety of tropical (imported) fruit. It's usually more difficult to find fresh produce in the winter months, although large supermarkets always carry a decent variety.
Eating out as a vegetarian is also easy if you pick one of the vegetarian/vegan/raw vegan restaurants that have opened across the city. They usually provide menus in English and the waiters are well aware of their offer and how they can meet your needs. The food is normally made out of healthy, local ingredients and is therefore delicious. Our favorite vegan (and raw vegan) restaurant is BioFresh - a small place not so far away from the city center that will satisfy all your needs as a vegan, and they also serve a variety of beverages such as coffee products (with soy milk), organic wine and local hand-made beer.
Finally, you can never go wrong with well known international chains: Starbucks serves the same kind of products you are used to (they use soy milk) and Subway has at least two kinds of vegan sandwiches/salads.
Although not the friendliest veggie destination of the world, Bucharest will surprise you with the amount of food variety. There is something for everyone here and vegetarians and vegans will never go hungry. The key is to ask for what you need and most of the times someone will be able to cook something delicious for you.
Join our Roaring Romania Facebook Group! Be part of our community, get answers to your questions about travelling to Romania or share your experience with us! Bonus: free guide to Bucharest.