In Praise of Ćevapi, A Killer Meat Kebab from the Balkans
Garlicky grilled meat stuffed into a fresh flatbread: What's not to love? While countries across the world have their own favorite minced meats, from meatballs to kebabs, much of the Balkans, including Bosnia, Croatia and Serbia, are devoted to ćevapi‑skinny, finger-shaped, garlic-laced meats best served as a sandwich.
While ćevapi can be served in the nude, you'll often find them encased in fresh flatbread. And like just about any sandwich, they're even better with condiments. We’re particularly fond of the red pepper-eggplant spread ajvar.
The bread. Different flatbreads are common ćevapi vehicles; some resemble pita, while others are thicker and fluffier, almost like a focaccia.
The filling. Ćevapi can be made from beef, lamb, pork, or any combination thereof. But all versions must be long and skinny, laced with garlic and spice and grilled until they're gorgeously browned all along their exterior. Pile 'em with ajvar, or kaymak (like a clotted cream), with some diced white onion thrown in for good measure.
Where to get it:
Ukus, Astoria. Like so many Balkan restaurants, Ukus offers serious value. A squishy pita stuffed with 10 garlicky mini-sausages that could feed at least two people is only $12,
Euro Grill & Cafe, Charlotte. While the beautifully charred ćevapi are enough to make this cheery café worth a visit, the spongy, fresh lepinje bread makes for a truly incomparable sandwich—particularly when slathered with a thick layer of tangy kaymak and ajvar.
Cevapcici, Chicago. This beloved street stand, run by two Croatian-Americans, makes appearances at festivals around the Chicago area, winning fans wherever it goes for its grilled lamb-beef-pork sausages, spicy eggplant-pepper ajvar, and olive oil-toasted pita.