What do you do when you’re trying to kill time? Eat. Okay, actually that’s a really bad food mentality, but come on, we’ve all been there. My friend and I had a little over an hour until our show, but we had been grazing on food all day, so we wanted to find something light for dinner. We wandered along 9th avenue–where there’s no shortage of restaurants (the neighborhood is called Hell’s Kitchen after all)–and quickly spotted a sign that said “Mediterranean food.” Perfect! You can always count on Mediterranean food for lots of light, fresh, and healthy options.
While Balkanika does specialize in Mediterranean food, it also, as the name suggests, serves Balkan food, which is still very much influenced by the Mediterranean. If you’re not familiar with the Balkan region, it’s comprised of Bosnia and Herzegovina, Macedonia, Croatia, Bulgaria, Montenegro, Serbia, Romania, Albania, and Slovenia.
The menu is divided between mezes (appetizers), sides, soups, vegetarian, bureks (filo pies), salads, seafood, specialties, and grill. There are so many delicious-sounding things here. Eggplant caponata, zucchini pancakes, roasted trout, chicken shishkebab…would have been so much harder to choose if I had more room in my tummy. Besides the food, Balkanika is also a wine bar, so there’s a wide selection of reds, whites, sparkling wines, and roses.
Lucky for us, the mezes section of the menu has an option where you can order one for $7, a choice of six for $18, or a sampler of all for $26. The sides part of the menu also has this same “choice of” option for varying prices. We decided to split the choice of six mezes, and I ordered the soup of the day, a creamy tomato soup, as well. For our mezes, we picked ajvar (roasted red peppers, eggplant, and olive oil), spicy red pepper hummus (chickpeas, red peppers, tahini, roasted garlic, and olive oil), cream spinach (with milk, ricotta cheese, and roasted garlic), haydari (greek yogurt, roasted garlic, dill, parsley, mint, and feta cheese), and acili ezme (tomatoes, roasted garlic, onions, peppers, sumac, chili, lemon, and olive oil). I’m trying so hard to remember what our sixth one was and I’m thinking it was hazelnut beet, but I’m not entirely sure.
The haydari was by far the universal favorite, although all of them were super flavorful and delicious in their own ways especially with the warm slices of pita bread they gave us, while the tomato soup was absolutely heavenly. Creamy soup always wins me over, but this was just so scrumptious. I slurped and sopped it all up.
So yeah. With the pita plus the bread that came with the soup, we ended up being so much more stuffed than we had planned. We tried!
Soup of the day (creamy tomato soup), choice of six mezes (ajvar, spicy red pepper hummus, creamy spinach, haydari, acili ezme, hazelnut beet (?)
691 9th Ave
New York, NY 10036