Hidden gem serving Balkan specialties in Hodgkins industrial park

HODGKINS, Ill. (WLS) -- As the weather continues to get cooler, you might be looking for some hearty fare this week to warm things up. If you make the trip to southwest suburban Hodgkins, you'll find some of the best Serbian food in the region.

Saying Stefan Grill and Cafe is located in an odd spot is an understatement. How many times have you had a fantastic, home-cooked, Eastern European meal in the center of an industrial park, surrounded by semi-trailers? The menu is all from-scratch and the dishes hit all of the high notes from Bulgaria to Macedonia and of course, Serbia.

Eastern European food is unquestionably hearty. And if you manage to find the Stefan Grill - tucked away in the middle of an industrial park - you'll be rewarded with some of the finest examples from an extensive region.

"Even if you go around Bulgaria, Macedonia, Montenegro, Bosnia, it's pretty similar food. We have our own recipes for stuff, they have their own recipes but it's pretty much original Eastern European food," said Milica Nisavic, one of the servers at Stefan Grill.

At its core: burek. The dough is stretched by hand until it's paper-thin, then fillings such as farmer's cheese or spinach or ground beef are added, and it's baked until the layers are crisp and lacey. Served with homemade yogurt, it's a meal for two. Another staple: cevapcici, the all-beef sausages shaped like tiny batons.

"It's twice-ground and mixed with onions and after that it's grilled," said Nisavic.

Served with onions and kajmak - a spreadable cheese - they make excellent companions to the warm, crusty homemade bread served alongside.

You can also dunk your cevap into ajvar, a typical, mild spread containing red bell peppers and garlic. And if protein is your thing, try the Gypsy Platter, a lumberjack-worthy assortment of grilled beef, cevap, pork, sausage and chicken, mounded over a sea of french fries with salad.
Why all of this hearty eating, located smack-dab in the middle of a trucking and warehouse complex?

"Most Eastern European people are in trucking business. There's a lot of warehouses and companies doing business with trucking so kind of help us to get more people coming in," she said.

EXTRA COURSE: Plum brandy at Stefan Grill

In this week's Extra Course, Steve introduces you to rakia, the beloved Serbian plum brandy that's also available at the restaurant.

Stefan Grill
7101 Santa Fe Dr., Hodgkins
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