2019 Year in Review: Favorite Coffee Shops, Snacks, and Restaurants

THE 2019-in-review post you’ve been waiting to read is HERE.

Last year I had some of the best food of my life and couldn’t just limit this list to strictly brunch as I did in 2018. If we’re being honest, I couldn’t choose between a couple of my favorites, so I made an obnoxiously long list so I could include allthethings. Classic Spilis.

I’ll review my favorite coffee shops, brunch stops, the clutch snacks of 2019, favorite dinners, and best desserts. Because it’s me, I also included two lists of my favorite cuisines too: Indian restaurants and nachos. Because let’s be honest, is it REALLY an Ashlynbestoffoodlist without them?

The answer, dear reader, is no.

Here we go!

Favorite Coffee Spots:

I’m an extremely boring coffee drinker (cowboy coffee–Americano, black). While I’m no-frills on my coffee, I love spending time in unique shops when traveling to a new place. Here are a couple of my favorite spots from 2019.

Brașov, Romania:

Habitat Concept Room 
Brașov, Romania
We stopped at Habitat for the morning before our trip to Bran Castle.

Gdańsk, Poland.:

Café Józef K.
Gdańsk, Poland
Absolutely loved this shop! I visited during one of our last mornings in Gdańsk and enjoyed this view. The interior is super unique.
Drukarnia Cafe
Gdańsk, Poland
Drukarnia takes their coffee seriously. It’s hard not to be super impressed with their attention to beans and brews.

Paris, France:

Soul Kitchen
Paris, France
The incline up to Soul Kitchen is completely worth the hike for a coffee or breakfast at this little shop in Montmarte.
Restaurant La Recyclerie
Paris, France
A former train station, this cafe offers coffee, lunch, and dinner in an enormous, reclaimed space. Their menu changes daily (based on availability in their urban farm) and they also host workshops on repairs and community activism.
Coffee here is only one euro! They also serve unique cocktails later in the day.
Americano with a view.

Kraków, Poland:

Massolit Books & Cafe
Kraków, Poland
I spent a few hours in this cozy cafe sipping cold brew and perusing their used books. Their coffee is great and they offer hundreds of English titles at affordable prices.

Tromsø, Norway:

Smørtorget
Tromsø, Norway
This. Cinnamon. Roll. Though. I wandered into Smørtorget and immediately decided I had to try one of their freshly baked goods. This roll was perfect for coffee-dipping. The space is gorgeous and cozy, especially during the Norwegian winter.

Örebro, Sweden:

Gamla
Örebro, Sweden
I had to go with my first authentic Fika in Sweden! This vegan treat was a perfect way to start my first day in Örebro.

Best Brunch of 2019:

Budapest, Hungary:

Murok Cafe
Budapest, Hungary
I know, I know, this isn’t a food photo, but Murok is so adorable that I had to include this picture over the bagels and hummus we shared on a chilly November morning. We stopped by Murok so I could shop at the Conscious Design Market, which featured a number of local designers selling sustainable products. To top it off, Murok also allows dogs, so I happily nibbled on a bagel while looking at artisan goods AND pet puppies. The ultimate win, win, win.
Szimply
Budapest, Hungary
A solo trip to Budapest meant extra time wandering the city and visiting a couple of places on my (ever-growing) list. I’d been hoping to visit Szimply for a while–they offer a continuously changing menu with a ton of veg options–and happily had an amazing (and super affordable) meal. This avocado toast was out.of.control and I literally gasped when they brought it out to me. Those colors! That egg!

Stuttgart, Germany:

Kleinigkeit
Stuttgart, Germany
This adorable brunch started off one of my best days of 2019. Kleinigkeit is small and their staff is super friendly; we had our poached eggs with a beautiful view. I can’t recommend this spot enough!

London, England:

Caravan Exmouth Market
London, England
Our last breakfast in London was one of the best brunches of the year. Caravan has a huge veg and dietary-restrictions-friendly menu, along with an extensive coffee selection. I ordered the jalapeno cornbread (!!) with chipotle mayo and avo. I’m still dreaming about this absolutely perfect brunch dish.

Warsaw, Poland:

Shabby Chic Coffee & Wine
Warsaw, Poland
What’s better than brunch? TWO in one day! We visited Warsaw this spring with two of favorite people–Heather and Chris–and had wayyyy too much fun eating pierogi and wandering the city. One morning, Heather and I left early to grab coffee at Shabby Chic and ended up ordering this amazing open-faced sandwich to share. Homemade bread+blue cheese+pears+walnuts+honey is THE combination.
Restauracja Zapiecek
Warsaw, Poland
Full from our secret sandwich, Heather and I brought the coffee back to our apartment, ready to head back out for brunch with the guys. We stopped at Zapiecek for pierogi (acceptable at any time of the day) and ate our dumplings outside in the sun.

Paris, France:

Treize au Jardin
Paris, France
To say I planned our trip to Paris around the World Cup match and brunch at Treize au Jardin is not an exaggeration. Southern bunch?! ALL DAY?!
After ten years in the south, I MISS brunch. And I mean the brunch food that sticks to you all day. I ordered the tomato pie, one of my favorite dishes of all time, and it was delicious. I would rank it third overall best tomato pie of my life–a huge accomplishment–only after my wonderful friend Heather’s version and Babs Ambrose’s pie. It was OUT OF CONTROL GOOD.
Biscuits and pimento cheese–does life get any better than this?

Favorite Snacks:

Somewhere Outside Chernobyl, Ukraine:

Spicy Mustard & Cheese Sandwich
Somewhere Outside Chernobyl, Ukraine
As I’ve mentioned before, I am 100% a brown-bag lunch person. Thankfully we all packed sandwiches on our day trip from Kyiv to Chernobyl, and damn those snacks were clutch. This mustard was unexpectedly spicy but really good (I also LOVE horseradish and to say it was horseradish-forward is an understatement).
If you’re planning on visiting the site of a Soviet nuclear meltdown, pack sandwiches. I can’t stress that enough.

Glasgow, Scotland:

Truffle Fries & Macaroni and Cheese
Chinaski’s
Glasgow, Scotland
Is there a better combination than mac & cheese and french fries? This pre-dinner snack was perfect after a looooong day exploring the city. This literary-themed speakeasy also had amazing cocktails–all you need in the world.

Bran Castle, Romania:

Turkish Coffee & Cheese Roll
Bran Castle
Bran, Romania
Another amazing combination of drink+snacks was the Turkish coffee we ordered before entering Bran Castle and my cheese bread I engulfed after the tour. I LOVE Turkish coffee and the guy making these was hilarious and kind. He even allowed me to ask him multiple questions about the process and snap a few pictures of his work.
This freshly baked cheesy bread was amazing and the perfect end to our Bran Castle visit.

Tromsø, Norway:

Vegan Hot Dog
Raketten Bar & Pølse
Tromsø, Norway
Known as the home of the best hot dogs in the world (according to guests) and the tiniest bar in the universe (according to aliens), Raketten is a small, one-person hot dog making operation in the center of Tromsø. I ordered the vegan version, complete with spicy homemade mustard, fried onions, and a freshly baked ciabatta bun. Whoever thought to put a hot dog in ciabatta?! The kicker here is that I don’t even really like hot dogs and yet this was so good, it was one of my favorite snacks of the year.

Budapest, Hungary:

Tócsni
Vörösmarty Square Market
Budapest, Hungary
One of the absolute must-have snacks in Hungary (or honestly in Europe) is known by a number of names, depending on the region. Tócsni is basically the potato pancake version of lángos, a deep fried dough (similar to an American elephant ear) covered in garlic, sour cream, cheese, and peppers. I prefer Tócsni, especially from the Budapest Christmas Market. Totally worth the food hangover.

Favorite Indian Food Spots:

Indian is one of our favorite cuisines. I’m still trying to work on my skills at home, but there is nothing like authentic meals when we travel. Thankfully, I found a couple of great locations last year:

Fairfield, California:

Amar Indian Cuisine
Fairfield, California
My brother-in-law, niece, and I took a trip to Amar so I could stock up on Indian spices before returning to Hungary. We stopped in the store, grabbed a couple of things (including a huge container of ghee–score!) and at check-out the owner recommended having lunch at their restaurant next door.
I’m so glad we did! This was Caroline’s first Indian meal and girl can put down the naan like her aunt. The restaurant was great and had soooo many options available for lunch.

Gdańsk, Poland:

Zaika Truck
Gdańsk, Poland
We grabbed lunch at Zaika while we were walking St. Dominic’s Fair. We ordered the curry and loved it.

London, England:

Indian Kati Rolls
Camden Market, London, England
My apologies for the blurry photo but I only snapped one picture before eating this amazing wrap. We stopped at Camden Market on Saturday afternoon and the entire place was absolutely packed with people. Thankfully I was able to find the Indian Kati stand and this wrap was incredible. Masala paneer in a naan wrap is all you need in the world.

Kraków, Poland:

Bhajan Cafe
Kraków, Poland
My lunch at Bhajan was the perfect way to end an amazing day in Kraków. I traveled to the city solo and spent the morning wandering the parks and visiting a couple of bookshops. The entire menu is veg friendly and the staff were kind enough to not judge me eating a meal meant for two people entirely on my own. Sooo good.

Budapest, Hungary:

Rajkot Palace
Budapest, Hungary
I actually had my favorite Indian meal on New Years Eve. Rajkot Palace was amazing; this Palak paneer was on point and Chris’s chicken vindaloo had him sweating from the spiciness.

Best Dinners:

Glasgow, Scotland:

Hillhead Bookclub
Glasgow, Scotland
There is something to be said for just honestly good sandwiches. We spent our last night in Glasgow enjoying Hillhead Bookclub’s unique menu and options. This veg reuben included seitan pastrami on dark rye bread.

Cluj-Napoca Romania:

Casa Dacilor Brancusi
Cluj-Napoca, Romania
Our last night in Romania we ate an amazing traditional meal at Casa Dacilor Brancusi. Of course everything I ordered was potato-based (always, ha) and this dinner was the perfect end to a fun road-trip through Romania.
This is the Salată Orientală.
I also ordered Cartofi franțuzești, which is a French style Romanian dish of potatoes, eggs, and cheese. My amazing friend Monica (whose hometown is Cluj!) always made this dish for me in Hungary and it was so special to order this with her in Romania.
The star of the show were these Papanaşi, Romanian doughnuts. I still dream about them.

Kraków, Poland:

Marchewka z Groszkiem
Kraków, Poland
I absolutely love this restaurant. I ordered my favorite pierogi–Ruskie–with a side of the blue cheese sauce (out of this world).
As well as strawberry and mascarpone dumplings for dessert. The owners were kind enough to let us order a couple dozen to take home with us.

Tromsø, Norway:

Bardus Bar
Tromsø, Norway
We absolutely loved this tiny restaurant in Tromsø. I ordered the mushroom and barley risotto and it was soooo good.
Plus you can’t help but love a dinner with a view of the city’s library! ❤ ❤

Kyiv, Ukraine:

O’Panas
Kyiv, Ukraine
I can’t say enough about O’Panas. Their menu is incredible–full of traditional Ukrainian food and wine–and the atmosphere is fun and comfortable. A place I can order a deruny, mushroom soup, and varenyky?! Easily my favorite dinner of 2019.
View from our table.

Best Dessert:

Suisun City, California:

It’s It Ice Cream
Suisun City, California
One of the best parts of visiting my sister in northern California is sharing an It’s It ice cream sandwich with the coolest girl in the world, my niece Caroline. Our favorite is strawberry and according to Caroline, ice cream sandwiches are appropriate for any time of the day. Best way to live life.

Pannonhalma, Hungary:

Viator
Pannonhalma, Hungary
After a long walk around the Pannonhalma grounds (in perfect weather, such a beautiful day) we stopped for a late lunch at nearby Viator. This dessert was amazing.

Szigliget, Hungary:

Villa Kabala
Szigliget, Hungary
An absolutely terrible picture, I know, but one of my favorite desserts of last year was enjoyed overlooking Lake Balaon on a date with a good friend. We ordered four (!) courses and left happy. This restaurant is an absolute gem.

Mezőlak, Hungary:

Garden & Ice Cream Shop
Mezőlak, Hungary
Only open during the summer months, this adorable shop in Mezőlak offers the best ice cream around. We spent a couple of perfect afternoons enjoying ice cream and wandering the small village.

Mindszentkálla, Hungary:

Kő fagyi?
Mindszentkálla, Hungary
Located near Balaton in the sleepy village of Mindszentkálla, Kő Fagyi? is a quaint ice cream shop with absolutely amazing flavors. The owners were previously a dress designer and software developer who sold gave up their careers in Budapest to make ice cream. I was encouraged to try a scoop of mango–which is usually my least favorite flavor–and within seconds I knew this cone would be the best I’d have all year.

Favorite Nachos:

Nachos are my all-time favorite food. While finding a decent order in Europe is tricky (so much disappointment) I managed to find a couple of awesome options this year.

Örebro, Sweden:

Mocca Deli
Örebro, Sweden
An unexpected treat in Sweden, these nachos were topped with all the best veggies.

London, England:

Maria Sabina @ Southbank Centre Winter Market
Jubilee Gardens, London, England
I know nachos don’t scream “winter food” but I couldn’t pass up the chance to order my favorite food at the winter market in London. This guac was amazing.

Tromsø, Norway:

O’Learys
Tromsø, Norway
Here’s the thing: Oumph! brand meat substitutes are the absolute best. High in protein, low in carbs and fat, the Swedish brand is my favorite. It’s always such a treat to find a restaurant that carries Oumph! and this was the first time I’ve had them as nachos (all the hearts for eyes emjois).
So amazing, I ordered them twice.

Vacaville, California:

Freebird’s World Burrito
Vacaville, California
Sorry Europe, but nachos in America are just so good. I ordered Freebird’s when I visited my sister in California last spring. My only complaint is that these nachos used Beyond Meat, (which is great!), but that they were more expensive than the steak option. Boo.
Still awesome, even at the premium price.

Sign in Cluj-Napoca, Romania

Cheers to good food in 2020! 🥂🥂

“On a Clear Day I can See Forever”: Örebro, Sweden

The beautiful Örebro castle.

This spring I had the amazing opportunity to visit Sweden! Always at the top of my list, I jumped at the chance to travel with Chris to Örebro, the seventh largest city in the Scandinavian country (including immigrants from 165 countries)! Unfortunately for Shotshchild, he had a ton of extra work to do, but fortunately (and guiltily) for me, this meant an extra few days wandering around the lovely city of Örebro.

The city is absolutely beautiful; Örebro has a ton of green and walkable spaces, super friendly people, and so many vegetarian food options available. Get ready for a ton of pictures and recommendations.

Oh, and a castle on the water too. NBD.

One of my favorite things about Sweden and Swedish culture is Fika. When we first moved to Hungary, Chris told me about this break for coffee and sweets that his Swedish colleagues enjoyed each day (and encouraged Chris to join). This morning/early afternoon time to share a beverage and snack with friends is essential in Sweden. For many, this “state of mind” is imperative; its a time to relax, refresh your brain, and socialize with your co-workers.

The correct way to pronounce this beautiful ritual is simply Fika (“fee-ka”) but as I am American and butcher all things, I always exclaim “FIKA TIME!” whenever I feel like it’s the appropriate moment for Fika.

What a way of life. My friend Ashley, who visited Örebro the week ahead of me, scoped out the best place for Fika in the city. She didn’t disappoint with her recommendation! We visited Gamla, located in the open air museum, for a vegan Swedish ball and coffee. So good!

Another great part of this trip was embracing a slower lifestyle. This included reading in the hotel lobby on rainy days #livingmybestlife

We stayed at the Clarion in downtown Örebro and I can’t recommend this space enough. The hotel is located in the perfect location and has a beautiful lounge area. Their breakfast was AMAZING–I unfortunately forgot to snap a picture of all their choices–and an amenity I was thankful for as the sun rose super early while we were visiting. I also shared breakfast with a wonderful Danish man sporting a Santa beard who told me allthestories about his life.

Each floor of the hotel included its own Book Share!

Örebro is one of my favorite places we’ve had the opportunity to visit; I also had one of my bestdaysever while in Sweden: long walk through an art installation, visit to the public library, quiet time in the cemetery, a stop at a Middle Eastern spice shop, and wonderful Indian cuisine for dinner. Just. Amazing.

Where are we?

Located in the heart of Sweden, halfway between Stockholm and Gothenburg, Örebro is positioned on the River Svartån. The city’s name derives from the words bro (bridge) and ör (bank); Örebro is known for its castle, which was built on an islet in the Svartån.

A walk through the center of the city.

Örebro is also famous for its old town and the beautiful spaces near the river. Luckily, I happened to visit during a ton of festivals and holidays including the National Day of Sweden 🇸🇪 and high school graduation. Graduations are a huge event in Sweden; parents held up signs and flags for their students and tons of graduates were piled into trucks, celebrating in the streets. Super cool to see.

The OpenArt festival was also taking place while I visited Örebro (for real though this was the best timing ever) and exhibits were constructed all over town. OpenArt is Scandinavia’s largest biennial festival that “revolts against traditional urban spaces, encourages creativity, and gives us the opportunity to experience the city from completely new perspectives”. The festival included over 100 pieces.

This “Plastic Monster” was created by students in 2018 to bring awareness to the effects of the carcinogens from plastics on animals and humans. The piece also included information on the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, an area three times the size of Sweden that is made up of plastic waste. Sweden is currently aiming to become a zero-waste country.
A piece by Czech artist David Cerny: “[the] pink tank becomes an elegant pacifist protest against state violence and a reminder that democracy and freedom of expression do not come without cost, but must be fought for.”
Constructed by Elsa Tomkowiak: “All the environments she invades are the support of a prolific pictorial work that raises the question of our relationship with reality.”
View from underneath the piece.
A street fair taking place the day before we left. We missed the beginning of the fair because we were watching John Wick 3, but no regrets on that decision.
Street art by Sego that combines organic life with fantasy images.

The Sites:

Örebro Castle:

The defense tower is the oldest part of the castle and was built in the late 1200s. The entire structure was rebuilt in 1900.
The castle is famous for its legendary ghost. In 1434, Engelbrekt Engelbrektson (that name though!), the leader of the Engelbrekt Rebellion against the Kalmar Union, lived in Örebro Castle. He was buried in St. Nicholas Church after his assassination in 1436. Karl IX then took over and became so jealous of Engelbrekt’s hero status in Örebro that he dug up his body and buried him in the castle walls. Now Engelbrekt’s ghost wanders the halls of the castle to this day, although we didn’t see him when we toured (boo, pun intended).

Olaus Petri Church:

The Olaus Petri Church opened on the Fourth Advent Sunday in 1912.
View of the Church from across the street.
OpenArt installed a piece (“Estrogen Bomb”) by the Guerrilla Girls in front of the Church.
❤ this

Wadköping:

This beautiful open air museum is just a short walk from the city’s center and includes houses and farms from the 1500s. There are a ton of cute shops and don’t forget to stop for Fika!
Wadköping also includes a number of museums and is next to the City Park.

Stadsparken:

The sites of Örebro, carved into a tree trunk.
Voted Sweden’s most beautiful park in 2004, this area is perfect for quiet walks and exploring the beautiful plants in Sweden.
My favorite reading spot in the park.

Oset and Rynningeviken:

Just outside the city is the Oset and Rynningeviken nature reserve. Only a 45 minute walk or an even quicker bike ride, this is an absolute must see while you’re in town.
The park was probably my favorite place in all of Örebro.
This area was previously a military site and then a dumping ground for tons of waste. In 1968, the landfill closed and the military use ended; the nature preserve was created and is now a beautiful place between Örebro and Lake Hjälmaren.
I was incredibly lucky to walk this trail with our wonderful friends Ashley and her husband Pete, and the amazing Rodgerson family: Bri (who runs the lovely Home Base Hungary Blog), her spouse Derek, and their three kids, Beau, Didi (left), and Willow (right). So fun to spend a day at this beautiful park with this fun crew!
📷: Bri
Willow took a particular liking to Chris (“Cwissssss!”) and had the best quote of the week: “Well does being around kids now make you want to have kids!?” So funny! Willow and Didi were also a solid breakfast crew–I knew I never would have to eat alone!
📷: Bri

Other Sites:

Wandering the river
Corner of the downtown area and enjoying all the walking streets.
Rudbeck Upper Secondary School’s Main Building
The city library
Norra Strandgatan was built in 1891 by architects Fritz Ulrich and Eduard Hallquist. Originally used as a bank. the manager’s son, Hjalmar, lived in the second floor of the building. As a child he began writing Solivro, “the inspiration for his most widely read book Markurells i Wadköping, where Wadköping is a fictional city with Örebro as a model”. This was also the main editorial office for the Nerikes Allehanda newspaper before opening as the Hotel Bergen (current use today).
Nikolai Kyrkogård (Nikolai Cemetery) was opened in 1806.

Restaurants & Pubs:

Fratelli:

This cute little restaurant offers a number of pasta and pizza dishes. I ordered the mushroom ravioli and it was amazing!

Chandani:

We can never say no to Indian! Chandani is a great restaurant with outdoor seating. We both ordered curries and of course Naan bread, and enjoyed it all. One of the best parts of Örebro was the number of international restaurants in just the small downtown area.

Mocca Deli:

Nachos and coffee, does anything scream “ashlyn” more than this?
A super cute spot, Mocca Deli offers a ton of veg and meat options including nachos (of course) salads, and pizzas.

Örebro Saluhall:

Located right across from the hotel, the Saluhall is an awesome option for lunch or dinner with a group of friends. The food court includes over six restaurants with all types of cuisine (Italian, American, Asian) for even the pickiest of eaters. I ordered lunch from Sallad& that included pickled red onions and beet hummus (I’m dead, bye).

Naturen Hus:

Photo via Totally Örebro.
We stopped for lunch at Naturen Hus on our stroll through the Oset & Rynningeviken nature preserve. This restaurant is an absolute must visit when in Örebro. I ordered the goat cheese salad and it was so incredibly fresh. The perfect meal for the prettiest view of the park.

Satin:

We made a special trip to Satin for lunch after our friend Ashley mentioned the restaurant offered a vegan kebab plate. It was AMAZING. All the vegetarian options in Sweden were soooooo good.

En Trappa Upp:

Located on the second floor of Pitcher’s, En Trappa Upp is a cozy bar with beautiful views of the water. They had a ton of craft beer options including Danish brewery Mikkeller‘s summer pale, K:rlek (meaning “love” which I of course had a heart explosion when the bartender translated the name for me.)

❤ you Örebro.

📷: Bri
Beautiful street art near the grocery store, where I fell in love with all the Swedish vegetarian options and bread choices!

Currently:

Reading: To Kill a Mockingbird (Harper Lee)
Watching: The Righteous Gemstones (HBO)
Listening: This Land (Crooked Media)