In the gloomy days of late 1990s, after harsh international sanctions (which extended to sports and culture) and in the midst of general social and economic decline, Belgarders yearned for feeling that they are part of the wider world, from clothes to food, so much so that their cry for help was a banner, carried during the student protests of 1996/97 exclaiming “Beograd je svet!: [Belgrade is the world].
Although things somewhat changed after 2000, Belgrade’s culinary scene, although full of great local (and decent Italian) restaurants was generally far behind the global trend of globalisation of cuisines. Outside of a few notable exceptions, local takes on foreign cuisines were underwhelming, given the low purchasing power and lack of significant expat communities which all meant that quality foreign foodstuffs, spices and chefs were hard to come by.
Although the past few years brought several great sit-down restaurants serving foreign cuisines (most notably there was a craze for sushi and artisan burgers), it is only in the past months that we have seen great informal dining options specialising in delicious, and authentic global street food. In line with Belgrade’s increasing global attractiveness, many of these joints were opened by expats and repats, who decided to enrich their new home city with truly outstanding dishes.
Here is the list of my favourite foreign fast food joints, many of them relatively affordable. I hope that at least some of them will be present in our newly done up traditional markets, like Palilula, or maybe we even see Belgrade’s first temporary street food market like Berlin’s Markthalle Neun or London’s Broadway Market being set up somewhere, to allow new chefs to try new concepts?
Arepas: Tepuy – Delicious Venezuelan Arepas with a variety of stuffings served from a small kiosk in Jevrejska in Jalija.
Chinese Food: Li Xia – This charismatic eatery in the midst of New Belgrade’s Chinese Shopping Mall serves local merchants and is a lively (if not photogenic) place where you can taste a variety of Chinese dishes.
Curry and Chapati: Khana Khazana – This tiny Indian eatery just opened in Karađorđeva (just next to the legendary Crvena Zvezda burek, across the road from Bristol Hotel) and serves great chapatis and curries.
Hot Pot: Eleven – Although not technically a street food joint, this wonderful little family-run restaurant offers a great, authentic take on Chinese cuisine, including hot pot. Another reason for inclusion is that it was opened at the former location of Loki, the legendary (although over-hyped) Doćol grill joint.
Hummus and falafel: Hummus Bar – Whether it’s their mouthwatering salad bowls with middle eastern pickles and falafel or just plain old hummus, Hummus Bar in Beogradska is arguably the best Israeli street food place in Belgrade.
Piadina: Alla Piadina – Northern-Italian style sandwiches stuffed full of Italian cured meats and cheeses, prepared with love by its charismatic Italian owner.
Lebanese Manakish: Furuna – Bringing Beirut to Belgrade, Furuna serves fantastic Lebanese bread with fresh toppings like za’atar and Lebanese cheese.
Tacos: Norteño – A fabulous hole in the wall serving delicious north Mexican tacos, in the midst of socialist-era high rises in Crveni Krst.