Smoke Meets Meat at Kafana

There’s a grillmaster in the house at Kafana, which stakes a claim as New York’s first Serbian restaurant. The mixed grill platter offers a sampling of smoked pork loin, a couple of sausages, and chicken livers and walnut-and-cheese-stuffed prunes, both wrapped in bacon—“there was not one thing on that plate that wasn’t amazing,” declares _emilie_.

venera, who finds this to be “hands-down the best Serbian food I’ve had outside Belgrade,” is still thinking about those prunes: “Like with all Balkan grills, they were slightly charred on the outside (as they should be). The contrast between sweet, salty, chewy, and crunchy was a delight.” Peasant sausage (seljacka kobasica) is grilled and served alone or in a traditional pairing with baked beans; the well-seasoned meat is “assertive and a perfect complement to the creamy, buttery beans,” venera writes. One thing that sets Kafana apart from most other Balkan restaurants around town is pork—here it’s used; at Muslim-run places, it isn’t. The result, venera suggests, is moister and more flavorful minced meat in various forms, including the peasant sausage, cevapi, and the burgerlike pljeskavica.

Off the grill, hounds praise gibanica, a phyllo pie filled with white cheese; house-made ajvar, the red pepper spread served alongside bread; and, for dessert, pita sa visnjama, a strudelish sour-cherry pie. But those grilled meats are the main event here, says _emilie_, who issues a challenge to New York’s barbecue houses: “how does Kafana get all of those wonderful smoked flavors into their meats, and yet NOT ONE of all of the overhyped barbecue places in this town can manage the same thing?”

Kafana [East Village]
116 Avenue C (between E. Seventh and Eighth streets), Manhattan
212-353-8000

Board Link: Updated Balkan Recs?