In a grocery store at the corner of Gwinnett Drive and Scenic Highway North in Lawrenceville, you can find Latvian sprats and sardines in cans; jars of Eastern European rose-hip jam; sweet, waxen green peppers from nearby Amish farms; and fluffy pita bread. In the adjoining cafe that occupies the same building, you can fill up on Bosnian sausage, cabbage rolls, rustic soups and stews, hamburgers the size of Frisbees.
Euro Gourmet Grill, a restaurant-supermarket combo owned by Bosnian immigrants, is not a place for people with dainty appetites, though the sprawling front patio seems to be a gathering spot for those who only want to enjoy an espresso and a smoke. Rather, it’s a mecca for meat lovers, where you go for generous piles of sudzukice (spicy beef links); cevapcici (minced-meat kebabs); raznjici (bite-size chunks of veal on a wooden skewer); or one of those comically oversize hamburgers (pljeskavica).
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Most all these flame-kissed halal meats come stuffed in a fabulously springy, oven-blistered pita bun — with a pile of chopped onion and a ramekin each of kajmak (whipped sour cream and ricotta) and ajvar (sweet roasted red pepper sauce). Slide off the top bun, slather it with condiments, and you have one of the essential pleasures of Euro Gourmet Grill: a hefty Bosnian meat sandwich. Pair it with a side of good crispy fries and you can call it a day.
But there’s more.
A so-called “Bosnian roast” that is more of a stew: a hearty, long-simmered pot of impossibly tender beef, carrots, potatoes, onions, tomatoes and aromatics. And a “Beg’s Stew” that’s more of a soup: chicken, veal, root veggies and bits of okra in a comforting (but thin) broth of milk, butter and sour cream. Think of it as Bosnian penicillin. Look for these dishes on the list of rotating daily specials at the bottom of the menu. Though we were never able to score any, the restaurant sometimes offers punjene paprike (stuffed peppers), no doubt made from those Amish-farmed beauties on display in the grocery store, and sarma (tomato-sauced cabbage rolls filled with beef and rice). Babushka cooking at its finest.
Weekends only, Euro Gourmet Grill serves a fine rendition of borek, a flaky phyllo-pastry coil filled with beef. True to form for this restaurant, the oval-shaped borek is the size of a platter, meant to be pulled apart or sliced into pieces and shared with company. There’s also a cheese-stuffed version, sirnica, though the kitchen was out on the Saturday afternoon we stopped by.
Salads here are mostly of the lettuce-and-tomato ilk. But when you drop in for a feast of sausage and borek, order a side of kupus salata ribana, finely shredded cabbage with a heavy sprinkle of salt, the thinnest drizzle of oil and little else. A bite or two of this gently sour slaw is the perfect foil for the cafe’s belly-filling fare. Another simple salad, an eye-catching but plain-tasting arrangement of sliced tomatoes, cucumbers and red onion, is good for stuffing into your pita or dressing with a little olive oil and vinegar.
One of my lunch mates is a big fan of gyro wraps, so naturally, she wanted to try one. Fashioned from beef and lamb, I found it wholly unremarkable; you can find better versions all over town. But with the pile of fries it comes with, it was a safe, filling and frugal choice, at $6.49.
Euro Gourmet Grill has a refrigerator case by the service counter stocked with chilled desserts like tiramisu and mixed-berry cake. One of my friends was disappointed that there were no opulent, multilayered European desserts and no thick, sludgy Bosnian coffee, which she had learned to love from her travels.
But on a final visit, after stuffing our faces with meat and bread, we were in the mood for something non-savory. A pair of crepes, one filled with Nutella and one with rose-hip jam, were lovely, soothing little bites. On our way out, we stopped by the market, which goes by the name of Euro Gourmet Foods Inc., and noticed many of the ingredients we had just enjoyed, from pita to jam.
In a region populated by immigrants who have worked hard to build successful businesses, Euro Gourmet Grill is a gem, a solid spot for indulging on Bosnian diner food on the cheap. The servers are sweet, accommodating and eager to answer questions about the cuisine. I plan to keep going back on the hopes of getting stuffed peppers, cabbage rolls and sirnica. What a happy day that will be.
EURO GOURMET GRILL
9 a.m.-8 p.m. Mondays-Sundays. 488 Gwinnett Drive, Lawrenceville. 770-513-7788. No website.
Recommended: Borek (meat-filled pastry); cevapcici (minced-meat kebabs); sudzukice (spicy beef sausage); mixed-meat combo. Bosnian roast. Mashed potatoes. Shredded sour cabbage.