Why you should care
Because there’s more to brunch than eggs Benny.
Oh, brunch. This fancy way to nurse a hangover has become a favorite meal of late risers worldwide. Yet unlike lunch or dinner, brunch looks pretty much the same wherever you go. From a gastropub in London to a hip coffee shop in Melbourne, people queue religiously on weekends to get the same predictable mix: eggs — often poached, atop a bed of spinach — a fried pork product, toast and potatoes, washed down with Bloody Marys (or mimosas, depending on one’s level of poshness).
Really? That’s the best we can do? Not the case in one of the most multicultural nations in Europe. We’re talking Bosnia-Herzegovina. Here’s a secret: The Balkans do brunch like nobody’s business. While the unique confluence of different cultures (Turkish, Austro-Hungarian, Soviet) may have caused havoc in this country’s political history, it has made for a delicious cuisine.
Cevapcic: small beef sausages served with flat bread, onions and a slab of yellowy, creamy local cheese called “kajmak.”
Start off your hangover cure with the ultimate staple food, the cevapcic: small beef sausages served with flat bread, onions and a slab of yellowy, creamy local cheese called kajmak. You’ll find a cevapcic joint on every corner, but try to go where the locals are. In the capital, Sarajevo, your best bet is Zeljo. The smell of the slow-cooking meat on the wood-fire oven is so enticing, the place is packed even on a rainy Monday. A word of advice: Don’t ask for coffee or tea. Cevapcic is best washed down with a refreshing glass of chilled “jogurt,” a drinkable yogurt.
What about vegetarians? you ask. “What about vegetarians?” Bosnians would answer. They’re unsympathetic to anyone who doesn’t like their food killed first. But the good news is this really simplifies your choice; there’s only one option and it’s delicious. Burek is a light pastry dough filled with potato or cheese and spinach (or beef, of course). And no Bosnian brunch, which costs about $12, is complete without something sweet. Like tufahija, a poached apple filled with whipped cream and walnuts, a chocolate ball covered in chocolate sauce (pause for “yum!”) or a deliciously sticky baklava. For the best desserts, head to the classic Slastičarna Ramis, open since 1912; it’s a must-visit for wannabe diabetics.
But even for those with North American–size appetites, the Bosnian brunch might be a bit too much. “I would have certainly ordered less had I known everything was so rich and heavy,” says Maureen Irwin, a retired teacher from Minnesota who visited in September. When you start feeling sleepy (and trust us, you will), it’s time to hunt for coffee. The best Bosnian java can be found at Cafè Koffa in the southern town of Mostar. “For three centuries, people have been drinking coffee here,” barista Ryad Mithad says proudly as he explains how to pour it into the tiny ceramic cups. It looks, smells and tastes exactly like Turkish coffee — but don’t tell them that.
Granted, the Bosnian brunch is not the healthiest midday meal in the world. But walking from one joint to the next to get the full experience might make up for the Thanksgiving-size foodfest you just indulged in. Kind of.