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Thursday, April 21, 2011

Old Town: Serbian Gourmet Done the Right Way

Enjoy authentic classics like sarma and chevapchichi

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Old Town Serbian Gourmet Restaurant, located in the shadow of St. Josaphat's Basilica, is a place to be festive. The dining room features stained glass and coats of arms from the former Yugoslavia, fruit brandies of the Balkans are amply stocked in the bar, and strolling musicians often accompany meals on weekend evenings.

Alexander and Radmila Radicevich established Old Town in 1971. Though they are still frequently sighted at the restaurant, the torch has been passed to their daughter, Natalia.

The menu centers on Serbian fare, but also offers roasted and grilled meats, veal, and a few seafood items. Lunches and dinners start with crusty bread and a side of kajmak—a Serbian cheese spread that is positively addictive. At dinner ajvar, a spread of roasted red peppers, also arrives. It is prepared daily in a process that takes many hours.

Dinners also include a house salad dressed with simple vinaigrette, but you might want to opt for the Serbian pepper salad ($6.95), which offers sweet red bell peppers in olive oil and vinaigrette with fresh garlic. Also consider the chicken dumpling soup ($3.95-$4.95). With its homemade broth, it is always good.

One Serbian favorite is the tongue-twister chevapchichi, which may be ordered as a starter ($5.95) or an entrée ($16.95). Chevaps are grilled sausages made with a mixture of pork, lamb, beef and veal. This is a fine in-house version served with chopped onions and tomato. The chicken paprikash ($15.95), slow-cooked in a mild paprika sauce, is just as good. The meat nearly falls off the bone.

Another favorite is sarma ($15.95), sour cabbage leaves stuffed with a blend of sausage, bacon, beef and pork. It always makes for soothing comfort food. This might be the only local menu that offers suckling pig ($22.95). Served Serbian-style at room temperature, it is lovingly made with a crisp skin and succulent meat bursting with flavor. Roast goose is often available in winter months; it can also be reserved with advance notice.

Burek ($16.95), another Serbian standard, offers layers of phyllo dough with a choice of fillings. The best filling is spinach and cheese. Bureks, which are huge here, are also available as a to-go order.

Each entree includes some sides—perhaps a starch like garlic mashed potatoes, a dumpling or rice, and a fresh vegetable like garlic spinach or carrots with pea pods. The homemade sauerkraut is especially memorable.

As an accompaniment to your meal, try a Niksicko Pivo, a Serbian beer, or perhaps a glass of Dalmatian wine. Finish with slivovitz, a Serbian brandy.

Weekday lunches are served here as well. All items are less than $10, including the veal dishes.

The efficient kitchen paces the courses at a proper speed. Dinner is not a two-hour affair.

Forty years is a long time in the restaurant business. It's good to know that Old Town remains in very good hands.

Old Town Serbian Gourmet Restaurant

522 W. Lincoln Ave.

(414) 672-0206

$$-$$$

Credit Cards: MC, VS

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