For as much attention as the former Yugoslavia has received in the news, Americans know very little about the cultures which comprised the now-defunct state. So why not explore a new cuisine as an introduction to an unfamiliar land? Milwaukee
offers restaurants that serve traditional Serbian cuisine, including the well-known Three Brothers in Bayview. If you can’t visit Belgrade or Novi Sad for authentic Serbian food, this is the next best option.
About Serbian Food
Some Serbian dishes, like baklava and goulash, may sound familiar, as the country’s cuisine reflects that of its better-known neighbors. Greek, Hungarian, and Austrian specialties have all influenced the traditional Serb diet. Soups and stews are common in the Balkans, as are kebabs, sausages, and barbecues dishes. Cabbage and spinach are plentiful, and the most common carbohydrate is definitely bread, as opposed to rice or pasta. One well-known Serbian specialty of Turkish origin is the burek. A burek is a hearty pastry made from layers of thin phyllo dough (popular in the Mediterranean region) and usually contains beef and/or cottage cheese. Wines and beers are common with Serbian meals, but the official drink of Serbia is Slivovitz, a kind of brandy made from plums.
Serbian Food in Milwaukee
German and Polish immigrants were not the only people to bring homeland cuisines to Milwaukee; Serbs also left their mark on Milwaukee’s cultural history. Due to its relatively large and tightly knit Serbian population, the city can boast multiple venues that promote and propagate Serbian culture, including two well-regarded restaurants and a place to enjoy a Serbian take on fish fry.
2414 S. Saint Clair St.
Milwaukee, WI 53207-1928
The best known (and busiest) place for Serbian food in Milwaukee is undoubtedly Three Brothers. As its name suggests, the restaurant was started by three brothers who dreamed of opening a business together in the United States. Occupying a quaint building in the Bayview neighborhood, Three Brothers is a short trip from downtown Milwaukee over the Hoan Bridge. The dÃ?Â©cor is best described as rustic and unassuming, just what you’d expect for a Serbian eatery. Specialties at Three Brothers include an especially large burek (with beef, cheese, or spinach) as well as meat-stuffed cabbage. An acquaintance of mine also recommended a crepe-like sweet treat filled with homemade Serbian jam/jelly. The restaurant, though lacking the pretentious feel of an exclusive establishment, typically requires reservations and only serves dinner. Accessible from MCTS Bus Route 15 (requires some walking).
Old Town Serbian Gourmet House
522 W. Lincoln Ave.
Since Three Brothers does not offer lunch, you may want to try Old Town Serbian Gourmet House. A few blocks east of Kosciuszko Park off the culturally diverse Lincoln Avenue, the restaurant is near the Bayview neighborhood. The burek, goulash, and stuffed cabbage all garner praise. For a dash of culture, dine at Old Town on a weekend to hear traditional live music. The atmosphere is informal, and the prices are cheaper than Three Brothers, making it a favourite among culture-savvy university students. Accessible from MCTS Bus Route 53.
American Serb Hall
5101 W. Oklahoma Ave.
Milwaukee, WI 53219
Unlike Three Brothers and Old Town, American Serb Hall is really neither a conventional restaurant nor an exclusively Serbian place. Nevertheless, it is noteworthy because it offers a Serbian take on a classic Wisconsin event: the Friday night fish fry. The establishment offers what they call “Serbian-style” baked cod with a special sauce and spices inspired by the home country. The fish can be picked up through a drive-through or at a walk-up window, but the full fish fry experience is lost unless you dine at the Hall. Accessible from MCTS Bus Route 51.
As a final note, several bars and clubs in the Milwaukee area are known to carry Slivovitz (the popular plum brandy), including the Serbian-owned nightclub Moct in Walker’s Point.