Balkan StrEAT opened Jan, 24 in New York’s West Village neighborhood, bringing a taste of the Balkans to the city. The restaurant is a joint venture between chef William Djuric and business partner Jason Correa -- both hospitality veterans with a couple of decades of combined restaurant experience in New York.
After attending culinary school, Djuric worked in high-end kitchens like Bouchon Café & Bakery, Gramercy Tavern, and Momofuku Ssam Bar. Correa has worked with the TAO Group for the past 10 years, most recently in the role of director of operations, overseeing day-to-day operations at several of the group’s New York establishments.
In early 2020, Djuric began experimenting with cevapi (Balkan sausages) and other traditional Balkan dishes inspired by his father’s Serbian heritage and his own childhood summers spent in the former Yugoslavia. Balkan StrEAT was born out of a desire to open a restaurant featuring the foods of Djuric’s childhood.
The duo is joined by Milan Milijancevic, who leads the restaurant’s bakery and pastry program. He began his career working in traditional Serbian bakeries in Belgrade, and prior to opening his own neighborhood bakery in 2021, Milijancevic spent seven years as the head baker at Belgrade’s storied Hotel Moskva.
Balkan StrEAT serves traditional Balkan foods found throughout the diverse region, which includes Serbia, Croatia, Montenegro, Bosnia, Herzegovina, and Albania. The menu highlights regional favorites, including grilled items like the cevapi, which can be served as a sandwich or a platter. There are also Balkan-style burgers, burek (stuffed phyllo dough pies), and kiflice (traditional crescent shaped rolls with savory or sweet fillings)
The menu features rotating seasonal specials like stuffed pork schnitzel and goulash, and desserts include walnut baklava and Balkan donuts called krofne.
“We have welcomed a lot of Balkan guests and many Americans who are surprisingly familiar with the food, either through friends or they have traveled in the region,” Djuric and Correa said via a joint response. “Most people who aren’t from the region need to become familiar with the menu and the cuisine, but most are excited to try it for the first time. We believe Balkan food is extremely approachable.”
The small restaurant has 12 indoor seats, eight outdoor seats, and a design inspired by the Belgrade cityscape, with mural-covered walls, tile columns, industrial lights, and pops of color.
The restaurant offers takeout and third-party delivery in addition to dine-in business, and the founders expect that delivery orders will grow into a substantial portion of their sales.
“It’s definitely a core component of our business,” Djuric and Correa said.
Balkan StrEAT already has expansion plans in the works, with a second location slated to open in the East Village this spring. Eventually, the founders hope to open additional locations in New York and expand into other cities.