The Balkan Treat Box in St. Louis

Some people crash weddings; others high-end parties. And in case you didn’t know, Nabol and I are known for crashing close-knit cultural gatherings at churches, community centers, parks — you name it. A few years back, for instance, we found ourselves at the Holy Resurrection Serbian Orthodox Cathedral, at a time when Serb Fest was not exactly widely known in the city of Chicago. But of course, good food and entertainment was all it took to lure us into our mission.

Our reward for getting outside of our comfort zone? Our first plate of cevapi. These tiny sausages were full of flavor and burst in your mouth with delicious juices that you can mop with a soft, pita-like bread. The lady who sold them to us was so happy we had decided to stop by that she filled our plate with enough cevapi for another meal and even gave us desserts to take home. Needless to say, we were instant fans of Balkan food and the people of that region.

So obviously when my coworker Sue invited me for lunch at The Balkan Treat Box in the Webster Groves area of St. Louis, I was immediately in.

This restaurant has been a St. Louis favorite even before it opened. The Balkan Treat Box started in early 2017 as a food truck and slowly started gathering fans by word of mouth. Fast forward to February 2019, they opened a brick-and-mortar location that is so popular you’ll often find a line that snakes out the door.

“We serve street food from the Balkan region. If you travel to Bosnia, Servia, Turkey, Montenegro, Albania, you’ll find bites similar to these,” says co-owner Edo Nalic. “My favorite is cevapi. It’s a Bosnian staple, grilled beef sausages that we serve on somun. That’s the bread that we bake every day in our oven. You just rip off the bread, grab a sausage and eat it like finger food.” 

Edo and his wife Loryn wanted to bring to St. Louis the food that Edo grew up eating on the Bosnian-Serbian border.

“I was missing food from my home. So, we decided to start with a food truck, but for us to do it well, we knew that she [Loryn] had to go to Bosnia and eat the food there, travel a little and just experience the hospitality, the food, the flavors, and spices.”

As the chef, Loryn was able to gather and learn the authentic recipes and techniques that you now see on the menu. Some fan favorites include Lahmacun, a Turkish-style flatbread served with minced beef or tofu. Then, you also have the Pljeskavica, or the “Balkan burger,” and the pide, a boat-shaped Turkish flatbread topped with beef, chicken or eggplant, and kajmak (creamy white cheese), ajvar (red pepper paste), and cabbage.

Coming here to learn about Edo and Loryn, and to enjoy lunch with my coworkers was truly a treat, which after all, is the point of this restaurant — A while back, Edo told the St. Louis magazine that when he was growing up, eating out was truly a treat because people would normally eat at home. (Nabol and I can certainly relate to that!) Eating out was a way to treat yourself, the same way Edo also wants his restaurant to be a treat for those who visit.

If you haven’t done so yet, I highly recommend a visit to The Balkan Treat Box. They only open from Wednesday to Sunday from 11:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m., so make sure to come early. Because they often sell out.

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