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beer and chocolate

Walking down a narrow cobblestone street that led to Lviv’s central square, we noticed the lit-up facade of a building that seemed to draw an unusual number of passersby. There were various decorated tanks and tubs that were connected Willy Wonka-style by pipes that reached from the fourth floor all the way to the seating area outside. The building housed Lviv’s famed chocolate factory and for the better part of the next hour we lost ourselves inside.

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There were two giant tubs of melted chocolate at the entrance, and more varieties of chocolate candy upstairs than one could possibly count — and we only made it to the second of four floors! One could watch the chocolates being made on the first floor — gallons of liquified chocolate mixed, stirred, and cut into an array of tasty treats. We spent most of our time upstairs in the shop area, trying to make the difficult choice of which delectable goodies to buy. Left to her own devices, S likely would have spent several hours at the chocolate factory, but it was dinnertime and D promised her another visit the following day in order to hasten our exit.

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If S was a bit more excited by the Willy Wonka-esque factory than D was, our choice of dinner venue tipped the scales in the other direction. We had picked Kumpel based on TripAdvisor reviews, but they understated the popularity of the restaurant. The maitre’d smirked when D told him that we had not realized that we needed a reservation, and politely informed us that we had chosen Lviv’s most popular restaurant. It was completely booked, but fortunately one of the servers found a tiny table by the kitchen door to accommodate us.

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In addition to the chocolate factory and some amazing restaurants, Lviv is also home to approximately 750 cafes — more than one per thousand inhabitants.

The cramped quarters were well worth it. First and foremost, Kumpel is a brew house. In a city that boasts one of Europe’s oldest beer factories, Kumpel is a new craft brewery that more than lives up to Lviv’s high brewing standards. To complement its beer selection, the Kumpel restaurant (which is actually four separate businesses under one roof, as we learned when we were presented four separate bills) also has its own butcher shop. The restaurant makes its own sausages and offers such delicacies as ribbon-shaped fried pig ears, deep-fried pig trotters, smoked shin fried in beer, and stewed goose bellybuttons.

D ordered an appetizer of bacon-wrapped veal tongue to go with his first beer while S immersed herself in the thick menu. There was a mixed platter called “Kumpel’s advice”, but it came with a caution — it was recommended for two strong kumpels… or four ladies, which given the size of D’s appetizer sounded like it would be more than we could handle. There were also some zucchini dumplings for a lady and home-style marinated dainties (vegetables). On a 1-10 scale, Kumpel rates an 11 for machismo. S chose an assortment of chicken wings, which included wings stuffed with mushrooms and was accompanied by several homemade sauces, and followed it up with a bread bowl of obscenely delicious cream soup. D had a plate of salo and ordered a pickle platter to chase his second beer.

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How macho is this restaurant? If one rubs this statue the right way it will fill a glass with beer. It’s true – we saw it with our own eyes. Of course, it takes most patrons a long time to figure out the trick, so they make complete fools of themselves in the meantime.

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The next day, before leaving Lviv, we went back for more chocolate. We were sitting at a little table outside the chocolate factory, indulging in our cups of melted chocolate when the pipes started making noise. Before we had realized what was happening, a small army of visitors had filled the terrace. One of the chocolatiers positioned himself with a basin underneath the pipe, which after some more gurgling began to emit steaming hot chocolate — free samples of Lviv’s chocolate goodness.

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When one travels as much as we do, museums, cathedrals, and other must-see sights tend to all blend together after a while. One is awed in the moment, but usually it is difficult to put one’s finger on precisely what made each attraction so noteworthy. The same cannot be said of restaurants. For example, a decade after D took his parents to Barcelona, his father still recalls fondly the restaurant on the wharf of the olympic village that served heaping platters of insanely delicious seafood. There is a high likelihood that Lviv’s chocolate factory and beer house will evoke similar recollections from us for many years to come.

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2 Comments Post a comment
  1. I had never thought of it that way, but that is so true about restaurants versus other attractions. And that chocolate factory looks like a dream!

    October 28, 2013
    • Certainly puts travel in perspective, right? We have friends who plan their tourist outings around restaurants rather than landmarks. We’re not quite there, but can definitely appreciate that food plays an important part of any meaningful trip – one always gets a much better perspective of a foreign country through its food. And yes, that chocolate factory is like something out of a book.

      October 29, 2013

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