The food scene in the Balkans has been of constant interest to us since we arrived. We’ve tried squid ink risotto in Croatia, ćevapčići in Bosnia, and šiš ćevap in Montenegro. All of these foods were completely foreign to us when we arrived. But now, we’ve started noticing quite a bit of similarity in the cuisines of Balkan countries.
Sausage is a popular and recurring ingredient. Pizza and burgers are just as popular as they are in the U.S. And if you are looking for a good hearty meal, you’ll always be able to find a tasty ćevapčići in spitting distance (like this delicious one we had in Mostar, Bosnia!)
While trying the food in North Macedonia, it was definitely familiar to us. But it also had a whole new twist that we weren’t used to. With strong Turkish influence, the food is a bit more spicy than other Balkan countries. The tasting platters are an excellent part of the food scene, since they allow you to try multiple foods in one sitting.
During our week in Skopje, the capital of North Macedonia, we tried a bunch of great foods and restaurants. We decided to compile our insights about the foods we tried into this Macedonian food guide.
About the Republic of North Macedonia
North Macedonia (officially the Republic of North Macedonia) is a country with a complex culture and history. It was once the largest empire in the world under the rule of Alexander the Great. It also spent time under the Ottoman Empire and more recently a part of the former country of Yugoslavia.
In 1991, North Macedonia declared independence from Yugoslavia. After a lengthy dispute with Greece over the name “Macedonia,” the country was officially named the Republic of North Macedonia. The landlocked country has a population of about 2 million people and borders Albania, Greece, Kosovo, Bulgaria and Serbia.
About Macedonian Food
Historically, the Kingdom of Macedonia was caught somewhere in between Mediterranean and Balkan civilizations. It draws great influence from the culture and traditions of Greece, Turkey and other neighboring countries.
All of this history has greatly impacted Macedonian food, which is the result of strong cultural ties to both the east and the west. The complex taste and flavors mesh together to form a cuisine that is both delicious and affordable.
Best Restaurants in Skopje
We tried a bunch of awesome restaurants while we were in Skopje. Overall, we were very impressed at the quality of food and how affordable the prices were. Here are some of our favorites.
Kaj Serdarot was our favorite restaurant in Skopje. If you like authentic hole-in-the-wall places, then this is the restaurant for you. Located on the bustling streets of Skopje’s Old Bazaar, the surrounding sights and sounds are almost as great as the restaurant itself.
Inside the restaurant, there are small wooden booths and a modest bar and cooking area. There were stairs in the corner, so there could be additional seating upstairs but we didn’t check. Outside, there is a small shaded patio area for outdoor eating.
The best food experience at Kaj Serdarot is when you order a little of everything. Their sampler platters are what they are known for, and they don’t disappoint. We ordered a platter with baked beans, thin sausages, cheesy bread and french fries. It came with an array of shredded carrots, cabbage and onions.
The food was every bit as delicious as it looks. It was all warm and freshly cooked, and we love how the bread was grilled and topped with freshly shaved cheese. In total, the platter only cost 300 MKD, or approximately $5.50 USD. We paid with cash so we are not sure if they accept credit cards or not, but we would guess that they do.
The award for friendliest service goes to…Kolektiv! Eastern European restaurant service isn’t the typical friendly service that we are accustomed to in the U.S. We realize that this is likely due to tipping customs.
However, the service at Kolektiv was fantastic! Our server was very friendly and attentive, and she was happy to answer any of our questions. It was a welcome change from the unsmiling service we received at many other places.
The atmosphere and location of Kolektiv are also awesome. It is located right smack in the middle of Macedonia Square, so the people watching is amazing. We sat out on the patio and loved the art and stylish decor.
We ordered the Macedonian pizza, and we were pleasantly surprised! Pizza is sort of hit or miss in the Balkans, and this one was definitely a hit. It came with lots of onions and peppers, and the crust was perfectly cooked. We ordered the spicy option, and it wasn’t very spicy at all.
The pizza was only 260 MKD, or about $4.75 USD. At such an inexpensive price, we had expected a small personal sized pizza. But we were pleasantly surprised to find a pizza so large that we had to take leftovers back to our Airbnb! Also, note that they do accept credit cards at Kolektiv.
Слаткарница Крин / Krin Bakery
One morning, we decided we wanted to try some fresh pastries in Skopje. After a quick google search to find the bakery with the best reviews, we decided to visit Слаткарница Крин / Krin Bakery.
We could tell that it was a local favorite as soon as we arrived. Locals were sitting out on the patio enjoying a cup of coffee before jetting off the work. Inside, beautiful pastries, cakes and delicacies were displayed behind glass.
We ended up deciding to order a piece of chocolate cake (sue me!) and a noodle egg dish. Both were absolutely delicious and very filling. The total was 130 MKD, or $2.30 USD. Overall, a total bargain and well worth it for a delicious and unhealthy breakfast.
Destan is a fairly popular local chain in Skopje, so we had to see what all the buzz was about! We visited the location between the Porta Macedonia and Macedonia Square. As soon as we sat down at the table, we asked the waiter for menus.
“We only do one thing,” the waiter replied in broken English. “Cevapčići.” That made the ordering pretty easy! We love ćevapčići, a very popular dish in many Balkan countries. So ordered one to share.
Cevapčići consists of mini sausages, onion and other other veggies that you put into a fresh piece of pita bread. It’s basically a Balkan-style sandwich, and it sure is delicious. The ćevapčići here didn’t disappoint, with sausages that were freshly cooked and very flavorful.
Mexican food in Macedonia!? Yeah, that was our first reaction, too. But we were really missing the delicious Mexican food scene in San Diego. Plus, Amigos was less than a block from our Airbnb. So we decided to give it a try!
The food was really good and fresh, but definitely not authentic Mexican food. Although to be fair, we are pretty picky when it comes to burritos. The rice almost had a curry flavor to it, so we would say it’s Mexican food with an Indian twist.
The total ended up being about $15 USD for my burrito and Jack’s chimichanga plate, so not too expensive. However, we ate at places that we liked better in Skopje that were also cheaper.
More About Skopje’s Food Scene
We loved all the cute and colorful cafes that lined to streets of Skopje. Many just serve coffee and drinks, but others also have food menus. They are definitely worth checkign out, especially if you get to sit on a pretty patio in the sunshine.
It was also awesome how many gelato stands there were. There was pretty much a gelato stand on every block in the city center. So it was very tempting to not eat gelato 3 times per day!
The standard price for a scoop of gelato seems to be 30-35 MKD across the board. This is about $0.65 USD, so it’s extremely inexpensive! Our favorite flavor that we tried was the kiwi. It was fruity and delicious!
Lastly, there are lots of great food stands set up in the Old Bazaar. This means that you can try street food (a less expensive version of many of the Macedonian classics) for very cheap. We didn’t try any of the food while we were in Skopje, but it looked very fresh and delicious!
Overall, you’ll find that the prices at restaurants in Skopje are very affordable. Most entrees at mid-priced restaurants cost around $5 USD.
We included a couple pictures of menus that we took below so you can check out the prices for yourself. All prices are in MKD.
Skopje has an amazing food scene. We are so glad that we got to try Macedonian cuisine! Unlike other Balkan cities, many of the restaurants that we went to accepted credit cards. This made eating out way easier and more convenient.
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