EVERY year when spring comes, John and I become excited at the idea of exploring another hiking area of Slovakia. Last year we left Ottawa, Canada in mid-June and spent nearly three weeks exploring eastern parts of the country.
Our day in Slovakia usually consists of an early morning rising, a bus ride, climbing up and down the hills for six or seven hours, a return to the pension and then dinner. To find a restaurant we usually wander around the town square looking at each window hoping to find a nice place. Last year, our culinary options seemed more varied than in previous years and we happened to visit three very fine restaurants, each operating for less than a year and each offering a unique menu and ambiance.
A banner three metres high caught our eyes: Šarišska Chiza U Kl’ucika. We did not understand its meaning but pictures confirmed the essence of the advertisement: Slovak food. We followed the signs leading to the basement of the Senator Hotel and as we descended the stairway we touched the cool stone walls, heard Slovak folk music, noticed wooden tables and chairs and met the eyes of the staff dressed in white traditional outfits.
Filled with joy, we chose a table with a good view all around us. An ancient dresser sitting by the wall, embroidery resting on a chair and many other decorative items brought Slovak culture to light. However, disappointment surfaced when I realized that I could hardly understand anything on the menu. Daco, kupal, enke, and site jedzene did not mean anything to me.
When the server, Matthew, arrived at our table I expressed my frustration. Matthew smiled and explained in fluent English that the menu was printed in a dialect spoken in the eastern part of Slovakia. Matthew is Slovak and lived twelve years in Chicago. He had opened the restaurant just a few weeks before our coming and we were his first customers from abroad. This was celebrated with brandy. A menu in English appeared offering an overwhelming selection of traditional Slovak dishes including lamb, duck, soups and much more. We let Matthew choose the best dishes for us and most represented a new gastronomic experience for us. I will always remember the delicate piquancy of the cabbage soup. This trip was our fourth to Slovakia but this was the first restaurant for us focusing totally on typical Slovak cuisine served in its cultural environment. We loved the food, the warm atmosphere and the friendly service.
Name: Chiže U Kľučika
Address: Hlavná 67
Tel: 051/773 11 86
Open from Tuesday to Saturday from 16:00 to 22::00
*One can order a farmer’s feast for a group ahead of time.
A thirty-minute walk up a red trail to the castle of Stara L’ubovňa provided us with a few hours rich in history. A well-designed tour gave us great satisfaction. It had been another beautiful Slovak day surrounded by heritage and nature.
That evening we chose the Marilla Café Restaurant and Pizzeria located at one end of the square in Stara Ľubovňa. This restaurant surprised us in more ways than one. First, it was smoke-free. Then, old but familiar objects and photos filled the room and the walls. John examined the Continental manual typewriter sitting on a treadle table, then the Grundig radio with its wooden cabinet, ivory coloured push buttons and rotary controls. The grandfather clock and other pieces added to a homely atmosphere.
But I was puzzled. Multiple oval frames showing pictures of an elegant lady clothed with garments of the early nineteenth century intrigued me. I knew these photos but could not identify the lady. Eventually, I picked up a menu on which there was a story. The title was ‘Anna zo zeleneho domu’ and in English I translated out loud “Anne of the green house”. John immediately reacted: “Anne of Green Gables.” A restaurant modelled on the famous theme from Lucy Maud Montgomery, from Prince Edward Island in Canada, was here in a small town of Slovakia.
The menu displayed a great variety of dishes often found in Canada: soups, pizzas, salads, fish, meat, pasta, vegetarian options, and a steak in New York style with liquor. The colours of the plates matched the colours of the food. The organic apple tea with the dried apples floating in the cup was a nice treat after a long day in the outdoors. Marilla’s provided us with another first-time Slovak experience thanks to a desert called Malenka. Organically prepared and sweetened with honey, it is a must for any visitor to Stara Lubovňa. Once again, we witnessed a caring attitude in the service and the preparation of the meals.
Address: Námestie Sv. Mikuláša 16
Telephone: 052 449 23 60
Open Sunday to Thursday from 10::00 to 22:00
Open Friday and Saturday until 24:00
We arrived in the area of Humenné after twenty days of outdoor activities with our legs really needing a break. We decided to stroll around town and relax on the grounds of the outdoor museum which included a guided visit to the church. Humenné was to be our last major stop before returning to Canada. When hiking, our lunches are usually limited to bread, cheese, fruit and chocolate so we were planning to take the opportunity for a full lunch while in town. Again, we carefully inspected every window around the town square until we saw a sign reading: “La Crêperie”. Located at the end of an alley away from the square, the restaurant offered a quiet outdoor terrace with a small playground for children.
This restaurant did not merely serve crêpes, but French crêpes along with other French delicacies: French-style salads, European coffees, good wines and a variety of ice creams. The chef, Slavo Kopil, spoke English well as he had lived with his wife in Greece for six years where he learned his skills as a chef. Their life in Greece explained the choice of the Greek music which also suited this environment where orthodox Greek churches still survive. The crêpes were irresistible and the salads fresh and colourful. Having sampled crêpes in France numerous times, I knew their proper names and what their quality should be. The chef did not disappoint me. His meals met high standards and John and I were delighted with our little French discovery in a small town in eastern Slovakia.
Name: Kaviareň u Priateľa “LA CRÊPERIE”
Address: Námestie Slobody 12
Telephone: 057 449 1073
Open Sunday to Thursday from 9:00 to 22:00
Friday and Saturday until 24:00
At the end of our trip we reviewed our culinary experiences and concluded that Slovaks were implementing many new ideas and contributing to more vibrant and richer surroundings. We will travel in the area of Orava during the summer of 2009 and we are again looking forward to discovering the unexpected.
22. Jun 2009 at 0:00 | Johanne Philippe