When in southeastern Europe, I hit the meat and hit it hard. Of course that’s a bit of a misnomer as I generally go apeshit about the meat in all of southern Europe where the pig is a saintly animal, worshiped nearly daily via ingestion. But it’s in Croatia, Bosnia, Serbia, and pretty much everywhere that a Slavic language is spoken in this region where something magical happens to dead animals when once cooked in that they glow.
My most recent trip was really for the wines at the Zagreb Wine Gourmet Weekend, but via many meals, I took in a worthy slew of carnage. A cousin in Slovenia took me to a Bosnian joint in Ljubljana that was excellent for their ćevapčići which I have loved for years. Friends took me to another meat-centric venue called, Bistro Mitnica in the Črnomerec neighborhood of Zagreb. It was also excellent, but quite different in that it was Serbian style with more pork and this hearty stew that was good and proclaimed to be “spicy” although I found it to be just a bit peppy. The kajmak was some of the best I’ve ever had though.
Then, one day on my own, I came across a meat and grill joint in Zagreb at the corner of Vlaška ulica and Trg Josipa Langa, just across from a staircase that went up the side of a hill. It’s a random spot across the street from a tram stop. The ćevapčići was fully beef, which is usually a no-no in my book, but damn if they weren’t delicious. The name of the place was something like B&G and the owner was this fellow who had lived for 25 years in Chicago and spoke English. Had I known about it earlier, I probably would have eaten there more often. It’s a little known fact that while in the US, bus stations and other points of embarkation typically have terrible food, in the Balkans they hold local gems. For instance, the kebab joint across the street from Ljubljana’s main train station or the restaurant two block up from Zagreb’s main train station that sits on Strossmayerov Trg where I had a kick ass dish of cheese štrukli.
Still, for the win, the best meat dishes (and especially ćevapčići and burek) are to be found in Sarajevo. But, if you look around, you can find a tasty hunk of dead flesh most anywhere. Just watch out for the islands though. The worst ćevapčići I ever had were in Stari Grad on Hvar, served with a very weak ajvar. Yes, not all grilled meats are created equal.