BALKAN EXPRESS


A Bosnian, a Serb and a Croat walk into a cafe. No, really — during my first visit to Irma's Cafe Europa, a trio of seemingly adversarial Slavs were gathered around the bar enjoying espressos and beer while shooting the breeze, not each other. The welcoming Adriatic charm of the place may have had something to do with it, or it could've been the genuinely pleasant disposition of father-and-son proprietors Sead and Mustafa Hovic. The elder Hovic also handles kitchen duties (until a permanent chef is hired sometime in March), but until then, guests can enjoy a limited menu of Balkan and Mediterranean-influenced dishes. The cevapi (Bosnian kebabs) are seasoned sausages served with doughy pita bread, fries and a red-pepper sauce for dipping. Grilled chicken kebabs were also well-seasoned, and the colorful Greek salad, with red and green peppers, monstrous chunks of feta and fat green olives, is an absolute must. I wish I had tried the tufahija (peeled and cored apples stuffed with cream and walnuts), but that gives me a reason to go back. That, and the live Bosnian music on weekends.

(Irma's Cafe Europa, 912 N. Mills Ave., 407-894-0393)

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