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Food, Dining, & Drinks in Slovakia

Culinary Influences

Slovakia's food begins with potatoes, wheat, cabbage, onions, and cheeses from goats and cows. This is what they can grow or raise so it became their basis and, while meats were available, they were expensive and rarely consumed until relatively recently.

With a historically simple diet, today's Slovakia boasts a fair amount of variety based upon the influence of their neighbors. Schnitzel and cabbage is popular thanks to the Austrians, while sausages and perogi are popular thanks to the Poles.

Today Slovakia's food is a combination of these influences, but most dishes are uniquely Slovak. This is especially true when one realizes the variety of ways pork bacon can and is cooked and served, a specialty of the Carpathian Mountains in both Slovakia and Ukraine.

Staple Foods

Slovakia finds itself between the Eastern Slavs, Germanic people, Hungarians, Latin people, and others, so their culinary tradition is, in many ways, a combination of these cultures. Because of this, every staple food is based on the particular dish. Most dishes will include rice, bread, potatoes, cabbage, and/or a meat.

Regional Variations & Specialties

Bryndzove Halusky: potato dough balls with sheep cheese topped with smoked or fried bacon
Kapustnica: beet soup, similar to Russian borsch

Dining Etiquette

Slovak Food - Halusky
Halusky

Dining in Slovakia will vary based upon the situation and dish(es) being served. As a country with multiple culinary influences you can be served anything from stews like a goulash to pasta or perogi. The dish may influence what cutlery (silverware) you use and how you use it, but for the most part dining is fairly formal so using "continental" etiquette will help you through the meal (knife in the right hand, fork in the left).

The Slovaks are fairly private people so getting invited into a local's home is an honor and should be treated like one. Bring a gift like chocolates, remove your shoes before entering the house, and dress more formally than you typically would. Also do them the courtesy of not discussing anything that could even remotely be considered controversial like politics or business (even if you're at the home of a business associate).

Once at the table the formalities continue. You must always keep three things on the table: your hands (which must remain in sight at all times), your napkin, and your bread. Your napkin should remain on the table and only used to clean your mouth if needed; your bread should also remain on the table itself, not on your plate.

Don't begin eating until your host says "do brou chut." If drinks are accompanying dinner, the proper response to a toast is "naz dravie" (to your health). While it is customary to turn down an offering of more food, this is again just a formality; your host will soon be asking you again if you'd like seconds and only upon their second attempt should you accept.

If you are finished with your drink, just leave the glass more than half full to indicate you are finished and at the end of the meal (if at a restaurant) be sure to offer to pay. Again, this is just a formality and your host will thank you for the offer, but will almost certainly turn you down. If you are the host, do the same by paying for everyone, but thanking them for their offers to contribute to the bill.

When eating at a sit down restaurant, in regards to tipping, rounding up is appropriate and all the locals will give nothing more than this, however at restaurants catering to tourists, a tip of about 5-10% is expected.

Drinks

Slovakians enjoy their coffee, but mineral water, soft drinks, and other carbonated drinks are king in Slovakia when it comes to non-alcoholic beverages. If seeking out something more familiar, Slovakia also has juices, tea, coffee, milk, and international soft drinks widely available.

Slovakia produces their share of alcoholic drinks; two local specialties are slivovica, which is a fruity plum liquor and borovicka, which is also sweet, but distilled from juniper berries. At pubs or restaurants however, beer and wine are much more popular, although hard liquors are also widely available, all of which include international brands.

Generally speaking, the tap water is safe to drink in Slovakia, but check with locals for any particular regional differences. Also, many people may have troubles adjusting to the local tap water, as it will most certainly be different from what your system is used to.

This page was last updated: March, 2013