A reader made a great suggestion the other week and recommended we check out The Balkan Cafe on Beach Boulevard (thanks TP3). If it were not for that comment, I would not have known this great little place existed.
Nestled in a hidden corner of the Food Lion complex, across the street from the Super Walmart where Beach and Southside meet, this nice little cafe serves up authentic food and beverages from the Balkans. Jacksonville has a large population of people from the Balkans, Bosnia in particular, due to the large influx of refugees who fled the terrible conflicts that afflicted the region during the mid to late 90s. I found an article on Jacksonville.com from 1999 putting the figure at between 4,000 and 6,000 and, although I can't seem to find an official number, today it is said to be much higher. Therefore, I was always puzzled as to why I never saw any Balkan restaurants around town. Apparantly, I just wasn't looking in the right places.
I like holes in the wall, particularly those serving up good, authentic, ethnic foods and so I naturally expected that this would be such an establishment. To my surprise, the place is actually rather modern looking and super clean; not what I was expecting but in no way a disappointment. Sensing my confusion and inexperience with the food, the waiter/cashier/assistant cook/manager gladly helped me out by explaining some of the food on the menu and then offered to make me a mix of some of the items.
We ended up with Sudžuk/Sujuk, Ćevapi, and Kebapi; all essentially different kinds of sausages served with pita bread and fresh diced onions. We were also treated to some vegetable spread and a cheese spread that was very similar to cream cheese. The stodgy dishes with their abundance of protein, carbs, and fats are definitely the kind of food you would want to eat after a long day of physical labor; Everything tasted great. The sausages differed noticeably but not drastically in flavor from each other and the pita bread was nice, particularly when slathered with the spreads.
Thanks again to TP3 for the suggestion. There's apparently a lot of hidden places to eat and points of interest around Jacksonville and we aim to keep ourselves occupied by uncovering them.
8595 Beach Blvd # 305
Jacksonville, FL 32216