When I hear about a St. Louis restaurant getting national publicity, I always wonder if it’s worth all the hype. So last week I decided to check it out for myself.
Balkan Treat Box hit the streets of St. Louis as a food truck in late 2016 and was an immediate hit with local food experts like Sauce Magazine and Whiskey and Soba. Husband and wife team chef owners Loryn and Edo Nalic were serving up Bosnian and Turkish inspired dishes from Edo’s native country. With the support of the St. Louis culinary community behind them, the couple opened their brick and mortar spot in Webster Groves earlier this year.
My wife and I decided to go check it out on a weekday after the lunch rush to avoid any crowds. I found myself asking many questions to the more than pleasant cashier taking our order. The menu is limited but very straightforward which I appreciate as a consumer. As a hospitality professional I also know how it helps the bottom line.
After a difficult decision we settled on ordering the Doner with chicken which comes in somun with cheese, cabbage, tomato, lettuce, yogurt sauce and chips. Somun resembles pita bread but the crust and the interior have two different textures whereas with pita it’s all basically the same. Balkan’s somun is covered with little blisters from being baked in their copper plated wood burning hearth oven. The dish was prepared and seasoned perfectly if not just a little on the spicy side which was a result of some chili pepper mixed into the yogurt sauce.
We also ordered the PATLIDZAN, which means eggplant. This is a vegetarian dish that can be served vegan as well. It has wood fired eggplant in somun, cheese, cabbage, cucumber, tomato, lettuce, pickles, hard boiled egg, apricot-pomegranate molasses and chips. The star of this dish is the apricot-pomegranate molasses. It complements the eggplant’s smoky flavor and all the other textures. This was also delicious and included flavors I’ve never tasted before. Both dishes were very large portions and were quite filling.
It’s no wonder that Balkan Treat Box has been nationally recognized by the likes of Food & Wine Magazine, Bon Appetit and The New York Times. It’s Great Living in St. Louis when a new restaurant concept with diverse flavors like Balkan Treat Box puts us on the culinary map.
Where Balkan Treat Box, 8103 Big Bend Boulevard, Webster Groves • More info 314-733-5700; balkantreatbox.com • Menu Bosnian, Turkish and other Balkan-inspired fare • Hours 11 a.m.-3 p.m. (or until sold out) Wednesday-Sunday
Spice Up Your Dinner Plans with a short walk (or ride) to a Clayton neighborhood gem, Peno Southern Italian Soul Food
As a realtor in St. Louis, I’m often asked what the most walkable neighborhoods are. According to the Washington Post “walkable communities have jumped to the top of many home buyers’ search criteria because they want to live in areas with easy access to public transportation, schools, stores and entertainment. There is nothing better than being able to walk to fantastic neighborhood restaurants and Clayton Missouri has several that fit the bill. Peno Southern Italian Soul Food describes itself as a small, easygoing eatery offering Southern Italian cuisine. Located at 7600 Wydown Boulevard adjacent to the Clayton neighborhoods of The Moorlands, Peno hits all the right grooves.
For a city like St. Louis who loves their Italian food, Peno delivers simple elegant flavors of Italy’s Calabria region with emphasis on fish dishes and house made pasta’s and pizza that is all made from scratch. Peno has a list of uniquely Italian and very affordable wines by the glass and bottle.
During one of our visits we started off with the Bruschetta; two thick slices of toasted bread served with an olive tapenade that had pine nuts, olives, tomato and authentic spices that was perfectly prepared and delicious. Next we shared the mushroom ravioli made in house served in a beautiful bowl with a garlic broth and oven roasted tomatoes and spinach. We paired each of the above with Pinot Noir-Elena Walch from Alto Adige, Italy affordably priced at $38.00 for the bottle.
We then decided to try the pizza which is also made from scratch. I have a huge problem with many places serving pizza made in expensive imported Italian ovens that is simply burnt black on the crust. Peno’s pizza has just the right amount of char with out being burnt and the crust and toppings are all excellent. Peno has several suggested pizzas including the Pepe, the Giuseppe, the Roberto, the Don Michael but they also let you make your own from a list of numerous toppings. We had the wild mushroom and oven roasted tomato which was mouthwatering and so large we took some to go.
On both our visits the staff were extremely friendly and knowledgeable from the moment we walked in until the time we left. The restaurant has a good vibe of sound and lighting with a nice outdoor dining patio.
The restaurant’s owner Pepe Kehm is always seen working the room and we had a chance to talk to him. He is passionate about his Italian food, made from scratch pizza and loves to chat with his guests. With flavors that danced on my palate, an affordable wine list in the walkable Clayton neighborhood, Peno Southern Italian Soul Food is definitely a neighborhood gem.
As your restaurant neighborhood guru let me know how I can help you relocate to your favorite walkable neighborhood.