A plaque remaining from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem.

Above, a 1934 plaque from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem. Discarded as trash in 2006.

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Entry from January 20, 2010
Balkan Burger (pljeskavica)

Entry in progress—B.P.

Wikipedia: Pljeskavica
Pljeskavica (Serbian: Пљескавица) is a patty dish popular in most of the Balkans.

Pljeskavica is eaten in Serbia, Bosnia, Croatia, Montenegro and Macedonia and can be found in Slovenia, Hungary, Romania, Bulgaria. Traditional pljeskavica is made from lamb or beef, grilled with onions and served hot on fresh somun with a thick pita bread.

Recently, pljeskavica has gained popularity in Europe and is served at many fast food restaurants, mainly in Germany and Austria. It is often served with kajmak or ajvar and sometimes urnebes.

Leskovačka pljeskavica (pljeskavica from Leskovac) is one of the most famous types in Serbia and is usually made of beef or pork, very spiced and served with onions. There are however, many other ways of serving it such as Šarska and Hajdučka. Šarska pleskavica is made of beef and stuffed with kashkaval. Hajdučka pljeskavica is made of beef mixed with smoked pork meat.

Google Books
Newnes automaps and touring guide; British Isles and Europe
London: George Newnes
1965
Pg. 83:
...Pljeskavica (minced steak)...

10 April 1969, Vidette-Messenger (Valparaiso, IN), “Great Onion Conspiracy” by Richard M. Sudhalter, pg. 4, col. 4:
The dish ordered was pljeskavica, which from the description on the menu should have been kind of East European hamburger, minus the bun.
Gets Inltitated
My first forkful initiated me into the mysteries—and the dangers— of Balkan cuisine. The chopped beef was laced with enough onion, well-diced but oh, so evident, to make the dish unforgettable for hours to come. The meat lay, moreover, in a neat bed of chopped onion.

20 April 1973, Van Nuys (CA) News, “New Names, New Flavors at Yugoslavia Restaurant” by Larry Lipson, pg. 27A, col. 1:
Perhaps the best introduction to Yugoslavian cuisine here would be through the combination Serbian plate for two (#10). This hefty, hearty meal of brawny flavors showcases three of the country’s internationally-recognized specialties—cevapcici, raznijici and pljeskavica.
(...)
The pleskavica (sic) looked like a good sized hamburger steak. but it wasn’t that simple. Spiced heavily with onions, garlic and correctly made of ground pork and veal, it was mightier and a great deal zestier than any hamburger, that’s for sure.

Google Books
The Hamburger Book:
All about hamburgers and hamburger cookery

By Lila Perl
New York, NY: Seabury Press
1974
Pg. 70: 
Pljeskavica may be eaten with thick chunks of firm-crusted Serbian bread, and always with raw onion and fiery peppers, but it is never sandwiched into a bun.

Google Books
Basic Serbo-Croatian language
2nd edition
By George Lukic
Columbus, OH: Kosovo Pub. Co
1979
Pg. 287:
pljeskavica - Yugoslav hamburger

Google Books
Belgrade: history, urban inheritance, oldest and best-known streets
By Nebojša Bogunović, Ružica White, John White, Kulturni centar Beograda
Belgrade: Prosveta-Export and Import Agency, in association with the Belgrade Cultural Centre
1989
Pg. 267:
The specialties include Vlasta Carevac’s Steak, Serbian Hamburger (Pljeskavica),...

Village Voice (New York, NY)
Counter Culture
Bosnian Burgers

Robert Sietsema
Tuesday, July 10th 2001
Mirza Huskic could be James Beard’s twin brother. Framed in the carry-out window of Bosna-Express, he surveys his domain aproned and smiling: a few folding chairs set under an ailanthus tree and, wedged against the building, a handsome backseat from a late-model car, seat belts intact. So deliriously good is his pljeskavica ($5.50), you’d better buckle up.

Gothamist
Balkan Burgers at Bosna Express
In keeping with our affection for offbeat bites, Gothamist trekked out to Ridgewood this week to get a taste of Sietsema-sanctioned “Balkan Burgers.”

Bosna Express is a dismal little place tucked beneath the subway rail at Forest Avenue in Ridgewood, Queens. Its neighbors include a Montenegrin social club and a sprawling basketball plaza dotted with the occasional deflated ball. It’s not a scenic place, or even a particularly inviting one, but it has something that we hadn’t yet encountered in all of our explorations—an elusive Balkan Burger.

Actually called pljeskavica, the sandwiches are a popular fast food in Serbia, Croatia and Bosnia. As thin and wide as a dinner plate, the patties are mostly beef with a portion of lamb mixed in for flavor. They are grilled with onions and plopped gracelessly into a pillowy split pita with layers of creamy house-made yogurt, sour cream, chopped salad and spoonfuls of ajvar, a bright red relish of pepper, garlic and eggplant.
(...)
By Jordana Rothman in Food, Food on March 15, 2007 2:11 PM

Time Out New York
Time Out New York / Issue 639 : Dec 27, 2007–Jan 2, 2008
Best food and drink 2007
NYC’s top 100 foods: Best of the rest

Pljeskavica at Bosna Express You’ll need both hands to hold this massive pljeskavica—a “Balkan burger,” or lamb-and-beef patty wrapped in pitalike flatbread—particularly if you’ve piled on the chopped cucumbers, homemade yogurt, and ajvar, a zesty spread made with garlic, pepper and eggplant. 791 Fairview Ave at Putnam Ave, Ridgewood, Queens (718-497-7577). $8.

Village Voice (New York, NY)
Counter Culture
A Pair of Bosnian Cafés Compete on a Queens Corner

Robert Sietsema
Tuesday, January 1st 2008
(...)
The rudimentary menu is limited to grilled meats, salads, and bureks—the round, flaky pies of the Balkans. Foremost among viands is pljeskavica ($9), an onion-laced hamburger that the menu rather imprudently (and anachronistically) boasts as being “as big and round as a phonograph record.” Really, it’s more of a hubcap on a small imported car. Nevertheless, the patty is smoky and ultra-flavorful, especially when smeared with the trio of sides: a red-pepper paste called ajvar (pronounced “eye-var"), a homemade clabber of milk called kimek, and chopped white onions. But the show is almost stolen by the bun. Called lepinja, it’s like a pocketless pita inflated with a bicycle pump.

The Feedbag
Eat This Now 12/19/2008
Julia Jaksic’s Balkan Burger is a Year Old, and Still Underappreciated
Julia Jaksic, whom I’ve written about before, is an imaginative, happily meatcentric young chef. (She’s been called “David Chang with boobs” by drunken foodies at Employees Only, but that doesn’t do her talent justice. Plus it’s kind of sexist.) Anyway, if you require further proof of her meatitude, consider the wonderful Balkan Burger, a massive ground pork sandwich offered on the bar’s late-night menu. During prime time, I usually go in for the buttery rib steak, cooked the whole way on a flattop griddle, or the seared beef-cheek terrine with fried capers and grape salad; but when I stop by EO for my sazerac nightcap, only this monster of coarsely-ground pork flavor can satisfy me.

It’s lusciously lubricated by kajmak, the Bosnian version of clotted cream, and avjar, the roasted pepper condiment which, with kajmak, are the ketchup and mustard of Serbian sausage sandwiches. But of course, no burger — I use the word loosely, like its grind — is better than its bun. And the one here is thicker, heavier version of the kind of puffy pita you see freshly made in great gyro restaurants.

New York (NY) Times
The Balkan Burger Unites All Factions
By JULIA MOSKIN
Published: January 19, 2010
AMERICANS might think themselves masters of the all-beef patty, and Germans may claim bragging rights for its point of origin. But there is no burger passion greater than the one for pljeskavica.

Pronounced PLYESS-ka-vee-tsa, this burger as wide as a birthday cake is beloved in Serbia, Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Slovenia and Montenegro; and more recently in Italy, Germany, Chicago as well as Queens.
(...)
Since the fall of Communism and the breakup of Yugoslavia, many young people from the region have arrived in New York seeking work, education and adventure. Charcoal-grilled pljeskavica and cevapi, pronounced chay-VOP-ee, have become common in neighborhoods like Astoria and Ridgewood in Queens, where Bosnians and Croatians, Serbs and Montenegrins now open businesses side by side.
(...)
For pljeskavica and cevapi, the entire animal is fair game. Formulas including beef, veal, lamb and — except for Muslims — pork are part of the butcher’s mystique. Even in New York, each butcher harbors secrets, like adding fat from around the beef kidneys, grinding in a little pork neck, or adding baking soda or mineral water to lighten the mix.
(...)
Pljeskavica are formed from ground meat and minced onion, pounded thin, then grilled on both sides to a smoky brown. The word pljeskavica comes from pljesak, a regional word for clapping the hands, the motion used to press the burger into a thin round.

They were originally served flopped onto a plate, but as the American burger assumed global dominance, it became standard to sandwich pljeskavica between the two halves of a fluffy, spongy pita-style bread called lepinja. 

Posted by Barry Popik
New York CityFood/Drink • (0) Comments • Wednesday, January 20, 2010 • Permalink