ST. LOUIS — Bosna Gold in Bevo Mill is a fitting introduction to Bosnian cuisine, which this neighborhood is known for. The menu is heavy on meat, including homemade sausages and bread, the backbone of meals here. A basket of flatbread called lepini precedes the meal and most dishes are served with more of it. When the bread is not made here, which it
usually is, it is obtained from a nearby bakery.
The lepini is slightly sour and its interior is fluffy, moist, chewy, and not unlike French toast. Many entrees arrive sandwiched between two round, pita-like pieces, each roughly the size of the plate. On the menu are photos of these and other featured dishes, though the photographs do little to describe them: Only the topmost layer of bread is visible, plus a few skewers sticking out (in the case of shish kebab). But the servings are generous and a little Slivovitz,
Bosnia’s plum brandy, cuts the richness nicely.
Despite its urban location, Bosna Gold’s interior is surprisingly similar to a hunting lodge. Blond wood paneling adorns nearly every surface, except for those covered in stone. Chandeliers dangle and a fake fire twinkles in one corner. An accordion is perched on the mantel along with a book of photos taken of Bosnia. These depict a rugged landscape that would explain the hearty cuisine. The shape of the restaurant seems familiar, and you have to wonder if it may have been a Pizza Hut in a former life (red, white, and green stripes in the restroom certainly suggest this). Bosnian music plays, and on Friday and Saturday nights the music is live, which may be where the accordion comes in.
Order the cevapi ($6) and you’ll receive a generous portion of thumb-size sausages nestled between pieces of lepini with sour cream and sliced, raw onions. Seeing the various shades of beige on your plate may leave you longing for something green, but combining the sausage, bread, onion, and sour cream is satisfying. Add a tumbler of Slivovitz ($4) to offset the heavy food with a little fire, then a little fruit.
Punjene paprike (stuffed peppers), and sarma (stuffed cabbage) are on the menu, as are soups and goulash. Sis ceap is another type of sausage, longer and spicier than cevapi. Pilecija prsa sa gljivama (chicken breast and mushrooms) is a touch too salty and too rich, but still hard to stop eating. In contrast, pileciji raznjici (chicken shish kebab) is plain and dry. If you’re looking for something more familiar, there is always pljeskavia (hamburger).
If you crave vegetables, order salata sa feta sirom (salad with feta), a mixture of diced cucumbers, tomatoes, and chopped raw onion covered with a dusting of feta that come together in perfect proportions. The most flavorful dish on the menu is paprike u saftu (peppers in sauce), which involves sliced, sauteed red and yellow bell peppers swimming in oil. The peppers are caramelized into a cross between confit and candy, and sopping them up with slices of lepini is irresistible.
Desserts are almost as hearty as dinners. Palacinke are Bosnian crepes, and like everything else here, they are served in large portions, and are thicker and chewier than their French counterparts. They come doused in chocolate sauce, whipped cream, and finely chopped walnuts in syrup. Baklava is another option.
What the restaurant lacks in finesse it makes up for in character. During a lull in the meal, the chef emerges from the kitchen in her hairnet and enjoys her break at the bar before trudging back through the double doors.
Don’t expect magic at Bosna Gold, but do expect consistent quality, an attentive staff, honest, hearty food at affordable prices, and a taste of a land you might never visit except through the table.
Bosna Gold 4601 Gravois Ave., St. Louis, 314-351-2058
Aaron Kagan can be reached at aaronw