For a few years now, the food world has become increasingly enraptured by the incredible—and still amazingly undiscovered—culinary riches of Slovenia. Despite the central European country’s tiny size (roughly the size of Massachusetts but with less than a third the population), its food and wine scenes manage to deliver a one-two punch of regional flavors and newfound creativity. One achievement, however, has been glaringly missing: the global recognition of a Michelin star—that prestigious ranking reserved for the best restaurants in the world.
This month, at long last, Slovenia’s moment has finally arrived. On June 16, Michelin announced the country’s entry into its esteemed guide. Coveted stars were awarded to six Slovenian restaurants, which span the country from the capital of Ljubljana to the picturesque lakeside town of Bled. In addition, 46 others received Bib Gourmands and Michelin Plates.
“With its many influences and varied terroirs, the talent and creativity of its chefs, the exceptional quality of its local products and the focus on sustainability, Slovenia is home to restaurants that fully deserve to be discovered,” Gwendal Poullennec, International Director of the Michelin Guides, said in a statement.
The most decorated restaurant, Hiša Franko (currently number 38 on the World’s 50 Best Restaurants list), earned two stars for its sophisticated takes on seasonal, local ingredients courtesy of self-taught chef Ana Roš. Roš’s high-profile appearance on Netflix’s Chef’s Table in 2016, along with her “World’s Best Female Chef” title given in 2017, helped put Slovenian cuisine on the map. Hiša Franko is reason enough to make the two-hour journey from Ljubljana to Kobarid, an alpine town that featured prominently in Ernest Hemingway’s A Farewell to Arms.
Five more restaurants earned one star each: Atelje in Ljubljana, from chef Jorg Zupan; Dam in Nova Gorica, from chef Uroš Fakuč; Hiša Denk in Zgornja Kungota, where chef Gregor Vračko prepares a secret menu that puts a creative spin on local culinary traditions; Pri Lojzetu in Vipava, from chef Tomaž Kavčič, whose cuisine is heavily influenced by Italy; and Vila Podvin in Radovljic, from chef Uroš Štefelin. No restaurant earned three stars—the highest distinction.
Michelin’s announcement, which was postponed from March, comes at a time when the future of dining out hangs in the balance, in the wake of a pandemic that continues to shutter kitchens worldwide and has already cost the industry more than $120 billion in the U.S. alone, according to the National Restaurant Association.
“The success story of Slovenian gastronomy comes right at a time when tourism is facing one of its biggest crises to date; Michelin's arrival, therefore, offers great encouragement and motivation on Slovenian tourism's path to recovery,” Maja Pak, Director of the Slovenian Tourist Board, said in a press release.
As of June 15, the country is open to epidemiologically safe countries but is imposing a mandatory 14-day quarantine for all travelers arriving from the U.S. until health conditions improve. When that day comes when we can safely fly again, we’re moving Slovenia to the top of our must-travel list.