25 February 2006

Homestyle Bosnian in New York

One evening as I was heading to Penn Station, I noticed Ben’s Kosher Delicatessen and stopped. I was hungry and wanted to eat before I caught my train. I hesitated, though, because I’d been to Ben’s before, and found the food just adequate, though expensive, and the service indifferent or worse. However, in my walk down W 38th I’d seen nothing that made me suspect I would meet with any treasures between here and the train station.

So I went inside and withstood the unfriendly service to eat my adequate, expensive meal. I came out uncomfortably full (the inevitable result of going to eat at a Jewish delicatessen by yourself) and continued down W 38th, where, to my chagrin, I spotted a downstairs storefront advertising “Authentic Balkan Cuisine.”

Better luck next time. A month or so later, Victor and I found ourselves taking the same route to Penn Station, and decided to check out “Authentic Balkan Cuisine,” otherwise known as Djerdan, which is almost directly across the street from Spandex World (this part of town is full of trim and fabric shops of all types).

Djerdan offers Bosnian specialties, and is particularly proud of its bureks, which are savory, multilayered pies made of flaky pastry with spinach or meat or potato and cheese. We tried a slice of the spinach, which was rich and almost creamy.

We also tried a bowl of the vegetable soup, which was deliciously homemade-tasting, and the Bosnian special. The menu describes this as a vegetable stew (cabbage, peppers, tomatoes, and potatoes) with “bits of veal.” In fact, the stew features rather enormous hunks of tender meat. The amount of meat surprised us, but it was very tasty.

For dessert, we chose the Keks Torta, which was like tiramisu without the coffee. Since I’m not a coffee drinker (and am indifferent to tiramisu for that reason), I found it pretty heavenly.

In general, everything was very savory and homey. My grandmother was Hungarian, not Bosnian, but this was food I could imagine her making. In spite of its downstairs location, Djerdan has a cheerful, bright atmosphere, and we will certainly return when next we’re in the area.

221 W 38th Street
New York, NY 10018

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