4S Ranch Allied Gardens Alpine Baja Balboa Park Bankers Hill Barrio Logan Bay Ho Bay Park Black Mountain Ranch Blossom Valley Bonita Bonsall Borrego Springs Boulevard Campo Cardiff-by-the-Sea Carlsbad Carmel Mountain Carmel Valley Chollas View Chula Vista City College City Heights Clairemont College Area Coronado CSU San Marcos Cuyamaca College Del Cerro Del Mar Descanso Downtown San Diego Eastlake East Village El Cajon Emerald Hills Encanto Encinitas Escondido Fallbrook Fletcher Hills Golden Hill Grant Hill Grantville Grossmont College Guatay Harbor Island Hillcrest Imperial Beach Imperial Valley Jacumba Jamacha-Lomita Jamul Julian Kearny Mesa Kensington La Jolla Lakeside La Mesa Lemon Grove Leucadia Liberty Station Lincoln Acres Lincoln Park Linda Vista Little Italy Logan Heights Mesa College Midway District MiraCosta College Miramar Miramar College Mira Mesa Mission Beach Mission Hills Mission Valley Mountain View Mount Hope Mount Laguna National City Nestor Normal Heights North Park Oak Park Ocean Beach Oceanside Old Town Otay Mesa Pacific Beach Pala Palomar College Palomar Mountain Paradise Hills Pauma Valley Pine Valley Point Loma Point Loma Nazarene Potrero Poway Rainbow Ramona Rancho Bernardo Rancho Penasquitos Rancho San Diego Rancho Santa Fe Rolando San Carlos San Marcos San Onofre Santa Ysabel Santee San Ysidro Scripps Ranch SDSU Serra Mesa Shelltown Shelter Island Sherman Heights Skyline Solana Beach Sorrento Valley Southcrest South Park Southwestern College Spring Valley Stockton Talmadge Temecula Tierrasanta Tijuana UCSD University City University Heights USD Valencia Park Valley Center Vista Warner Springs

Tear off and eat the blanket covering Bosnian street food

“If we could bring in young calves and lamb from Bosnia, we would.”

Bosnian Grill Food Truck on evening visit to Quartyard
Bosnian Grill Food Truck on evening visit to Quartyard

"Dobro vecé!”

This is me, greeting Ismet Sahic beside his truck. It’s 8 p.m., and Quartyard, here at Park and Market, is Sunday-night mellow. A floodlit rack of people sits drinking and chatting at the bar of the converted shipping container. A few gals and guys are playing cornhole between the rows of picnic tables. Their strings of dogs sit leashed, desperate to chase the flying bean bags. And at a long picnic table, folks are intently into Jenga, that game where you pull wooden bricks out of a pile and try not to let it collapse.

Dobro vecé? It means “good evening” in Bosnian-Serbo-Croatian. I was in Bosnia once. And I’m guessing that’s what Ismet Sahic speaks, because he’s cooking away in this food truck labeled “Bosnian Grill.”

“Dobro vecé,” he says back. “Give me a moment.”

So I kinda let the slope roll me down to the bar, ask Blaine the bar guy what kind of stouts they have, and take him up on Camp Fire Stout. High Water Brewing, up Stockton way, $6.75. Biscuity, chocolatey, marshmallowy. Uh, a little sweet for me.

But as I sip, Ismet and his truck get me thinking Bosnia again.

Sigh. Sweet times. Before all the bad stuff hit the Balkans. Lots of partying, rough and gutsy home-grown wines, and of course the national plum brandy, slivovitz. Ayee! But what was most beautiful: you saw churches and mosques side-by-side. Bells and calls to prayer echoing out together. Bosnia was where Islam and Christianity met and...shook hands.

Uh-oh. See Ismet waving.

“What would you like?” he says when I get back to the truck. He points to a big list on the side.

“Greek customers say I have the best gyros,” he says.

He has five types of gyros. The sandwich ($9), the plate (with rice, pita bread, salad ($15), the salad with feta cheese, olives, tzatziki sauce ($10), or just gyros with rice ($9). Or chicken breast gyros ($9). Then we’re talking Philly cheese steak ($9) or a jumbo hot dog ($5). Also a “mix plate” for $15.

But I’m interested in the item right at the top. Cevapi. What the heck is that?

Cevapi, with bundle of sausages inside its lepinja (Sarajevo bread pocket)

“In Sarajevo, where I come from, cevapi [he pronounces it chevapi] are like tacos are here. They are our street food.”

The name’s totally new to me, so even though it’s 12 bucks, I ask for that. “Beef sausage,” it says. “Served with Bosnian bread, onion, sour cream, garlic sauce.”

Ismet Sahic has escaped war horrors to bring Sarajevo street food to San Diego.

“Maybe ten minutes, okay? I have to cook it,” Ismet says. “I’ll call you.”

A quarter hour’s slow sipping and Ismet slides my food steaming through the serving hatch. Wow. It’s a kind of golden-baked pastry beehive. No, more like a giant quilted pin cushion. Or actually, more like a giant egg with baby dinosaurs all squabbling around inside, waiting to bust out. Like when you rip the top open, all these heads of sausage pop up.

“It’s a lepinja,” he says. “It’s like a flatbread but with yeast so it rises a little and you can put things inside. This has come all the way from my hometown, Sarajevo. We also call it somun.”

“The bread?”

“Right, the bread. It comes frozen.”

“So how do you eat it?” I ask. Just noticed the knife and fork.

“In Sarajevo, you just use your fingers,” Ismet says. “Rip off a bit of the bread, then grasp some sausage and the onions.”

Ajvar (pronounced aye-var) sauce gives flavor to this ultimate Balkan street food

I see a carpet of chopped raw onions inside. There’s also a pot of red stuff and another of white stuff. “The red is ajvar. It’s paprika, eggplant, tomatoes, hot peppers.”

And the white stuff? “Unripened cheese,” says Ismet. He calls it kajmak. And, boy, tastes good, like clotted cream.

So, I spread that all over the sausages and lepinja and then just toss all the red ajvar over the sausages.

“Have it while it’s hot,” says Ismet.

I take it to the nearest table. Man, the sausages are spicy, and that ajvar is lush and more eggplant-flavorful than spicy-hot. Goes with my second beer, a Monkey Paw brown ale.

“The sausage meat?” I ask.

“If we could bring in young calves and lamb from Bosnia, we would,” says Ismet. “The meat’s flavor would be much stronger. Bosnians can tell the difference.”

The bread certainly has plenty of umami flavor on its own, and with the quilting on top you can rip neat diamonds off, just enough to wrap a sausage.

What gave Ismet the idea to start a Bosnian Grill truck? You might say history.

“I got out from Sarajevo two months before the siege and the massacres began,” he says.

Bosnian Muslims were the victims. Ismet is Muslim. “First I was in Germany, then when they didn’t want us anymore, I came here. It was easier in 2000. I became a builder, a cabinet-maker. But when the recession hit in 2008, I was laid off. Everybody was. The business transferred to Mexico. I knew nobody would hire me at my age, so I started this. It is good, but the work is hard. I’m not a young man. You just have to keep going.”

A shout goes out. Somebody has just collapsed the Jenga pile. That somebody’s gonna have to pay for one last round. Me, I feel like settling down with Ismet and chewing the fat, helped, ideally, by a bottle of plum brandy. slivovitz. Heh-heh.

But no slivovitz. It’s almost 9:30. He has to clean up, fix an oil leak on his truck, and restock for tomorrow before his day’s done.

Laku noc,” he says.

I guess I look puzzled.

“Goodnight.”

Dang it. Shoulda at least remembered that.

Place

Venissimo at The Headquarters

789 W. Harbor Drive, San Diego

The Places: Bosnian Grill food truck, 619-718-0267; regular locations include Quartyard; Otay Ranch Farmers’ Market (Tuesdays 4–8 p.m.); Ocean Beach Farmers’ Market (Wednesdays 4–8 p.m.); Gaslamp Farmers’ Market (Sundays 9 a.m.–1 p.m.); Allied Gardens Shopping Center Farmers’ Market (Fridays 4–8 p.m.)

Hours: Check individual hours and locations at Bosnian Grill Facebook page

Prices: Cevapi (beef sausage with Bosnian bread, onion, sour cream, garlic sauce), $8 (small), $12 (large); gyro sandwich, $9; gyro plate (with rice, pita bread, salad), $15; gyro salad (feta cheese, olives, tzatziki sauce), $10; gyro with rice, $9; chicken breast gyro, $9; Philly cheese steak, $9; jumbo hot dog, $5; mixed plate, $15

Here's something you might be interested in.
Submit a free classified
or view all

Previous article

How Otay changed, secret TJ gardens, Mission Valley's future

San Diego State's Paseo project, building a Rancho Santa Fe mansion, downtown high rises never stop
Next Article

Beating back fear of Tijuana, why I keep thinking about Mexico, a cross-border kidnapping

The normalcy of smuggling across the line, party people re-take TJ, deported but not angry
Bosnian Grill Food Truck on evening visit to Quartyard
Bosnian Grill Food Truck on evening visit to Quartyard

"Dobro vecé!”

This is me, greeting Ismet Sahic beside his truck. It’s 8 p.m., and Quartyard, here at Park and Market, is Sunday-night mellow. A floodlit rack of people sits drinking and chatting at the bar of the converted shipping container. A few gals and guys are playing cornhole between the rows of picnic tables. Their strings of dogs sit leashed, desperate to chase the flying bean bags. And at a long picnic table, folks are intently into Jenga, that game where you pull wooden bricks out of a pile and try not to let it collapse.

Dobro vecé? It means “good evening” in Bosnian-Serbo-Croatian. I was in Bosnia once. And I’m guessing that’s what Ismet Sahic speaks, because he’s cooking away in this food truck labeled “Bosnian Grill.”

“Dobro vecé,” he says back. “Give me a moment.”

So I kinda let the slope roll me down to the bar, ask Blaine the bar guy what kind of stouts they have, and take him up on Camp Fire Stout. High Water Brewing, up Stockton way, $6.75. Biscuity, chocolatey, marshmallowy. Uh, a little sweet for me.

But as I sip, Ismet and his truck get me thinking Bosnia again.

Sigh. Sweet times. Before all the bad stuff hit the Balkans. Lots of partying, rough and gutsy home-grown wines, and of course the national plum brandy, slivovitz. Ayee! But what was most beautiful: you saw churches and mosques side-by-side. Bells and calls to prayer echoing out together. Bosnia was where Islam and Christianity met and...shook hands.

Uh-oh. See Ismet waving.

“What would you like?” he says when I get back to the truck. He points to a big list on the side.

“Greek customers say I have the best gyros,” he says.

He has five types of gyros. The sandwich ($9), the plate (with rice, pita bread, salad ($15), the salad with feta cheese, olives, tzatziki sauce ($10), or just gyros with rice ($9). Or chicken breast gyros ($9). Then we’re talking Philly cheese steak ($9) or a jumbo hot dog ($5). Also a “mix plate” for $15.

But I’m interested in the item right at the top. Cevapi. What the heck is that?

Cevapi, with bundle of sausages inside its lepinja (Sarajevo bread pocket)

“In Sarajevo, where I come from, cevapi [he pronounces it chevapi] are like tacos are here. They are our street food.”

The name’s totally new to me, so even though it’s 12 bucks, I ask for that. “Beef sausage,” it says. “Served with Bosnian bread, onion, sour cream, garlic sauce.”

Ismet Sahic has escaped war horrors to bring Sarajevo street food to San Diego.

“Maybe ten minutes, okay? I have to cook it,” Ismet says. “I’ll call you.”

A quarter hour’s slow sipping and Ismet slides my food steaming through the serving hatch. Wow. It’s a kind of golden-baked pastry beehive. No, more like a giant quilted pin cushion. Or actually, more like a giant egg with baby dinosaurs all squabbling around inside, waiting to bust out. Like when you rip the top open, all these heads of sausage pop up.

“It’s a lepinja,” he says. “It’s like a flatbread but with yeast so it rises a little and you can put things inside. This has come all the way from my hometown, Sarajevo. We also call it somun.”

“The bread?”

“Right, the bread. It comes frozen.”

“So how do you eat it?” I ask. Just noticed the knife and fork.

“In Sarajevo, you just use your fingers,” Ismet says. “Rip off a bit of the bread, then grasp some sausage and the onions.”

Ajvar (pronounced aye-var) sauce gives flavor to this ultimate Balkan street food

I see a carpet of chopped raw onions inside. There’s also a pot of red stuff and another of white stuff. “The red is ajvar. It’s paprika, eggplant, tomatoes, hot peppers.”

And the white stuff? “Unripened cheese,” says Ismet. He calls it kajmak. And, boy, tastes good, like clotted cream.

So, I spread that all over the sausages and lepinja and then just toss all the red ajvar over the sausages.

“Have it while it’s hot,” says Ismet.

I take it to the nearest table. Man, the sausages are spicy, and that ajvar is lush and more eggplant-flavorful than spicy-hot. Goes with my second beer, a Monkey Paw brown ale.

“The sausage meat?” I ask.

“If we could bring in young calves and lamb from Bosnia, we would,” says Ismet. “The meat’s flavor would be much stronger. Bosnians can tell the difference.”

The bread certainly has plenty of umami flavor on its own, and with the quilting on top you can rip neat diamonds off, just enough to wrap a sausage.

What gave Ismet the idea to start a Bosnian Grill truck? You might say history.

“I got out from Sarajevo two months before the siege and the massacres began,” he says.

Bosnian Muslims were the victims. Ismet is Muslim. “First I was in Germany, then when they didn’t want us anymore, I came here. It was easier in 2000. I became a builder, a cabinet-maker. But when the recession hit in 2008, I was laid off. Everybody was. The business transferred to Mexico. I knew nobody would hire me at my age, so I started this. It is good, but the work is hard. I’m not a young man. You just have to keep going.”

A shout goes out. Somebody has just collapsed the Jenga pile. That somebody’s gonna have to pay for one last round. Me, I feel like settling down with Ismet and chewing the fat, helped, ideally, by a bottle of plum brandy. slivovitz. Heh-heh.

But no slivovitz. It’s almost 9:30. He has to clean up, fix an oil leak on his truck, and restock for tomorrow before his day’s done.

Laku noc,” he says.

I guess I look puzzled.

“Goodnight.”

Dang it. Shoulda at least remembered that.

Place

Venissimo at The Headquarters

789 W. Harbor Drive, San Diego

The Places: Bosnian Grill food truck, 619-718-0267; regular locations include Quartyard; Otay Ranch Farmers’ Market (Tuesdays 4–8 p.m.); Ocean Beach Farmers’ Market (Wednesdays 4–8 p.m.); Gaslamp Farmers’ Market (Sundays 9 a.m.–1 p.m.); Allied Gardens Shopping Center Farmers’ Market (Fridays 4–8 p.m.)

Hours: Check individual hours and locations at Bosnian Grill Facebook page

Prices: Cevapi (beef sausage with Bosnian bread, onion, sour cream, garlic sauce), $8 (small), $12 (large); gyro sandwich, $9; gyro plate (with rice, pita bread, salad), $15; gyro salad (feta cheese, olives, tzatziki sauce), $10; gyro with rice, $9; chicken breast gyro, $9; Philly cheese steak, $9; jumbo hot dog, $5; mixed plate, $15

Sponsored
Here's something you might be interested in.
Submit a free classified
or view all
Previous article

Greensky Bluegrass 20th Anniversary, Sam Smith Livestream from Abbey Road, Full Moon Halloween Hike

Events October 29-October 31, 2020
Next Article

Cooler weather just an opening for Pelly's clam chowder

Northwest oysters, local fish, and a sourdough bread bowl in Carlsbad
Comments
0

Be the first to leave a comment.

Sign in to comment

Sign in

Art Reviews — W.S. Di Piero's eye on exhibits Ask a Hipster — Advice you didn't know you needed Best Buys — San Diego shopping Big Screen — Movie commentary Blurt — Music's inside track Booze News — San Diego spirits City Lights — News and politics Classical Music — Immortal beauty Classifieds — Free and easy Cover Stories — Front-page features Excerpts — Literary and spiritual excerpts Famous Former Neighbors — Next-door celebs Feast! — Food & drink reviews Feature Stories — Local news & stories From the Archives — Spotlight on the past Golden Dreams — Talk of the town Here's the Deal — Chad Deal's watering holes Just Announced — The scoop on shows Letters — Our inbox [email protected] — Local movie buffs share favorites Movie Reviews — Our critics' picks and pans Musician Interviews — Up close with local artists Neighborhood News from Stringers — Hyperlocal news News Ticker — News & politics Obermeyer — San Diego politics illustrated Of Note — Concert picks Out & About — What's Happening Overheard in San Diego — Eavesdropping illustrated Poetry — The old and the new Pour Over — Grab a cup Reader Travel — Travel section built by travelers Reading — The hunt for intellectuals Roam-O-Rama — SoCal's best hiking/biking trails San Diego Beer — Inside San Diego suds SD on the QT — Almost factual news Set 'em Up Joe — Bartenders' drink recipes Sheep and Goats — Places of worship Special Issues — The best of Sports — Athletics without gush Street Style — San Diego streets have style Suit Up — Fashion tips for dudes Theater Reviews — Local productions Theater antireviews — Narrow your search Tin Fork — Silver spoon alternative Under the Radar — Matt Potter's undercover work Unforgettable — Long-ago San Diego Unreal Estate — San Diego's priciest pads Waterfront — All things ocean Your Week — Daily event picks
4S Ranch Allied Gardens Alpine Baja Balboa Park Bankers Hill Barrio Logan Bay Ho Bay Park Black Mountain Ranch Blossom Valley Bonita Bonsall Borrego Springs Boulevard Campo Cardiff-by-the-Sea Carlsbad Carmel Mountain Carmel Valley Chollas View Chula Vista City College City Heights Clairemont College Area Coronado CSU San Marcos Cuyamaca College Del Cerro Del Mar Descanso Downtown San Diego Eastlake East Village El Cajon Emerald Hills Encanto Encinitas Escondido Fallbrook Fletcher Hills Golden Hill Grant Hill Grantville Grossmont College Guatay Harbor Island Hillcrest Imperial Beach Imperial Valley Jacumba Jamacha-Lomita Jamul Julian Kearny Mesa Kensington La Jolla Lakeside La Mesa Lemon Grove Leucadia Liberty Station Lincoln Acres Lincoln Park Linda Vista Little Italy Logan Heights Mesa College Midway District MiraCosta College Miramar Miramar College Mira Mesa Mission Beach Mission Hills Mission Valley Mountain View Mount Hope Mount Laguna National City Nestor Normal Heights North Park Oak Park Ocean Beach Oceanside Old Town Otay Mesa Pacific Beach Pala Palomar College Palomar Mountain Paradise Hills Pauma Valley Pine Valley Point Loma Point Loma Nazarene Potrero Poway Rainbow Ramona Rancho Bernardo Rancho Penasquitos Rancho San Diego Rancho Santa Fe Rolando San Carlos San Marcos San Onofre Santa Ysabel Santee San Ysidro Scripps Ranch SDSU Serra Mesa Shelltown Shelter Island Sherman Heights Skyline Solana Beach Sorrento Valley Southcrest South Park Southwestern College Spring Valley Stockton Talmadge Temecula Tierrasanta Tijuana UCSD University City University Heights USD Valencia Park Valley Center Vista Warner Springs
Close