If you are traveling to the city of Ternopil (western Ukraine) and, of course, you are looking for places to eat, don’t worry, there are plenty of restaurants, bars, cafes and pizzerias with oh so delicious food, amazing interior and good service!
Оrganics eateries instead of fast-food
Dining in Ternopil is it a great culinary adventure and might be a real challenge for those who are used to Big Macs, burgers and other kinds of fast food. There are NO such kinds of items in Ternopil diners’ menus. But your favorite french fries you can order practically in every restaurant in Ternopil. Again, we have to warn you, french fries in Ternopil restaurants are made not from frozen stations, they are made from fresh organic potatoes, so its taste is just like homemade! Are you disappointed :)? Well, if you are used to substitute’s cuisine which is very common in the Western world, we guess, you are going to be even more surprised, because almost all the whole foods cooked in the best Ternopil restaurants (such as veggies, fruits, dairy and meat) are ORGANIC and comes from the small local markets where farmers and private vendors sell their organically growth products.
Pork and Chicken are favorites, Beef is behind
No. 1 meat in Ternopil restaurants is pork; no. 2 is chicken; no. 3 is beef. Beef is not very popular in Ukraine as in the Western world. Actually, regular Ukrainians usually have beef for the big family celebration, like a wedding, anniversary etc. And fish in Ternopil restaurants is really, really delicious! Like this mackerel baked in tandoor, which we had in the Dykanka restaurant (on the picture below):
European and Ukrainian cuisines
There are two cuisines that are represented in Ternopil restaurants: European and Ukrainian. If European cuisine is known to everyone, Ukrainian cuisine is not that discovered yet, as for example, Italian or Greek ones. Besides, the same popular Ukrainian dishes such as borshch (beet soup) or varenyky (Ukrainian dumplings) are made differently in various areas of Ukraine. For example, in Ternopil which is located in western Ukraine, borshch tastes not the same as in eastern or southern Ukraine.
Lots of Veggies
Another feature of Ternopil dining is using LOTS of veggies in cooking (raw, grilled, steamed, boiled, simmered, braised, pickled, etc). Basic vegetables in Ukrainian cuisine are: potatoes, beets, cabbage, carrots, beans, onions, garlic, dill, parsley, cucumbers, tomatoes, cauliflower, mushrooms, zucchini, bell peppers and eggplant. Lettuce, spinach and broccoli are not that common in Ukraine as in Western Europe or in North America, but it is getting better nowadays and you can find these items in menus of few Ternopil restaurants.
Raw cabbage salad is a hit!
Two of the most popular salads on the table of regular Ukrainians are raw cabbage salads and cucumbers-tomatoes-onion salads. Two of the most popular salad dressings in Ukraine are: sunflower oil with bit of vinegar; and sour crème or mayonnaise. So you can order any of these dressings with your salad in Ternopil restaurants. Here is a little recommendation: raw shredded cabbage salad goes the best with sunflower oil and cucumbers-tomatoes-onion salad goes great with both, oil-vinegar mixture or sour crème. We highly recommend you to try a raw cabbage salad with oil dressing in Ternopil restaurants. It usually comes with green onion or with shredded carrot, chopped dills or parsley. In some places, like the Old Mill restaurant restaurant in Ternopil, they make it with marinated Crimini mushrooms and served in cute wooden bowls (take a look at the picture below):
Why do we recommend you so much to taste raw Ukrainian cabbage salads? Because Ukrainian cabbage tastes like a real CABBAGE and not like it is sprayed with pesticides or genetically modified western cabbage, which personally for us tastes like a grass. You see? We told you, if you are used to the western dining and non-organic eating, there are lots of new and surprising tastes for you in Ukraine, especially in Ternopil, Lviv, Ivano-Frankivsk, Uzhgorod and other West Ukrainian cities.
Back to the cabbage subject, yes, they are preparing it in Ternopil something like North American coleslaw, but in a local version: shredded raw cabbage, green peas, sausage cut into little cubes and mayo dressing. This salad is called Dnister (in honor of the Dnister River) and it is a West Ukrainian culinary invention from 1980th years. You can order the Dnister salad in lots of Ternopil diners. If it is not in menu, you can place a special order and they will do it for you with pleasure.
Mayonnaise and pork fat without a gaining weight
Speaking about mayonnaise… Mayo is HUGE now in Ukrainian salad menus, and there are lots of salads that are dressed with mayo. Actually, in Ukrainian minds, mayo is a more festive dressing than oil or sour crème. Oil and sour crème counts more like casual dressings. There are about 10 local mayonnaise and ketchup brands now in Ukraine; each brand has its unique mayo taste. Despite of an opinion that mayonnaise sauce is not that healthy of an item, mayo is very popular nowadays in Ukraine. We would say, almost as popular as Ukrainian salo (pork fat). Well, both of these items have high calories, but in Ukraine and especially in such compact cities like Ternopil where everything is in walking distance, you don’t have to worry about the calories you eat because you can easily burn them off simply walking in the city and enjoying its beauty. You will be surprised, seeing lots of skinny people on the Ternopil streets and having hard time to find somebody overweight! Believe us or not, but all these locals are having mayo and salo (pork fat) in their diet almost daily! The secret of their good shape is plenty of exercises in their life, such as walking (not that many Ukrainians own a car) or work in gardens (almost every Ukrainian, even a city habitant, has his own little garden or his parents’ garden in a village).
Ukrainians are not going out for breakfast
What can be difficult for tourists in Ternopil is to find a breakfast place. If you are staying in a hotel, you are okay because in Ukrainian hotels your breakfast is included in the price of your hotel room. Each hotel has a restaurant where they serve breakfast, lunch and dinner. But if you not a hotel guest, there are no options that you can simply come from a street and say that you want breakfast and you are ready to pay for it. There are rules that breakfast in hotels are for hotel’s guests only. Lunch and dinner are for everyone, but breakfast is not.
Well, you can go to any café or restaurant in Ternopil and many of them have fried eggs or omelets on the menus, but… the opening time for almost all of them is 10 a.m. or 11 a.m. So if you want you breakfast at 8 a.m. or at 9 a.m., there are few coffee shops in Ternopil where you can get your coffee, but they usually serve deserts only with coffee or tea and no food.
There are two reasons of such a tough situation with breakfasts in Ternopil. First reason is, the city is not that touristy yet (a big advantage for the not touristy places lovers!) and second reason is hidden in psychology of regular Ukrainians: Ukrainians simply don’t like to go out for breakfast, therefore no breakfast places over there. Regular Ukrainians prefer to have breakfast at home, because for Ukrainian opinions, paying for breakfast in café or restaurant is it simply waist of money. Lunches or dinners are different, they are more festive actions. Ukrainians think breakfast is something more personal and homey, and not worth spending money for, so it is better be at home. But… the more tourists are going to come to Ternopil, the more breakfast places will be appear, it’s for sure.
No English menus
Another challenge for foreign travelers to Ternopil is that only a few local restaurants have their menus translated into English and the restaurant’s items hardly translate into English well. So if you don’t know Ukrainian, you better take for your dinner somebody who can help you with a menu translation. Such kind of situation has the same reason with breakfast issue in Ternopil: the city is not touristy enough yet.
They don’t accept credit cards
One more issue about dining in Ternopil is that only few restaurants over there accept credit cards. You have to pay mostly with cash. But it is not a big reason to worry because there is plenty of ATMs in Ternopil, especially downtown, where you can get cash. But wait couple more years when Ternopil will be a touristy place, and this problem with credit cards will be gone. As for us, we prefer to visit this beautiful city now, while everything is still authentic and undiscovered yet over there.
Maria and Ron Zawaski (Canada)