Kiko's Market and Restaurant specializes in Balkan foods

January 25, 2013 9:55:27 AM PST
Food in the Balkans is highly-specialized, with an emphasis on long-smoked meats and beef sausages.

A warning to all of our lovely vegan and vegetarian friends out there: Balkans food is almost exclusively focused on beef. Not thick, juicy steaks, -- but rather, thinly-pounded veal schnitzels and juicy, plump little beef sausages that would make a Bosnian drool.

If ever there was a meaty, starchy respite for Balkan expats, Kiko's Market and Restaurant in Lincoln Square would have to be it.

The meat slicer in the deli runs all day long, turning narrow hunks of beef that have been cured and smoked for two weeks in the basement, into thin and delicate slices, assembled on platters with olives and salty cheese. The deli is also the place to pick up imported groceries, homemade, flaky cheese-filled burek and trays of sweet baklava. But the gathering place is next door, in the restaurant, where hearty food satisfies cravings from several countries.

"You cannot focus just one country; people from the country. We are focused on the whole ex-Yugoslavia, which is Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia, Serbia, Montenegro and Macedonia," said Amar Gljiva, who's family owns Kiko's.

Without question, the most popular item is the cevapcici: a juicy beef sausage link cooked on the grill. Housemade bread is doused in oil and spices, then placed over the cevapcici to steam. When orders come in, 10 links are jammed between the puffy layers, mounded with chopped white onions and served with a side of spreadable cheese.

Crepes are also commonplace. A thick batter holds both sweet and savory fillings, such as sautéed tomatoes and peppers. Thinly-pounded veal is filled with some of those smoked meat slices, as well as mozzarella cheese; it's rolled up, tied with string, then grilled. In another example of schnitzel usage, heavy cream and mushrooms form a warm, cozy blanket around the pounded-and-floured veal, serving up Balkan comfort on a plate.

Peppers are almost always stuffed, and most salads get a shower of salty feta cheese. Sweets usually call for phyllo dough, sometimes drizzled with chocolate, or just a simple, walnut-stuffed baked apple. Clearly, the target audience knows what's in store.

"We also have a lot of Romanian customers, Bulgarians, Germans, Americans. So this restaurant is for everyone, not just for Bosnians," he said.

Kiko's also does quite a bit of catering, and upon request, will serve their massive cevapcici sandwiches with ajvar, the eggplant-and-red pepper spread that is also used frequently in the Balkans.

Kiko's Market & Restaurant 5077 N. Lincoln Ave. 773-271-7006