There is something to be said for places that only do one thing, but do them exceptionally well. One place that has gotten its specialty down to a science is Dukagjini Burek (758 Lydig Ave.) in the Bronx, which only serves bureks (named for the Kosovo-born Albanian owner’s homeland). A burek is a a savory phyllo pie stuffed with meat and/or cheese, and is common throughout the Balkans. We have tasted many bureks throughout the years and we always look forward to the new one.
We knew we were in the right place when we saw several cars double parked in front of the bakery with people jumping out quickly to grab a piece of Burek while dodging the traffic cops. This shop is open every day from morning until night, and we actually ended up popping in for a slice for breakfast. Dukagjini is a counter-service bakery that sells bureks whole ($20) or by the piece ($5 – basically a quarter of a gigantic burek). The three varieties are feta, feta and spinach and beef and onion. You can mix and match your choices, and we opted for spinach. The ONLY other option is getting a side of yogurt ($2) or a cup of coffee. We went with spinach.
When we arrived, the shop was manned by two women, cutting pieces of burek to order amidst a sea of pizza boxes. There are a few tables to enjoy your burek, but most, including us, would prefer to take theirs to go. When home, we promptly tucked into our burek. The filling was light and flaky, and the spinach and feta filling was deliciously savory and salty, but not greasy at all. We have had many renditions of burek over the years and this is one of the best we have ever sampled!
Three Brothers Bar & Restaurant
2414 S Saint Clair St
Somehow, after following sprawling and oblique Google Maps directions through the spaghetti-highway maze that is Milwaukee, we arrived at the inimitable Three Brothers. It’s a bit tricky to get to, but you’ll know you are in the right place when you see the Victorian building with the blue and green Schlitz globe on the roof. The weather-worn corner building in fact was once a Schlitz tavern.Once inside, there are a row of formica tables and chairs topped with mismatched china and vintage lamps. A wooden bar runs the length of the rest of the space, though there are in fact no bar stools. Though it may have a humble appearance, Three Brothers is actually a 2002 James Beard winner, and has been run by the Branko Radicevic and his family for over 50 years. We were greeted by a friendly server with a slight accent, perhaps part of Radicevic clan, and we quickly placed an order for burek (more on that later). The menu had a variety of Serbian dishes including pljeskavica, akin to a type of Serbian hamburger, roast pork, cevapici (a blend of grilled beef and veal) and sarma (stuffed cabbage).We started off the meal with a Serbian Salad, which is not a “salad” in the proper sense of the word – it consisted primarily of salty feta, some green pepper, onions and tomatoes. Not that we had any objections to a salad consisting mostly of cheese. M ordered the Chicken Paprikash, which like most everything at the restaurant was completely over-sized. The dish came with 2 pieces of falling-off the bone chicken, and a rich creamy sauce, with a hint of paprika. But of course the star of the meal was the burek, which every review we have ever seen, raves about. Since we had ordered it when we sat down, it arrived right along with the other entree.
As you can see above – this Burek was no joke. It arrived at our table as big as a dinner plate, and probably about 4 inches tall. Think Greek Spanakopita on steroids. We ordered the cheese burek, which arrived piping hot with loads of feta and spinach sandwiched between layers of buttery phyllo dough. Between the 2 of us we barely ate 1/2 of the burek, which meant we had quite a lovely lunch for the next day. We think it’s garnered its glowing reputation with reason. Though it was hard to get to, making the trek to Three Brothers was definitely worth it for some delicious Serbian food in a friendly family atmosphere. We can understand why it’s been a Milwaukee institution for all these years.
7555 N. Ridge
The thing about places with small menus is that they usually do those few items really well. And the menu of Deta’s is about as small as they get. Think 2 items. Deta’s itself is blink-and-you’ll-miss-it small, tucked into a small storefront on Ridge off of a bustling stretch of Howard. At Deta’s you basically have a choice of either a Burek or a salad, and the dessert of the day. The showpiece of Deta’s is definitely the Burek, an intricate cousin of the calzone, which is a coiled pastry with a variety of fillings – Deta’s does meat or cheese. Call ahead if you have a particular preference – there was only meat when we visited.
Between the two of us we ordered a Greek salad ($6) and a meat Burek ($6.50). The Greek salad was simple but fresh, with tomatoes, red and green bell peppers and a generous helping of feta. The salad was bigger than we expected, but it was nowhere near as zaftig as the burek. As you can see below, the burek is monster-sized. The photo only features one half! The Burek is something of a national obsession in Montenegro, and is a major source of local culinary pride. And we can say that Deta’s does it proud. The crust was flaky and tender, and the ground beef filling was tasty and delicately spiced. We even surprised ourselves by finishing the massive dish. According to the menu, the burek is typically served with a yogurt drink, not typically ordered by American patrons. However we didn’t notice this until after we ordered!
Eating at Deta’s is like eating in your grandma’s living room. We kind of get the sense that this little cafe does pretty much serve as Deta’s living room. During our meal, Deta and a group of relatives and friends chatted and noshed in a big table behind us while music from Montegenro blared over dubbed soap operas. After dinner we chatted with Deta. We told her that we would have like to try the enigmatic yogurt drink mentioned on the takeout menu- and I think she was impressed by our modest attempt at culinary authenticity. She told us to try the yogurt next time and also to call in advance – she would make whatever type of Burek we wanted. We’re looking forward to making a return visit to try the cheese burek and to talk with Deta – she’s the Montenegrin grandma we never had!