Izbata Tavern – a cosy traditional Bulgarian restaurant in the heart of Sofia
Izbata Tavern is one of the most favourite restaurants in Sofia for Bulgarians and foreign tourists alike. This is the reason I’ve approached the manager of the tavern – Mr Milen Novakov, with a set of questions. I found out that some of the waiters are working also as actors among other curious facts. The interview is below, I hope you’ll find it interesting and amusing.
Ludmil Nedelchev: Could you introduce yourself to our audience?
Milen Novakov: My name is Milen Novakov and for more than 20 years I’ve been in the restaurant business. Since then, I’ve opened, managed and maintained two restaurants – Izbata tavern since 2000 and Izbata winery since 2006.
LN: Izbata tavern is particularly famous amongst its foreign visitors. To what do you attribute this? Is it also true that your waiters are actually graduated actors?
MN: A very close friend of mine started working with me in Izbata tavern, the famous Bulgarian actor Dobrin Dosev. Since he was a little child, his hobby was working in restaurants and this is why he turned to me for assistance. As time passed by, he brought 6 more of his friends and colleague actors, to work for me in Izbata tavern. This whole new set of skills brought to the restaurant a different style of service, which is immediately noticed and adored by all of our customers. The combination of quality service, the positivity and the entertainment quality of the actors is really something that stands out.
LN: Can your restaurant boast with any awards?
MN: Currently, we hold 3rd place in TripAdvisor for restaurants with local cuisine and we’re in the TOP 30 out of all restaurants in Sofia. We’ve also won several Certificates of Excellence from TripAdvisor since 2015. In Bulgaria, in one of the largest tourism forums, we’ve also won 1st place award for the best tavern of the year, which is something I’m most proud of.
LN: Out of all the salads that you offer, which is your most popular one?
MN: This is definitely the “Shopska” salad, as it’s the only one that our foreign guests have heard of before ever coming to Bulgaria.
LN: What’s the speciality that you offer to your customers?
MN: Our speciality is a traditional Banska Kapama.
LN: Is there live music in your restaurant or is it upon request?
MN: We don’t have live music every day, only on special occasions like official holidays, like Chrismas, or if a larger touristic group orders musicians in advance. The reason for not having the show program every day is that there isn’t that much free space in the restaurant.
LN: From the interior decoration of the restaurant, is there anything, in particular, that stands out for your customers?
MN: There isn’t any particular item that stands out. The entire decoration and items were gathered from all over Bulgaria by me and my associate. In the beginning, when we were just starting out, we bought a small minivan. With it, we travelled to various small cities and villages and gathered all sorts of authentic Bulgarian items. Our idea was to create an authentic Bulgarian atmosphere in Izbata tavern. We received some items as gifts, some – we bought. We also gathered a lot of the old Bulgarian recipes, which we still use to this day in our menu.