Tel: 385 20 442 526
It looks worryingly touristique, but this place in the renovated 19th-century Nautical Academy has been reliable for years. Three big terraces overlook the harbor in the shadow of the Bokar and Lovrijenac fortresses. Though meat dishes are plentiful, stick with the fish, which, unsurprisingly given the setting, is what they do best. Standouts include shrimp in a sweet-and-salty lemon sauce served with carrot-stuffed black ravioli, and baked Adriatic gilt-head breama fish known as "dorade royale" on that other riviera.
Boškovićeva ulica 5 (near Sponza Palace)
Tel: 385 20 331 911
Among a thousand rustic local joints in the middle of the Old Town is this ocher-walled room with bentwood chairs, a quainter and better choice than your average Prijeko Street tourist trap. Order platters of prsut (a cured, smoked ham) and cheeses; try livanjski, a cow's-milk number from Livno, and the sheep's-milk paski from the island of Pag, then the red seafood risotto with mussels, prawns, and squid. If you're in a rush, grab something from the takeout sandwich bar.
Beneath the city walls, follow sign from the cathedral
Tel: 385 20 323 633
This sweet traditional-style restaurant was opened in 2000 by the young chef-owners Pero and Tonka Braicevic and has been gathering fans ever since—as long as they can find it. Each meal starts with an aperitif of Tonka's grandmother's wicked bittersweet homemade brandy. If you can't make a menu decision, ask for the Ekvinocijo Plate—a selection of whatever fishes were caught that morning, grilled, with cabbage and potato.
Tel: 385 91 896 7509
The unwieldy wrap sandwiches and fruit smoothies at Fresh are ideal when you need a break after several days of the same-old seafood dishes and the ubiquitous (and usually not very good) pizzas and pastas. The café, just off the Stradun strip, is also a daytime draw for its free Wi-Fi; at night it becomes a happening bar serving yards of beer and suggestively named cocktails (try the Nice Peaches).
Gunduliceva poljana 8
Tel: 385 20 323 682
Shoppers from Gundulic Square's daily vegetable market gather at Kamenice's outdoor tables for uncomplicated fare such as raw oysters (kamenice means oyster), steamed mussels, tiny whole fried fish drizzled with lemon juice, and icy mugs of Karlovacko beer. The wait staff can be surly, but the prices are much kinder.
Tel: 385 20 324 750
This seafood place in the old port serves the usual dishesmany in the traditional big black potsand very well done they are, too. What's different here is that you'll usually find as many locals as tourists lounging away the time at the dark wood bar beneath the nondescript dining room. The only concession to decor is an assortment of farmhouse dressers, wrought-iron lamps, and some ropes of fake ivy. Refreshing.
Od tabakarije 1
Tel: 385 20 414 183
Situated on a quiet cove just outside the Pile Gate, Orhan is a less-expensive alternative to the nearby Atlas Club Nautika. Morning coffee is served on a large awning-shaded terrace that overlooks the water, but dinner is the main event: If the heaping fish platter—grilled sea bass, squid, orhan steaks (like a bluefish), and steamed mussels—sounds too ambitious for your appetite, try the slow-roasted veal or the squid-ink risotto.
Široka ulica 1 (at Vara)
Tel: 385 20 323 234
Run by the Atlas Club Nautika people, this is a reliable, reasonable fish specialist in the Old Town, offering a break from schmaltzy decor—an open room with a wooden cathedral ceiling leads to a sunny enclosed terrace.
Tel: 385 20 412 910
Right by the Hilton near the western entrance to the Old Town, the family-owned Sesame Tovjerna offers classic Dalmatian dishes in a series of picturesque settings. Order plates of cheeses and local smoked ham, osso buco with dill, chicken with rosemary and olives, or mixed fresh shellfish while admiring the view from the palazzo-floored beamed terraceor choose the ivy-covered courtyard or the barrel-vaulted dining room lined with framed prints. The 200-year-old stone house surrounded by orange trees is famous around here, so call ahead. There are also four clean, simple bedrooms overlooking the garden on the first floorwhich, at a top rate of around $115, qualifies Sesame as one of the best lodging bargains in town.