Albania has a rich food culture with many influences from Greek, Italian, and other Balkan cuisines. Combine this with delicious locally grown fruits and vegetables and fresh fish from the Ionian Sea and you get an idea of what eating out must be like. Saranda is full of restaurants, which makes it hard to make a choice where to eat, so we have created a list of our favorite options for a great local Albanian food experience.
There’s no better way to experience the local cuisine than to eat where the Albanians eat. Te Bequa is no fancy restaurant, but rather a canteen style diner in the heart of the town. You can order anything a la carte, but they also have some dishes of the day which you can find at the till in the back. Expect no artwork of the food presentation, but the food is delicious and it’s one of the cheapest places to fill up your tummy in Saranda. They also have a second restaurant called Te Bequa 2 on Rruga Butrinti, which is only open during the summer season.
Oda e Babës is a tiny, but cosy restaurant in the style of a traditional Albanian home. If you’ve ever been in Gjirokastra or Berat, you know what we mean. They don’t have a large menu, but the lovely staff will immediately make you feel at home and explain you more about the food traditions. You can start with a large selection of meze (appetizers) to get a taste of different traditional Albanian and Greek flavors and as a main you can choose between a selection of meat or vegetarian dishes.
The Mussel House is located on the waterfront of Lake Butrint, right where the mussels are being farmed. There’s no better place for having the freshest mussels (and other seafood) and you get an amazing view over the lake as well. You can also book the mussel tour to be picked up at your hotel for a mussel tasting and a boat trip over the lake, while a local guide will explain you all about the farming of mussels.
Fish Filipi is located in the local neighborbood of Kodrra and is a fish shop with a taverna. It’s a bit away from the touristic streets and they have very fair prices and therefore it’s a favorite among the local population. You can order anything from the menu, but you can also walk into the shop and pick a fish of your liking and they will prepare it for you.
Natyra means ‘nature’ in Albanian, which perfectly fits the location of this restaurant. It’s located on the back of Lekursi Hill and you’ll pass by on the way up to Lekursi Castle. The restaurant has one of the most spectacular views with a panorama terrace overlooking the valley, with green areas and beautiful mountain ranges on the horizon. They have a wide selection of typical Albanian and Mediterranean dishes, from mezes (appetizers) to grilled meats, fish and seafood, to pastas, risottos and salads. They’re open all year, which means the locals are regular patrons here.
Saranda is a fishing village so, can you think of a better place to eat fresh seafood then right at the fishing harbor? And no, we don’t mean the touristic marina on the boulevard, but the old port in Kodrra. Taverna Fish Land has a nice upper deck from where you can overlook the harbor and see the fishing boats coming back with their catch of the day. You can’t get your fish any fresher!
Haxhi is arguably one of the best and most popular restaurants in town. They serve Albanian and Mediterranean food, but with contemporary influences. Everything they serve is good, but above all, Haxhi and his family know how to make their customers happy and come back time and time again. So don’t worry if you see some appetizers or shots arrive on your table. They won’t charge you for that as they just want you to be happy and have a great time.
If you walk into Taverna Labëria you can see a small butcher in the corner so you know the meat they serve has just been freshly prepared. No wonder the family-run restaurant is considered one of the best places for meat, but everything else is equally good and prices are very reasonable.
If you’re looking for a wide selection of traditional Albanian dishes and still want to enjoy the beach vibe, Restaurant Plazhi i Ri Caci on the boulevard is your place to go. Have you already tried Tavë Kosi or Fergesë, or are you a daredevil who wants to give paçe (soup made of a sheep’s head) a try? Don’t worry if we scared you off, they also have many other options like meat and fish and pizzas and pastas, so you’ll always find something you like. You can sit downstairs, but we particularly love the views form the upper deck.
If you’re up for a quick bite in the Kodrra neighborhood, then definitely check out Kasandro. The family-run place serves fast food, grilled and barbecued meats, and all kinds of traditional dishes. Kasandro has an outdoor deck with a sea view and each table has a power outlet, so it’s also a great place for digital nomads to hang out and get some work done.
Tip: also check out these 26 Delicious Albanian Foods To Try.