The first things that catch the eye when walking up this narrow stone street in old town Dubrovnik are the lanterns.
Every gallery, shop and restaurant along the street displays a uniquely designed and decorated lantern, all floating over the crowded streets during the day and lighting up the city at night. Most are quite plain and basic, with the business name printed across in simple font, maybe with some color in the background or a logo in the center. That is, of course, until one wanders their way to the footsteps of Barba.
As we have seen from To Je To, design is a critical factor for success in the service industry…if you can’t draw someone in with appealing aesthetics, the quality of the food can only accomplish so much. Where To Je To grabbed our attention with elaborately constructed menus, Barba succeeds with simplicity. We get the first taste of this even before walking through the door.
Sea Food / Street Food
Dubrovnik has become a popular tourist destination, drawing visitors in from all over the world with its beautiful beaches, historic and impressive old town, and most recently its new found “Games of Thrones” fame. As a result, most food options in the old town are relatively high-priced, and finding a quality meal usually entails going to a sit-down restaurant. Miho Obradović, owner of Barba, envisioned a seemingly impossible alternative.
In the heart of old town, the light blue squiggles outline the visage of a bearded fisherman. Those intrigued by the lantern are next drawn in by the menu illuminated below.
With the bait ready and line drawn, all that is left is to wait and reel in the catch. And one can almost see this in action as potential customers strolling down the street come to an abrupt stop, read over the menu, debate with “should we or shouldn’t we”s, catch a glimpse of a bowl of steaming shrimp tempura through the window and join the crowd inside to place an order.
With the prices and “street food” logo, this place gives every impression of just another fast food joint…until you take one step inside. The cozy interior is pristine, without that familiar stench of grease still sticking to your clothes from the “pizza by the slice” place two streets over. Although quite comfortable inside, I prefer to join most sitting on the steps out in front, enjoying street food in its truest sense.
So, what about the quality? Is this just another greasy spoon diner with a large budget and pretty wallpaper?
This family run business starts early in the morning, with Miho or his father visiting the local fish market to select the best catches of the day while the bakery up the street specially prepares a huge, fresh batch of soft, rich sandwich bread. Then, as the city wakes, the grill is already hot, and fresh salads start filling the display case at the front of the shop.
As I was staying in Dubrovnik for 5 days just around the corner from this establishment, I made it my goal to work down most of the menu. It goes without being said that I started off with their claim to fame, the octopus burger.
Where to begin..remember I mentioned simplicity..this burger is exactly that. A few incredibly fresh ingredients accompanying the octopus patty with a light, homemade sauce that soaks into the bread make for a brilliant treat. It wouldn’t be the last time I indulged in this specialty. Moving on to my favorite item..
Simple yet surprisingly rich. Fresh tuna, lightly salted anchovies, arugula and a drizzle of olive oil. The anchovies were so good that I had them added to other items on the menu during my future visits. The white wine made for a great pairing, fortifying my trust in Miho’s recommendations. And I kept coming back..
The tempura won’t disappoint either, making for a good appetizer to share. Among my excitement, I forgot to photograph a few other musts, including the salmon sandwich which brought back fond memories of my mother’s salmon dishes.
If you are in Dubrovnik, Barba is a must visit. Miho and his nice, welcoming family will treat you like lifelong friends, putting as much care into their conversation as they do into their cooking. I wish Barba all the best and a successful future..thank you for making my Dubrovnik experience a delicious one.