Eat like Luka Doncic at the only Balkan restaurant and market in Dallas
In the life of a curious eater, can there be such a pleasure as trying a new type of bread?
For residents of Bosnia, Albania and other Balkan states, pitajka is commonplace, a bread for all occasions. (It’s also spelled pitalka and sometimes referred to as simit, but don’t confuse it with cooked simit in Turkey.) Dallas. Surrounded by a railroad track on one side, an industrial freight yard on the other, and I-635 on a third, Eddie’s is an unlikely community center for an important but little-known Dallas culture. .
The store also prepares its own pitajka. The loaves are round and squat, and appear stamped, as if they were covered with a grid. In fact, they are cooked twice: baked, left to stand until ready to serve, then soaked in a liquid bath, sliced and slapped on the grill.
The bread itself is stretchy and chewy, and it’s perfect for sandwiches, which is mainly how Eddie uses it.
Take a cheeseburger, for example, to get the most out of this bread. This Bosnian style of burger has only one name in common with its American cousin; Eddie’s cooks slice the bread, then add a thin griddle-pressed beef patty and creamy, gooey cottage cheese. That’s it except the garnish of chopped raw white onions on the side.
By the way, the menu labels the cheese “cream cheese”, but it’s really kaymak, which is indeed a rustic cheese but not at all the kind Americans put on bagels.
Another simple sandwich using pitajka fills the bread with small rolled up sausage patties, cevapi, similar to a Middle Eastern kofte kebab. Again, it’s just raw meat, bread, and onions.
The kitchen behind Eddie’s grocery section is a lot like a restaurant counter, focused on quick, filling, no-frills meals. But the preparations are not so quick. Beef sausages and cuts of beef and chicken marinate before grilling. Goulash is cooked for a long time and the moving beef stew tastes like it. A monochrome but delicious “marinated salad” pairs cabbage with house pickled peppers.
The namesake Eddie is Enver Kolenovic, who goes by Eddie Kola and is one of the most prolific restaurateurs in the Dallas area. His Italian chain, Eddie’s Napoli’s, has gone from Garland to Prosper, Frisco and even Amarillo. But EuroMart is its first restaurant serving dishes from its native Balkans.
“It’s not for the money,” he says. “It’s a question of tradition. “
Growing up in Yugoslavia – in what is now Montenegro – Kolenovic was part of a family of restaurateurs; he says his parents’ business is still open.
“As a child, I stole the dough and I played with the dough,” he recalls. “I threw it against the wall to stick it on.” Enlisted in the Navy, he found cooking to be his favorite duty.
He opened EuroMart against the advice of his friends and children, convinced that the business would fail. They were particularly concerned about the industrial location, almost hidden behind a self-storage facility. But Kolenovic had an edge almost unheard of in the restaurant industry. He owned the building.
Much of the credit for its Balkan menu goes to the three Bosnian women – Mirsada Omanović, Amela Mujanović and Edija Halilović – who serve as cooks at EuroMart. The trio came to Dallas on work visas specifically to work for Eddie.
I thought three Bosnian leaders was a lot, until Kolenovic explained to me that there are about 12,000 American Bosnians in Dallas, 8,000 American Albanians, and a similar number from Montenegro. As we spoke at the restaurant, Eddie greeted each customer with a question, “Where are you from? Albania, said a table. Romania, replied another man.
“Luka Doncic ate here,” Eddie told me proudly. “He ate two meals!”
Serbian, Bulgarian and Turkish customers also visit the store to enjoy the wide variety of snacks, sausages, teas, coffees and cheeses from the grocery department.
The cheese refrigerator is a special joy in itself. Home Cooking Tip: Extra creamy Bulgarian feta practically melts into a sauce when mixed with pasta, lemon juice, dill and your other favorite herbs.
But the best cheese here is the homemade one for Eddie’s Best Item, a bread so incredibly good it should be in the Dallas Culinary Hall of Fame: Stuffed Pita Pies.
When they hit the table, pitas are tightly rolled French toast, not quite bread, not quite pastry, cut into thirds. They come in a variety of toppings; the menu advertises cheese and meat, but there are also off-menu versions like spinach or potato pies.
Here’s how pita is made: First, Halilović makes a low-yeast dough and soaks it in olive oil. Then she unrolls it on a huge metal table – in fact, on the tablecloth. The goal is to make it as thin as paper, like sheets of filo in a square of baklava, without holes or tears.
Then along one side of the table, the baker adds the filling in a long line a few inches from the edge of the table. Then, there is a little magic trick: lift the tablecloth and slowly crush the dough on itself, roll it up on the filling then, still using the tablecloth, roll the entire length of the dough into one tight coil. Finally, it is shaped into a spiral and baked until golden brown. The outside is crisp and the inside is chewy, sparkling and rich in filling.
EuroMart bakes around 300 pita pies a day. It’s the restaurant’s star dish, whether it’s cheese or spicy ground beef. No matter what else you order, no matter how many pitajka buns are on your table, order a pita as well. In fact, order two. You will need breakfast the next morning. And once you’ve tasted the Balkan Culinary Embassy in the Dallas area, you’ll want more.
Price: $ 5 to $ 6 for starter salads, $ 8 to $ 10 for stuffed pitas, $ 12 to $ 18 for sandwiches and grilled meat platters
Service: Casual and multilingual table service, similar to a dinner. Pay in advance at the grocery store’s cash register.
Atmosphere: The front half of the building is a grocery store offering European and Turkish teas, coffees, meats, cheeses, spice blends, jams, pickles, snacks, sweets and more. The back half is a small, diner-style restaurant around an open kitchen. The most comfortable table is the corner bench under the photo of a landscape in Montenegro; it is also the table furthest from the television, which broadcasts information by cable.
Noise: Just the sizzle of the grill and the chatter of the television.
Drinks : The refrigerator offers a variety of European sodas and sparkling water.
Recommended: Cheese and meat pitas, European hamburger patty, marinated salad, sudzuk sausage
Address: 12243 E. Northwest Hwy., # 300, Dallas; 469-779-2833
Hours: Wednesday-Monday from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. closed on Tuesdays
Reservations: Not offered or required
Payment: Cash or credit
Note from the health service: 100 (inspected in August)
Access: One-story building with wide aisles and mostly tables.
Transit: Small free land in front. Buses run along the Northwest Highway and Garland Road, although the area is not designed for pedestrians and cyclists.