Bernie’s Balkan Kitchen
In a somewhat frightening twist, my lunch time visit to Bernie’s Balkan Kitchen was followed by this incident just hours later in the parking lot directly behind the building. I’ve heard of doing anything for food, but getting shot is certainly not one of them… at least for me. With the treacherous, violent history of the Balkans, part of me wondered if this modern day bit of warfare so close to a business with its geographic namesake, was sadly, no small coincidence…
I recalled this post as I drove by looking for a place to get a quick meal. I’d originally planned to just get something to go as I was in a rush, but ended up taking a seat and eating inside, partly due to the wait to get my food. Based on that blogger post’s impressions, I decided not to order the apparently popular beef or cheese burek (homemade filo pastry pie) in part due to the reported lack of flavor as well as the big size (it would be too much for me to eat on this day). There was one slice left of the beef burek in the warming station, as well as one full, uncut cheese one (which later got purchased by one of the diners as a to-go item).
Other items on the menu were some soups (bean, beef goulash), under a category called “meals” that were served with rice pilaf save for the lasagne were chevapi, chufte and cabbage rolls, and “sandwiches” that encompassed their burgers (Standard or Balkan). Various side orders, one piece each of some of these items could also be had. Given the time I arrived though, I was told the cabbage rolls were not yet ready, would be at least another hour. Scratch that from my choices.
Walking through the doors still before the noon hour, it seemed that the kitchen was still busy getting things together, although a pair of the limited tables were already taken. A kind looking woman who’s voice carried well, was busy getting some of the baking bread out (the ovens apparently some second hand ones from Subway, with that chain’s sticker still on them), as well I heard her call over to one of the tables saying she was just getting some burger patties on the grill. I hemmed and hawed over the menu items for a few minutes and decided in the end to get the burger but with a twist, by asking for the Balkan one (which had their Ajvar pepper sauce and onions as toppings). The standard burger was equipped with more traditional hamburger condiments such as mayo, mustard, ketchup, lettuce, tomatoes, onions and pickles). Same price for both, $7.99.
At a half pound of beef, the Balkan Burger came with plenty of heft. Just look at the size of this thing. It reminded me of a wide Frisbee with its disc-like configuration. Cut down the middle to make it easier to handle and consume, the bread held up quite well as it was more on the harder side when it came to the outer crust. The bottom layer of bread was notably thinner in comparison to the top.
As advertised, this sandwich had lots of chopped onions, all of which were layered underneath the beef patty and mixed in with red bell pepper-based relish. As I pulled one-half of the burger away, some of the onions fell out as can be seen in the above photo. With its harsh, raw flavor, the onions unfortunately were the boldest tasting part of this whole burger. The ajvar had no impact at all, not exceedingly sweet, not sharply bitter nor tongue-shockingly spicy. Frankly, if this is what is supposed to differentiate this burger from the standard one, I can’t why you’d choose it over the more orthodox one.
While it was neatly formed and contrasted nicely against the other layers built into this burger, the beef patty on its own was once again quite forgettable. The exterior had some color but lacked the effect of a strong grill. It was somewhat limp and soft in texture and most of all, it had no flavor. If I were to try and make a direct comparison, I’d say it was very much like those salisbury steaks you got in 1980’s frozen tv dinners. No semblance of salt or pepper to boost the taste profile. Bland with a capital B. No beefy sensation to it whatsoever.
So based on this burger and it alone, I walked away unimpressed. Perhaps I need to give the burek a shot, or even come back for the other clearly ethnic offerings in the chevapi, chufte or cabbage rolls. It certainly won’t be any time soon, well at least maybe until they find out why this guy shot in the leg turned up in the neighborhood…