Our Halloween in St. Louis was filled with ice-cold pear brandy and cevapi rather than trick-or-treating and parties.
Apartments and condos line our block and so there were really were no trick-or treaters anyway. Our date night destination was my choice this weekend and I chose Grbic, a Bosnian restaurant I saw featured on Andrew Zimmern’s Bizarre Foods. Members of the Grbic family also recently won a round of Guy’s Grocery Games.
The St. Louis Bosnian shares the family’s incredible story. Sulejman and Ermina Grbic moved to St. Louis about 40 years ago and opened Grbic in 2002. During the Bosnian War, the Grbics opened their home to refugees from the war and sponsored many individuals as well. Sulejman and Ermina purchased the restaurant building in “1998, three years after the war in Bosnia had finally ceased. He presented it to Ermina as a Valentine’s day gift, which he paid for with money he saved up as a truck driver transporting toxic waste.” Sulejman and Ermina’s children Senada, Erna, and Ermin also manage different aspects of the restaurant from acting as sous chef to managing catering and banquets. I love how daughter Senada describes her childhood memories fishing with her dad in Bosnia and learning the art of butchery. “He can look at meat from a mile away and tell you if it’s good or not,” she says. Read more here.
Grbic Restaurant is ridiculously beautiful. Even on the last day of October, the hanging flower baskets adorning the patio and brick arches were plush and bright. The inside is spacious and elegant. We felt at home right away. To start, we ordered drinks and the Cevapi appetizer described as “traditional Balkan style grilled beef sausages served with Lepinja bread.” We ordered the half portion. Next time we’ll order the full.
Our server explained how the bread was soaked in meat juices. It’s hard to describe how savory and compelling the bread tasted. Plus, the grilled sausages were just the tiniest bit pink inside like the perfect burger. We made tiny sandwiches, layering the meat, bread, onion, tomato, feta, and slightly spicy sauce together. This is one of the best things we can remember eating. Truly.
When we were pursuing the drink menu, I noticed a small list of brandies. I asked our server if they were intended to be enjoyed before or after a meal, and he replied “both.” He said his favorite variety was the pear brandy, so that’s what I ordered. He warned me that it’s strong.
Indeed it was. The brandy was crisp and ice-cold and tasted like the essence of pear. It reminded me more of a vodka, but not one of those sickeningly sweet ones.
The menu reflected a mixture of European cuisines from cabbage rolls to schnitzels to fettucine alfredo. I chose the beef and rice-filled cabbage rolls topped with a paprika sauce while Jake chose a casserole of sorts called Valdostana. His dish layered spaetzles, thin slices of grilled beef, creamy mushroom sauce and mozzarella cheese. It arrived in a dish piping hot from the oven. Both meals were pure comfort food. The second cabbage roll tasted even better the next day.
Even if you don’t think you like cabbage, you might like cabbage rolls. After cooking, the cabbage is rendered silky and tender, free of any strong “cabbagy” flavors. The accompanying mashed potatoes were fine, but the spaetzle were even better. Next time I’d ask to swap.
We were intrigued when Bosnian coffee arrived on a beautiful copper plate. Our server instructed us to allow the fine coffee grounds to sink to the bottom of the cup before pouring and sipping. Jake forewent the creamer and sugar cube and sipped the coffee plain and strong while I polished off my small glass of pear brandy.
We enjoyed our first Bosnian meal at Grbic are still thinking about that cevapi. Before moving to St. Louis, we knew very little about Bosnian cuisine and culture and want to learn more. Do you have any favorite Bosnian dishes, restaurants, or shops in the St. Louis community? Where can I find delicious Burek and more pear brandy?