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Cherish cevapi at Charlotte’s Euro Grill & Cafe

By Helen Schwab
Restaurant Writer

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When is a sausage sandwich even better than it sounds?

When it’s cevapi on lepinje, with ajvar and kajmak. (Here, I’ll help: Say cheh-vop-ee on lay-pin-yah, with eye-var and kie-muck.)

And onions.

You’ll find this at the Euro Grill & Café on Central Avenue, a tiny building that also holds a small market of all sorts of foodstuffs, many Bosnian specialties, from smoked meats and vegetable spreads to a truly inspirational range of cookies and candy.

But back to that sandwich:

Cevapi are thumb-sized beef sausages without skins and with rounded flavor made even better by chopped white onion, served on lepinje, which is a bread somewhere between Italian focaccia (it’s moist and airily textured like that) and pita (it’s round and split into halves like that). You’ll need to order ajvar – a stewed-down relish of roasted red pepper and eggplant, which comes both spicy and non – and the sour-cream-like kajmak on the side, but be sure to do so, because the whole combination rivals the Vietnamese banh mi in its perfection. A little crunch, a little chewiness, a little richness, a little acid: Terrific.

Dino and Amela Mehic, who fled from the war in what was once Yugoslavia, run Euro Grill. They began in Charlotte with Bosna Market in 2003, then moved and expanded into serving food. You’ll see both often, cooking and running the register, and customers routinely stick their heads into the kitchen window to say hello.

If you’re not familiar with Bosnian cuisine but do know something about Mediterranean or Middle Eastern fare, you’ll find much you recognize.

Cevapi are like kofta. Pljeskavica is essentially a burger. Burek is a meat pie made with phyllo pastry, while sirnica fills the pastry layers with mild white cheese filling and zeljanica with spinach. There’s a veal kabob called raznjici, and a spicy beef sausage called sudzukica.

Then there are chewy schnitzels: breaded thin slices of beef with just fries (becka), with mushroom sauce (lovacka) or with tomato sauce studded with onions and peppers (Euro Grill schnitzel).

You can also get a mixed plate: a big lepinje with cevapi, sudzukica, a small pljeskavica and a skewer of kabob and peppers (with a nice bit of char), and some mild cabbage slaw. And there’s a salad of chopped iceberg, bright peppers, onions, tomato, cucumber and feta.

Drinks range from sparkling Bosnian mineral water to Cockta and Jupi (like Coke, but sweeter, and an orange soda) to Turkish coffee.

Dino Mehic can explain dishes to newcomers, and there’s warm comfort in that small dining space, its mint green walls dotted with round mirrors in various sizes, and its tables clothed in blue-and-white checks.

On one visit, our table got into a lively discussion with a neighboring diner about roasted red peppers. He explained how all of Bosnia smells of them in September, and the countryside turns red when gardeners hang them up to dry for winter use. Then we talked about what we all lose when people insist on eating vegetables and fruits when they’re not in season.

Not just flavor or money – but respect for what’s traditional, wise and good, too.

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