Sofia may be the cuisine capital of Bulgaria, but when it comes to informal dining, Varna blows the socks off its big sister. Cafes and snack bars line the evening korso that stretches from Nezavisimost Square to the Slivnitsa before it spills onto the beach. Here, sandwiched between the city's Sea Gardens and the long curve of its sandy beach, is a wide ribbon of makeshift beach restaurants and bars that curve out from the harbor, finally petering out some 5 to 8km (3-5 miles) north. You can wander along and simply stop at the first place that takes your fancy: The backdrop -- a deep sandy beach, lapped by the gentle waters of the Black Sea -- is hard to beat. Rated the best fish restaurant by locals, BM Zaliva marks the southern tip of the beach. It's a great informal dive (plastic chairs; toes in the sand) where you could opt for a simple sesame-encrusted hake, a hunk of breaded shark, a meaty pan-fried red mullet, or the pricey turbot, fried in garlic and olive oil. But if you've had enough of the thumping beachfront scene, make sure you sample one of the following.

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