Cato Bar & Taqueria
A hidden colourful nook for first-rate snacks and cocktails
As all the city's enthusiastic foodies know, it’s been possible to enjoy some truly good tacos at several places in Zagreb for some time now, but the news of the opening of the first specialized taqueria made us all happy. The Delicious team hurried to check it out. Cato is the project of Dolores Kunštek, a lawyer who found her true happiness in the kitchen, so she finished culinary school and then worked as a kitchen intern in one of the best Croatian fine dining restaurants. This small yet buoyant bistro, distanced from the main events in the city centre, is worth a fifteen-minute stroll from Zagreb's main square for good food and atmosphere. In the passage of the building where it is located, there is a small gastronomic oasis where you can also find a well-known store with kitchen utensils and accessories, a small bubble tea bar and a well-known Asian food minimarket. Cato is located in two interconnected business premises with huge windows on the front side; the kitchen and the bar are in one part, and in the other there is the dining hall which accommodates some thirty people at bar-high and regular tables. The nicely decorated interior with many eye-catching details immediately makes it clear that this place is run by a woman.
A seriously good selection of electronic music, as well as the quality of the sound system contributes to the excellent atmosphere, along with regularly good attendance. The service is unobtrusive and casual, yet attentive and effective. Cato is open from Tuesday to Saturday from 9am to 1am and serves food from 5pm to 10pm. It would be a good idea to reserve your spot.
What is served
Tacos, tacos and nothing but tacos. Well, this is a taqueria after all, right? The small, narrowly specialized menu offers five types of tacos, or catos as they call them here, made from scratch, including tortillas. The portion includes three of them; the selection starts with a vegan option with mushrooms called Shrooms and a vegetarian Calabaza based on pumpkin and goat yogurt. The next three courses are various meat options; finally, the menu also offers chips with sauces and one dessert. As much attention was paid to drinks as to good food, so the wine list is interestingly wide for such a simple concept of a restaurant, as well as helpfully conceived, so all wines, including spirits, are briefly and clearly described for those who have difficulties finding their way around it. It comprises only 'natural' organic and/or biodynamic wines of conventional and familiar flavours, but also of unclear and funky expressions. The menu also includes kombucha and sparkling yerba mate infusion, freshly squeezed juices, and several types of cocoa. Coffee and tea come from a selection of the famous Lively roasters company, and the beer list is a mix of domestic craft breweries, with several international industrial beers, including Mexican. Finally, we have to mention the cocktail list, which is excellent and combines classics with twists and original cocktails; several types of mezcal and tequila are also available.
What our chefs had
Although we were told the veggie taco options were excellent, we took a rain check on them for next time, opting for the pork and chicken tacos – Carnitas and Tinga. Carnitas were fatty and delicious, with a distinct confit signature, topped with orange sauce with a dash of cinnamon, with pickled onions and jalapeños as the refreshing note. Tinga is made with chicken breast; it’s tasty and juicy, and served with guacamole and salsa macha. The blue corn tortillas made from scratch are soft and wonderfully chewy. The blue corn chips caught our attention, and rightly so because they were simply delicious. Soft and crispy, they remind of the sensation of biting into a croissant; they were accompanied by two delicious sauces, made from hot peppers and tomatillos. We ended up with the only dessert on offer and we are glad we did! It was a beautiful and juicy kaki persimmon compote, topped with cream cheese and hazelnut crumble with black sesame. We enjoyed an excellent Oaxacan negroni, in which, compared to the classic version, gin was replaced by mezcal and a bottle of sparkling yerba mate drink, which was a perfect match with our tacos.