“Have you been Serbed?” was a headline on one of scores of enthusiastic reviews of Kafana, a Serbian restaurant on the Lower East Side, an area fast becoming the trendiest part of the city for foodies. Beamers, Jags, and stretch limos cruise among the motorcycles.
Vladimir Ocokoljic is an architect who spent years designing bars and restaurants until one day while walking his dog, Mishko, he came upon an available restaurant space and decided to establish Kafana, a charming and rustic homage to his Serbian homeland. Chairs and banquettes are covered with red and black folk tapestry and brick walls are covered with photographs of his ancestors at weddings, graduations, soccer games, and a striking 19th-century father and son in traditional garb.
Meat is the mainstay of Serbian cuisine, and cevapi, the national dish, is grilled minced meat shaped into sticks and served with chopped onion on the side. The flavor secret is the combination of pork, beef, and lamb mixed with finely minced onion and garlic. The Serbian burger (pljeskavica), made with the same mix, has become the most popular item on Kafana’s menu, attracting the likes of world tennis champ Novak Djokovic. Another tasty dish is prebranac, baked lima or great northern beans with onion and paprika. A basket of fresh bread comes to the table with ajvar, a sweet and smoky spread of roasted red pepper and eggplant. Sopska is a traditional salad of tomato, cucumber, and onion with feta cheese, similar to Greek salad.
Kafana’s excellent selection of Serbian and Eastern European wines includes Simcic Pinot Noir and Movia Cabernet, highly lauded by the wine press. Dinner daily; brunch on weekends. -- Marian Betancourt