Zagreb Blog

Rules of Saturday Lunch Ritual in Zagreb

By 30 September 2017

Saturday lunch has been a cult event on the Zagreb restaurant scene since the '90s.

Even though Saturdays are mostly reserved for strolling around shopping malls, grabbing a quick snack, and then going to a restaurant in the evening in other European countries, Zagreb restaurants in the centre of the city are the most crowded on Saturdays, between 2 and 4 p.m., while other European capitals are more popular during weekdays, Kult Plave kamenice writes on September 30, 2017.

If you try to get a table without making a reservation beforehand at Carpaccio or Vinodol, you have a 5% chance of getting it, and only if someone cancels their reservation.

Saturday lunch is one of the most important rituals in Zagreb restaurant culture, with strictly defined rules. These rules were created about a quarter of a century ago, when the špica we know and love today was created – the area between Flower Square, Bogovićeva, Gajeva, Teslina and Masarykova Streets. That was when the habit of going out on Saturday around midday became the central point of social and restaurant life of Zagreb’s citizens.
The heart of the špica in the ‘90s was Hard Rock Caffe, led by legendary Albert Papo from Dubrovnik. People would wait in three lines to reach the bar there between 1 and 3 p.m. on Saturdays. People who hated mainstream places and the crowds would go to BP Club or Charlie, and all of these places would suddenly become deserted around 3 p.m. – that’s when the hunt for a free table at the restaurants would start.

Saturday lunch starts late…
The main rule of Zagreb Saturday lunch, ever since the ‘90s, has been that it starts late – most bistros and restaurants are still empty around 12.30, but they’re crowded around 2 p.m., and there’s no way you can find a table at 3 p.m.

…and lasts long
The second rule of Saturday lunch is that it lasts for a long time. Restaurant staff sometimes can’t catch a break on Saturdays because many people stay at lunch until 5, 5.30 p.m., and guests start coming for dinner around 7 p.m.

You drink more wine than you would on a work day
The third rule is that people drink noticeably more wine than during a workday lunch. Drinking on Saturdays starts in the afternoon in Zagreb.

The most important criteria for choosing a restaurant are location…
The first criterion is the location – restaurants located in the centre of the city, like Carpaccio or Vinodol, or any of the nearby bistros, are always crowded on Saturdays. The situation was the same 25 years ago, when people stood in line to wait for a table at Hard Rock Café or Klub književnika, located at Ban Jelačić Square.

The second criterion is that the restaurant is family-friendly. Pero at Šalata, Špilja in Samobor – these are some of the popular family restaurants that are crowded on Saturdays. The restaurants located along Gračanska Road used to be very popular after the Homeland War, and one of the most popular restaurants nowadays is Rougemarin.

Image may contain: bridge and outdoor

…or trends
If a restaurant is really popular, it will be crowded on Saturdays even if it isn’t located in the centre and it doesn’t fit into the “family-friendly” category. One of the examples is Mostovi, a restaurant which you weren’t able to step on Saturdays in seven years ago, or Noel when it first opened and guests would spend their entire Saturday afternoons there, or even O’Hara Pizzeria, which was very popular a year and a half ago.

The main criterion is the weather
Zagreb Saturday lunch ritual still depends on the weather. Seeing that today is a beautiful, sunny day, the restaurants that fit the description mentioned earlier should be full.

Translated from Kult Plave kamenice.

Photos from Zagreb - kakav je bio nekada.