It’s no secret that food is a major source of happiness in my life. Cooking, eating, and sharing recipes are a cornerstone of communication in my family and amongst many of my friends. At least four people have (correctly) joked that the timelines of my stories are all based in food; “it was the night I ate that risotto in Skopje” or “right next to the place with all of the hanging umbrellas” are commonplace identifiers in my vernacular.
My love for food is the precise reason why, last Sunday, tracking down my favorite Belgrade meal became a mission. Given our adventure of a work week and propensity to give in to the jet lag, my roommates and I decided to give ourselves the morning to sleep in- and to be quite honest we needed it. However, this meant that our day began well into the afternoon.
With the late hour and our sparse kitchen cabinets as motivation, we set out with the ultimate goal of seeing more of the city. This quickly transformed into a search for food. Naturally.
Using directional orientation as a semi legitimate excuse, I suggested we head for the hotel we had been in last summer so that we could maybe, possibly, if we wanted to, go to the restaurant down the street. The restaurant, named Zavičaj, has a distinctly German vibe despite the fact that everything about it is traditionally Serbian. It became something of a home base for us over the summer as we blew in and out of the city over the course of seven or eight days; I must’ve eaten there at least three times and I know for a fact there are others who beat that number by at least two.
It was the first thing we did upon arriving in Belgrade- after spending the day on a bus food was the priority. About eight of us showed up, hungry, American, and desperate to get to sleep. Despite our disheveled appearance and half present manners, the wait staff was nothing but kind and took fantastic care of us. We left happy, sated, and wanting more. (Take note, the photos below were all taken on separate occasions)
On the aforementioned bus ride to Belgrade, our resident Serb told us all about the Serbian burger and how we absolutely HAD to try it. Now, when I hear the word ‘burger’ I picture a bun, a patty, and some American cheese. So, when my plate arrived with a slab of beef and some French fries I was a little bit confused. At this point I was used to ordering things and receiving a dish that was ‘a little to the left’ of what I had expected, so I went with it. To my surprise, it was fantastic.
A Serbian burger is essentially a pork and beef patty seasoned with sweet onions. This particular restaurant serves it with french fries and fresh sweet onions (almost everything in the Balkans comes with them) (it’s weird at first but then you start enjoying it) (unless you don’t like onions. Then, well, sorry) which complement the meat perfectly.
This was among the first things I talked about when asked about my favorite part of my visit to the Balkans and six months later, when I returned, I set my sights on it as soon as possible. Which is why, at 5 pm on a Saturday I dragged my roommates halfway across Belgrade in the cold (sorry guys) to get to this restaurant.
I was not let down. The burger came out exactly how I remembered it; I was in bliss.
It’s certainly weird to think that I have favorite things in Belgrade- places, restaurants, views. Sometimes I forget that you can visit the same place twice, but I’ve been having a wonderful time rediscovering the things I came to know last July nonetheless.
I have a running list of other meals I want to revisit. Comment below if you have any recs in the Belgrade area!