It was like a dream coming true, kind of. For the past several years Croatia had been my number one bucket list travel destination. However, due to limited vacation time and my previously planned travel, I was only spending a long weekend in Croatia. Of course for around $350 round trip, I could definitely justify it. Due to short duration, I was only visiting Zagreb. Places like Dubrovnik and Split will have to wait until next time, and knowing me next time may not be that far away. Less than a day in and I was already in love with Croatia. It started with an amazing first dinner in Croatia and a night in a really nice hotel and now it was time for breakfast at Burek.
What is a Burek?
Burek popped up several times in my research of best budget restaurants in Croatia. More importantly, Burek was a recommendation from one of my wife’s friends, and this friend grew up in Zagreb. Her friend was really excited that I was visiting Zagreb, and couldn’t help but provide several recommendations. Of her recommendations, this was one I was the most excited about. A burek was a combination of my favorite things.
A Burek is a traditional pastry of the Baltic Countries like Serbia, Greece, Albania, Macedonia, Bulgaria, Romania, Bosnia, and former Yugoslavian nationals like Croatia. They make them from thin flaky pastry dough, like phyllo, fill them with anything from meat, cheese, or fruit. Croatians traditionally fill their bureks with meat and minced onions, but they are now commonly filled with cheese, spinach, apple, sour cherries, potatoes, or mushrooms. My mouth is watering just from writing this. It is basically one of the ultimate comfort foods (well at least for me).
I am always skeptical about every restaurant I go to. Until I bite into the food the restaurant is suspect; recommendations have burned me too many times. However, there are several things I look for that tip me off if a restaurant is going to be good. 1) The restaurant is a bit of a dive; 2) They have a simple concept; 3) they have a tiny menu. Burek had all three of these
Burek is a Bit of a Dive
All three of these things that get my excited about a restaurant center around one question. How could a the place stay in business? For instance how can a dive stay in business? I can tell you exactly why, by being damn good. When a restaurant is divey but makes enough money to stay in business you know the food must be good. While calling a restaurant a dive could be considered by some as an insult, I personally see it as a complement. By dive I don’t necessarily mean a dump, by dive I just mean minimal. A restaurant with absolutely no frills.
Burek was just that. Minimal. Inside this small restaurant there were not any tables or even any chairs. There was just places to stand at the counter and eat. there were about 3 tables with chairs right outside of the restaurant if you did want to sit down. Again, it was very minimal. Burek, however, was not dumpy by any means. Their interior had nice stone finishes, but again it was pretty bare. Which leads to the key question, how can a restaurant stay in business with no tables, no chairs, and barely any decor? By having great food. Plain and simple.
The Concept is Extremely Simple
There name describes their concept to a tee. Burek. Their concept is simply a traditional Croatian pastry. As far as concepts go, it is hard to get simpler. So again we ask the question. How can a restaurant stay in business with a concept centered around only one food? This is not a bakery that makes a ton of different types of pastries and cakes, just burek. It must be damn good burek.
Burek’s Menu is small
While there is some overlap between a simple concept and a small menu, this is not always the case. Places that initially had a simple concept, can grow and become a place with a huge menu that doesn’t do anything good (think IHOP or Cheesecake Factory). You can also have a simple concept that has a huge menu. Like wing shops with 30+ different sauces or hot dog places with so many different “signature” dogs”. They all have simple concepts, but large menus. They live by the old saying, variety is the spice of life. However, this is not the the case with Burek.
Burek’s menu consists of 4 items. 1) Burek with Cheese; 2) Burek with Meat (probably beef i didn’t ask though); 3) Burek with Apples; and 4) a side of yogurt. So basically, there are three things (and yogurt). How can a company stay in business only selling 3 or 4 items, in a major tourist area, at about $2 each item? Easy they must sell a metric (because it is Europe) ton of Burek because they are SO GOOD!
So How was it?
So we know why I was drawn to Burek, and extremely excited to try it. I walked in an ordered myself a cheese burek, which cost me 15 Croatian Kuna (about $2.25). Based on price alone, I was already head over heels for this place.
Then I saw my food. A massive plate overflowing with beautiful browned flaky pastry dough and cheese. There are very few things I love more in this world than bread and cheese. One of those things are massive piles of bread and cheese! Believe you me, it was good, it was damn good. I immediately sent Stephanie (who wasn’t able to come on this trip 🙁 ) a text message raving about how amazing it was. It was like a pancake, but with the flakiness of a croissant. But what really put this breakfast over the top, was the cheese.
While I have no clue what type of cheese they use, it had these sour notes that completely changed the nature of this pastry dish. It almost turned the flavor into something like a sourdough. It hit me with all of warm and fuzzies. Such an overwhelming feeling of comfort and joy that I couldn’t help but smile throughout the time I was eating it. It really set the tone for the entire trip, Croatia, at least Zagreb, is like a Burek its friendliness makes you feel so comfortable and so happy to be there. It is a place that feels like home even for tourists.
Burek is comfort, Burek is joy, Burek’s food will hit you with all of the warm and fuzzies all for about half the price of your morning up of coffee.