Traditionally, that means skinless sausages of beef and pork, but Etno Village Grill in Lincoln Park raises the bar for Croatian and Yugoslavian fare -- and it all begins with a sandwich.
There are literally dozens of sandwich shops in Chicago, but most of them follow the same script: deli meats and cheeses - often made elsewhere - served on bread ranging from rye to wheat. But Etno Village Grill follows a different format. Homemade Balkan sausages are tucked into artisanal bread and loaded up with your choice of exquisite, homemade condiments.
Cevap or cevapcici is a skinless sausage made from beef and pork, usually made and consumed in places like Yugoslavia and Croatia. But at the tiny and charming Etno Village Grill in Lincoln Park, the humble cevap is the star of an impressive sandwich.
"Within that we've taken that concept and packaged it within a very rustic environment and feel....and then out of the meats and the produce that we use, everything is hormone and antibiotic-free in terms of the meat, grass finished beef," said Daniel Karatosic, owner of Etno Village Grill.
So it's peasant food, but with a modern sensibility. Once grilled, the cevap is placed into artisan Balkan bread made by the Beograd Cafe on the Northwest Side. Then it's up to you, as you customize the sandwich with an impressive range of condiments.
"So again, we took the concept which was a little bit sparse in terms of what kind of condiments go on there and we took it again to the next level in terms of offering 20 different condiments - all fresh, seasonal type of vegetables and that really produces a unique experience," said Karatosic.
Consider the classic spread called ajvar: mashed red peppers, eggplant and garlic.. or the Etno spread, consisting of salty feta, creamy sour cream and a hint of chili pepper. Other highlights include baby carrots or tart cabbage; plus caramelized onions or cucumber yogurt; spinach and feta is another great combo. Either way, you decide.
You could also order a grilled chicken cevap, and instead of the regular artisan, have it in wheat bread instead. The sandwich board is extensive, featuring beef, pork, chicken and vegetarian choices. Another highlight, the "Inspiration" sandwich, filled with thinly-pounded pork loin, cabbage, red peppers and dijon mustard. The owners are hoping to make this tiny little corner sandwich joint a must-stop for anyone craving a tasty, homemade, customizable sandwich.
"You know everywhere from Balkan street food to a burger...we really have it all here at Etno Village Grill," he said.
And the owners say they might continue adding some Balkan favorites to the menu over the next few months, including dessert.
Etno Village Grill
2580 N. Lincoln Ave