Slovak food is made using a variety of traditional and European products and ingredients. In shops, supermarkets or hypermarkets you can buy all kinds of vegetables and fruit in season, meat, milk products, pastry, bread, mineral and spring water, and sweets. You can also buy fresh homegrown fruit and vegetables and some other products at open-air markets.
There are many restaurants in Slovakia ranging from cheap to expensive. For a drink, it is more usual to go to a pub where you can also have a meal. Larger cities usually have restaurants offering a national and an international cuisine, the most common being Italian, Chinese, Balkan, Czech and Hungarian. Beer and wine (domestic and foreign) are of good quality and usually consumed with the dinner.
Lunch is the main meal and Slovaks are more used to eating out for lunch than for dinner. Most restaurants in town centres have special lunch offers (“denné menu”, usually consisting of a bowl of soup and a main course), which are cheaper than other meals served there. Restaurants are open from Monday to Sunday from morning till night. Stores and restaurants which open 24 hours a day have a sign reading “nonstop”.
Unless the menu states that service is included, tipping is expected. 5–10 % is a standard tip in a restaurant with waiter service. Waiters usually give the customer the total of the bill and the customer, as he/she hands over the money, says how much he/she is paying including the tip. In restaurants and bars, it is usual to round up the price, the tip being roughly 10 %.
The main ingredients that have shaped traditional Slovak cuisine are potatoes, sauerkraut, pork, poultry, "bryndza" (cheese made from sheep’s milk) and pulses. The number one national soup is sauerkraut soup (hearty cabbage soup with smoked pork sausage that often contains mushrooms, and sometimes plums, especially at Christmas). Another typical Slovak soup is made of beans and root vegetables such as carrot and parsley. Sometimes, smoked pork is added. The most traditional national dish served as the main course is "bryndzové halušky", i.e. gnocchi/dumplings topped with "bryndza" and fried bacon. Another traditional dish is "strapačky s kapustou", dumplings with cabbage and sometimes with fried bacon. As the most common dessert one can always have sweet pancakes. Traditionally, we serve them with either jam or cottage cheese and raisins topped with whipped cream and chocolate. From the Slovak region of Záhorie comes an interesting pastry called "Skalický trdelník" in shape of a roll with a hole inside.
Cheese and cheese products are other typical Slovak specialties. Besides already mentioned "bryndza", the most popular are the "korbáčik" – sheep’s cheese strings interwoven into fine braids, "parenica" – steamed sheep’s cheese strips woven into snail‑like curls, "oštiepok" – smoked sheep’s cheese shaped in wooden moulds.
The most popular wines are those from the Tokaj, Small Carpathians, Nitra, Topoľčany and Záhorie regions. In winter, try the mulled wine. Young wine ("burčiak") is available in the first half of September and is usually the subject of harvest festivals. Hubert, the Slovak sparkling wine and "Karpatské brandy Špeciál" (the Carpathian brandy Special) are also highly rated. Typical Slovak liqueurs are Demänovka, Horec and Tatranský čaj from the region of the High Tatras. "Slivovica" (plum brandy) and "borovička" (the juniper berry brandy, gin) are popular Slovak aperitifs. To the uninitiated, these drinks will appear quite strong. Let us not forget that Slovakia also produces excellent beer. The popular brands are Zlatý Bažant, Corgoň, Smädný mních, Šariš, Martiner, Topvar, Urpiner.