Best Cheap Eats in St. Louis

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Best Cheap Eats in St. Louis

Get stuffed for less in the Lou with these wallet-friendly finds:  Cevapi at Balkan Treat Box

In a meat-loving city like St. Louis, carnivores have plenty of dining options. But Balkan Treat Box stands out for its sausage-stuffed sandwich priced at a steal. The cevapi sandwich ($10) is a top seller at this food truck known for its Bosnian and Turkish eats. To make it, they grill more than half a pound of mini beef sausages over charcoal, then stuff the mound of meat into a freshly baked somun pita with onions and a Bosnian cream cheese called kajmak. Take it from us, you may need a post-meal nap after tackling this bargain behemoth.

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20 Must-Visit Spots

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20 Must-Visit Spots

Must-Visit Spot for St. Louis Food Lovers: Balkan Treat Box

All chefs like to say that their food is the result of love, but Loryn Nalic can say that quite literally. Though she'd always had a passion for food, the fire was ignited when she met her husband and business partner, Edo Nalic, and was exposed to the beauty of authentic Bosnian food. A native of Bosnia, Edo took Loryn to all of his haunts and to family dinners, a courtship that enticed her to commit not only to him, but to preparing the cuisine of his homeland as well as she possibly could. She spent time in his family's kitchens, both stateside and in Bosnia, perfecting Balkan specialties to the point where the couple was ready to launch their own business. That concept, Balkan Treat Box, has not only jumped to the top of the city's food-truck scene in less than two years of existence, but has shone a light on a style of cuisine that, for the most part, had not fully integrated into St. Louis' culinary landscape. Why it took so long to do so is a mystery, especially after you taste one of Balkan Treat Box's glorious pides, a boat-shaped piece of pita, speckled with char from the wood fire and filled with rich Bosnian cheese and toppings like traditional spicy red-pepper relish, cabbage and brisket. And you can't visit Balkan Treat Box without trying the cevapi, a grilled beef sausage that is synonymous with Bosnian cuisine. It's no wonder why Loryn fell in love — we're gaga at first bite.

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Tasting Table

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Tasting Table

...(St. Louis) takes enormous pride in what grows and is made in the Midwestern city, which has led to an entrepreneur-led dining scene worthy of a national spotlight...

...There's Loryn Feliciano-Nalic, who runs the Balkan Treat Box food truck with her husband, Edo, a Bosnian refugee.

St. Louis has the largest population of Bosnians in the United States, and the largest one outside of Europe, as they were relocated to the city in the early 1990s as a result of the Bosnian War. Upon meeting Edo, Loryn was inspired by the region's cuisine and cooked her way through Bosnia in people's homes, learning how to make the pide, cevapi and doner for which the truck is now nationally known.

"I could have done a lot of safer things," Loryn says. But the St. Louis native knew her city would help them rise up. "It's not just big chefs with big names supporting each other. The biggest chefs will support the little guys. It's one big St. Louis culinary family."

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The Best Bites of the Year

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The Best Bites of the Year

The Best Bites of the Year According to Food & Wine Restaurant Editor Jordana Rothman

JORDANA ROTHMAN 

April 10, 2018

All of us ask a lot of our bodies, but I think it’s fair to say that for me this is...extra true. As Restaurant Editor of Food & Wine I spend months on the road scouting each year’s class of Best New Chefs and Restaurants of the Year—a big job that requires an even bigger appetite. Double dinners (we call them bang-bangs) and even the occasional triple (that’s a bang-bang-bang baby) are part of the job, often on the heels of a day spent exploring new bakeries, street vendors, farmers markets and unicorn frappalattewhatevers.

This year’s journey was no less an exquisite gavage—many tens of thousands of miles traveled in search of delicious and surprising things to eat, like the PB and C(urry) at Preeti Mistry's modern Indian spot Navi Kitchen in Oakland, or Ross Coleman and James Haywood’s West African remixes at their Houston sleeper, Kitchen 713. I fell deeply in love with the city of St. Louis, thanks in no small part to Loryn Nalic’s stuffed Turkish pide bread slicked with tangy red pepper ajvar at Balkan Treat Box truck, and lost mind over Anthony Rush and Chris Kajioka’s slow-cooked cabbage with moringa powder at Senia in Honolulu.

 

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Feast TV: Wood Fired

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Feast TV: Wood Fired

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Ian Froeb's Best St. Louis Restaurants

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Ian Froeb's Best St. Louis Restaurants

If I ranked the STL 100 by the amount of time I’ve spent thinking about each restaurant, Balkan Treat Box would be No. 1 or 2. (I’ve also thought an awful lot about Vicia.) Loryn Feliciano-Nalic’s food truck entered regular service only last year and already has become an essential part of our restaurant scene thanks to its incredible versions of Bosnian cevapi and Turkish pide, a flatbread topped with ground beef, a blend of piknik and mozzarella cheeses, the red-pepper relish ajvar and creamy kajmak. Feliciano-Nalic bakes the pide and the ethereal somun bread that cradles the cevapi in the truck’s wood-fired oven, and not a little of the time I spend thinking about Balkan Treat Box is wondering how many more wonders she could produce from a bigger oven inside a traditional restaurant.

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Food Network: Best Restaurants in St. Louis

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Food Network: Best Restaurants in St. Louis

Straight Outta the Balkans: Balkan Treat Box

Did you know the largest Bosnian population outside of Europe is in St. Louis? Surprise! You could head to “Little Bosnia,” better known as Bevo Mill, or you could track down the Balkan Treat Box food truck. Owners Loryn and Edo Nalic combine their Balkan background with their experience working at some of St. Louis’ best restaurants to create unforgettable dishes. The flavor is unreal—almost all the dishes are cooked using the truck’s built-in wood-fired grill and oven. Pillowy somun bread is baked fresh; minced beef sausages called cevapi are grilled to order and served with a spicy red pepper relish. The real star, though, is the Turkish-inspired pide, a grilled flatbread stuffed with meat or cheese; it’s like the missing link between a pizza and a calzone.

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How St. Louis became America's capital of Bosnian food

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How St. Louis became America's capital of Bosnian food

By Stefanie Ellis | January 3, 2018 12:00 pm

It might give some people pause to step into a St. Louis bakery and have their order taken by a woman dressed in something that looks like a 1960s-era bathrobe, complete with clogs and a hair net. But being served by a kitchen maven who resembles your grandmother is not an unusual sight in St. Louis – and here, your grandmother will also have a Bosnian accent.

When we walked into Zlatne Kapi, we were greeted by such a woman, and  met with curious stares from men in construction clothes who were watching a Bosnian sporting event while speaking the language of their home country.

We ordered tulumbe – gloriously tender, airy, and syrupy pastries that look like bloated eclairs and taste like the lovechild of baklava and funnel cake – and hurmašice, moist coconut cake slices doused in sugar syrup. On our way out, we gave our hostess a hug as the men looked on. Though she appeared stunned, she squeezed back.

Just a few decades ago, such a scene would never have existed in the U.S. But it’s quite common now in St. Louis, which boasts the largest Bosnian population outside of Europe – an estimated 50,000 to 70,000. The south St. Louis neighborhood known as Little Bosnia has played an integral role in the city’s evolving culinary landscape.

Little Bosnia has bakeries, grocery stores, butcher shops and restaurants stocked with food from the former Yugoslavian country. But once upon a time, this neighborhood was blighted and struggling mightily. Its transformation into its current state is a bittersweet story, as most Bosnians who call St. Louis home had to escape devastating circumstances during the Bosnian War between 1992-1995, and rebuild their lives in an unfamiliar country.

Ben Moore, director of the Bosnia Memory Project at Fontbonne University, who documents stories of genocide survivors, says the first Bosnians arrived in St. Louis in 1993, and were mainly concentration camp survivors.

“There was a steady flow of Bosnians into St. Louis – and cities such as Denver, Grand Rapids and Chicago – because of decisions made by bureaucrats in Washington that the Midwest would be a preferable destination, because the cost of living was low, and there wouldn’t be as much competition with other immigrant groups for jobs,” he says,

In 1998, when Bosnian refugees who lived in Germany were told they had to leave, Madeline Albright made arrangements for them to come to the U.S. By that point, St. Louis had become an attractive destination. Add to that a secondary migration of Bosnians from other parts of the U.S., and  St. Louis soon developed the largest Bosnian population outside of Europe.

“When we look at Bosnian immigration,” says Moore, “we see the very worst that humans can experience and then we see the other side — the best that humans can be. They’ve brought out the best in south St Louis.”

Sulejman and Ermina Grbic, who own Grbic, St. Louis’ longest-running Bosnian restaurant – as well as Lemmons, which their daughters, Senada and Erna, run – have also brought out the best in the community by offering Bosnian refugees jobs at their restaurant and a taste of their homeland.

Lemmons was a long-time fried chicken restaurant before the Grbic family took it over. Senada and Erna were born in St. Louis, but grew up steeped in their mother’s homecooking. Rather than go the traditional route, though, the sisters decided to infuse their menu with their experience of growing up in America into the Bosnian homecooking they ate as children.

“Growing up, we wanted to eat what other kids at our school were eating,” remembers Erna. “They had chips and sandwiches, but my mom said, ‘You are never going to eat a bologna sandwich.’

“We were bringing sarma (stuffed cabbage with beef and rice), sauerkraut and fresh bread to school,” says Senada, laughing. “We’d tell our mom our friends ate tacos and she wouldn’t let us eat tacos. Finally she made veal tacos with Vegeta seasoning, and we’d use Bosnian farmers cheese instead of cheddar. They were delicious. That’s where the fusion started.”

The sisters represent a new crop of chefs who are putting their own stamp on an already-established Bosnian food scene in St. Louis – keeping to tradition while innovating in a way that’s unique to the needs of the community they serve.

Lemmon’s serves dishes like traditional kabobs, but glazed with sweet chili sauce, as well as flatbread pizza with cevapi – minced meat in the shape of a sausage – feta butter and mozzarella, which confuses Bosnian customers, since cevapi is commonly served in the pita-like Bosnian bread, lepinja. They also make their own spin on fried chicken — Bosnian schnitzel brined in buttermilk and battered — as well as chicken wings marinated in plum rakija (brandy).

“One of the reasons Bosnians have been so successful in St. Louis is because they can fuse things from their own culture with existing components of St. Louis culture,” says Moore.

Perhaps no one knows this better than Loryn Nalic, a St. Louis chef without an ounce of Balkan in her blood, who worked at restaurants across the city before stumbling into a love of all things Bosnian. Her husband, Edo, who is from Zvornik, came to St. Louis via Germany with his family in 1998. After Loryn’s first meal at Edo’s house, she was so hooked on Bosnian food, she went to Bosnia for two months to study with chefs and home cooks, then opened a food truck, the Balkan Treat Box, so she could make Bosnian food full-time.

Though not based in Little Bosnia, she’s a roving representative for the cuisine, and spreads the Bosnian food gospel across her city.

“We were recognized as one of the best new restaurants in St. Louis,” says Nalic. “It’s a food truck…and it’s Balkan food. When has that ever happened?”

Nalic says her chef friends have started sending her photos of their own home-cooked Bosnian meals, inspired by what she’s doing.

“It’s huge to know how this is touching people,” she says.

 

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St. Louis Post Dispatch: Best New Restaurants of 2017

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St. Louis Post Dispatch: Best New Restaurants of 2017

Seoul Taco. Guerrilla Street Food. Frankly Sausages. The food truck that outshines the traditional brick-and-mortar competition is no longer a surprise. To this roster you can now add Balkan Treat Box, which chef-owner Loryn Feliciano-Nalic first announced in 2015 but didn’t roll into regular service until this year. Feliciano-Nalic installed a wood-burning oven in her truck, and in this she bakes the Turkish flatbread called pide (topped with ground beef and piknik cheese) and the somun bread for plump Bosnian cevapi and a juicy chicken döner kebab. That’s essentially the entire menu, but the wood-fired breads are sublime, and those dishes are more than enough to recommend Balkan Treat Box — and to suggest, like the trucks listed above, the concept is bound for even bigger things.   

Ian Froeb

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