Burgers and Beer in Belgrade
I’m not a big burger person. I was Vegetarian until just recently and it has been at least 10 years since I last had a hamburger. Still – there is no better time rediscover something delicious than when you are traveling. So, inspired by a fellow travel blogger, I went on a quest for delicious burgers and tasty beer in Belgrade.
My first stop was Loki. Loki is one of those places everyone talks about. Countless travel blogs, and several magazine articles praise the small Serbian Fast Food Joint on the edge of the tourist district. I found Loki on Kralja Petra four blocks down the hill from the city center (map). It was somehow smaller than I pictured it when I read other writers’ descriptions of the joint. The little hole-in-the-wall fast food place was staffed by three women all wearing red smocks with matching visors that read loki across the top in white letters.
The women didn’t seem surprised to see me. “Hello,” one of the woman, middle-aged with a thick mop of dark hair on her head greeted me in English. “What would you like?” I must look like a tourist because she didn’t even begin in Serbian.
“…I’m not sure…” I had no idea what I wanted. The entire menu was in Serbian and I couldn’t even tell what was a burger and what was just Balkan fast-food.
“Ok, if you want my suggestion, the best one is this one.” The woman pointed at an item on the menu and I readily agreed. She must know that we all come here for the same thing – cheese wrapped in spiced beef and grilled to melted gooey-ness.
She whipped out a small roll of square bed, expertly sliced it in half and then asked what I wanted on it. Once more I was at a loss. I should have said “everything,” but instead I got it with spicy cheese, mayonnaise, and some salad.
“Six minutes,” the woman told me. So I grabbed a Lav Beer from the refrigerator and took a spot at the bar under an over-sized mirror to wait.
I watched as wave after wave of customers came to the counter. Some were Serbian, others were tourists and travelers like me. Most people took their order away with them – after all there were only two tables in the back of the tiny restaurant, and both of those were occupied.
The Burger was amazing. There is no other way to describe it. The spicy cheese was just spicy enough, the spiced meet and cheese combo was savory and delicious. Just so I’m clear, this is not an American Hamburger – it doesn’t claim to be or try to be an American burger. It is pure Serbian deliciousness and I wouldn’t want it any other way.
The next morning I was still full from the spectacular Loki Burger from the night before. It was mid-afternoon before I was hungry enough to go in search for yet another burger in Belgrade. Burger House was a Trip Adviser recommendation and I was curious to see how their burgers stacked up against the Loki burger experience.
Burger House is right in the middle of everything. Located in the pedestrian area on Nicola Spasica just two blocks from Kalemegdan (map) Burger house has a sleek, upscale feel.
It was too early in the day for dinner, but I was hungry, so I approached the counter in the empty restaurant to order my meal. A young woman, behind the counter who spoke excellent English took the order. ”
Do you want french fries or onion rings or half and half?” She asked me. I got just french fries and a drink to go with my Burger. The whole meal set me back only 610 Dinar the equivalent of about 6 US Dollars.
The seating at Burger House was almost entirely outdoor. I took a seat at one end of the long, tall, wooden table in the middle of the street and waited for my burger. As I waited, a family with three small children came to the restaurant. They tried to find seating for everyone at a tiny table just outside the door, but the young woman behind the bar soon moved them to the one table inside.
When my burger arrived I was impressed. A fat meat patty on a sesame bun with lettuce, onion, tomato, and jalapeño – it was like a gourmet burger from a US burger restaurant. The fries were dark brown. They looked burnt and had an unusual, but pleasant taste. I was told that this was caused by the flooding the region experienced a year ago.
The Black Turtle
The Black Turtle (website), as far as I can tell, is the only brewery/pub in Belgrade. They have five locations throughout the city, but The Black Turtle IV is the only one that serves food. Some fellow travelers and I went to the Black Turtle II, just around the corner from Saint Michael The Archangel Cathedral (map) after finishing a very rainy walking tour together.
The Black Turtle serves a variety of beers, but their own beer selection consists of a Pils, a Stout, and three fruit beers, Blueberry, Lemon, and Strawberry. The waitress told us that Blueberry was the most popular of the flavored beers. I ordered the Stout and my friends all ordered either the Pils or the Stout. I guess we weren’t brave enough to try the flavors.
The Stout was very good. Thick, dark, full flavored and without any bitter aftertaste. In fact the Black Turtle Stout was quite possibly the best beer I’ve had in the last two years of travel. I didn’t get to try the Pils but everyone at our table seemed to be enjoying their beer.
Commercial Beer in the Bohemian Quarter
We finished our beer and then wandered over to Skadarska Street. Skadarska street is the cobbled street lined with Kafana’s at the heart of Belgrade’s Bohemian Quarter. Once upon a time, these Kafana’s made and served their own beer. Today, they serve commercial beers and traditional food.
The first beer we tried was Niksicko – a Czech Pilsner probably produced by the Apatin Brewery in Belgrade. A beer by the same name is produced by the Trebjesa Brewery in Montenegro. The beer was fine but nothing special. It tasted like a standard Pils a beer virtually indistinguishable from a hundred just like it.
We switched watering holes because the first place we stopped didn’t serve food. Our new restaurant served Jelen – a lager also produced by the Apatin Brewery in Belgrade. The lager, like the Pils, was fine but nothing special. To be honest I preferred the flavor of the Pils, but that is just my own preference and has no bearing on the quality of the beer.
While the beer in the Bohemian quarter was local, and pleasant, it was nowhere near the quality of the beer at the Black Turtle. If you just want a local drink, head to Skadarska Street. But if you want delicious beer, go to The Black Turtle.