Come for the all-day Balkan party held every Tuesday at Rakija Lounge. It is like a U.N. peace party with music, food and booze. Croatians, Bulgarians and Bosnians meet and mingle. First-timers often tell the owners they have not tasted home in ten years.
A tiki hut encloses the bar and you can enjoy a hookah post-meal. Owners Miroslav Banjac and his wife Maria are both Serbs from Bosnia, met working on a Carnival cruise ship and relocated to Miami Beach.
The menu offers salads, burgers, wraps, pasta, pizza and steaks but you come for the Serbian specialties served every day not just Tuesday.
START WITH THESE DISHES
For Balkans, it is mandatory to toast before eating, clinking small glasses of rakija (ra-kee-ya) brandy made from apricots, plums, pears or quince sipped as an aperitif. After that order ustipci, a type of doughnut that resembles a short fat churro served with kajmak (buttery clotted cream).
There’s also burek, a snail-shaped pastry made with layers of butter-brushed phyllo dough stuffed with a mixture of feta and cottage cheese. It comes with small cups of kajmak and ajvar. Ajvar is a thick roasted red pepper and eggplant spread laced with garlic. It is red-orange with a smoky, spicy, sweet taste, good on the rustic house-made pita baked to order. Or go with shopska, a chopped salad with feta cheese dressed in olive oil with oregano. Non-Serb starters include avocado toast, shrimp cocktail and fried calamari.
SHARE THESE DISHES
Cevapi are all-beef finger sausages seasoned with salt and pepper grilled over low heat served in pita with diced onion, kajmak and ajvar. The mixed grill adds on sudzukice, a type of Balkan sausage resembling a long thin hot dog made from beef and veal. Plejeskavica are very thin flat burger patties that come in pita.
To try a dish named after a former ruling dynasty try the karadjordjeva schnitzel. Flat, pounded chicken or pork cutlets are rolled up with kajmak and mozzarella, breaded and pan-fried served with fries, tartar sauce and lemon slices. Sarma brings plump ground beef and rice stuffed brined cabbage leaves steamed in tomato sauce with a drift of mashed potatoes—Balkan comfort food.
Alexandria Riesling made in Macedonia pairs well with grilled meats or seafood. It has an aroma of honey and citrus with complex floral flavors and sweet finish. It is not on the wine list so ask.
SAVE ROOM FOR DESSERT
Order the ustipci doughnuts with sugar and Nutella with whipped cream or walnut baklava.
IF YOU GO:
Place: Rakija Lounge
Address: 1131 Collins Avenue, Miami Beach
Contact: 305-709-0739, rakijalounge.com
Hours: 9:30 a.m.-2 a.m. daily, early bird specials 4-7 p.m.
Prices: Appetizers $7-$15, sandwiches/burgers $16-$19, entrees $16-$26
F.Y.I. Happy hour noon-5 p.m. daily, every Tuesday is the all-day Balkan party with reduced prices on Balkan food and drinks