I'll be visiting Croatia for 2 months, and have just finished staying in Malaysia for 2 months. After travelling to Malaysia I quickly learned that, while English is widely spoken to at least some degree, ordering food at restaurants can be extremely challenging. For the first 3 weeks I was in Malaysia, I struggled to learn how to order what I wanted, and decipher the meanings of things on the menu. The places that have menus in English also tend to be the places I avoid, for both the quality of the food and the ease on my wallet. (I've developed a firm belief that the small local places have way better food for way less).
It was only after finally learning that Goreng means fried (everything's fried in Malaysia); nasi means rice; and Mee, Kuey Teow, Bihun, and Maggi are different types of noodles, that I was able to finally start ordering what I wanted. Even after being here for 2 months, I'm still wading my way through trying to figure out what the hell I'm about to order/how to order it.
Stuff like Seek Kabab as opposed to Rashmee Kabab that even the waiters most fluent in English can't describe the difference between (one was chicken and the other was meatballs) plagues me to this day. And when you ask what they recommend, to get an easy dish that isn't crazy, they just say they're not eating it, and so they don't know what you want.
I've found myself ordering dependable familiar dishes to avoid getting something I absolutely don't want to eat (hot and spicy soup broth with nothing else), and I missed out on a lot of great things because of this.
SO. To finally get to the point: Help me. Help me to enjoy the hell out of Croatia, and to decrypt the process of ordering food in Croatia. I'll be mostly eating at smaller cafes, and avoiding restaurants that have fixed menus. A lot of my experiences will be going to markets to get food and cook at home, but I would love to go out and eat at local cheap places as well.
How does one order? Is it all at once?
Do you go into the restaurant and sit down, or order up front and take your food to sit down? Or do you wait to be seated?
Do people usually just eat a single dish, or should I expect to order multiple courses?
Are there any consistent phrases to look for in the menu to know what I'm expecting? (stuff like soups/grilled/fried/salad etc)
What about names of consistent ingredients? (fish, beef, chicken, prosciutto, salami, PROSCIUTTO, cheese, spinach, basil, etc)
Lastly and most importantly, what are some dependable local Croatian dishes I can look for at restaurants that most places will have, and will be good. I know that everybody has different tastes, so mostly I'm looking for stuff that has a lot of cured meats, cheese, sandwiches, salad (I've heard that a common thing is salad with pag cheese?), etc. Light and fresh. Generally not much soup, though a good stew is always awesome.
Thank you so much for your time!!! I'm so excited to visit this beautiful country, and have been looking forward to it like nothing else!