I've driven past Deta's storefront cafe', 7555 N. Ridge Ave. on the Chicago-Evanston line probably hundreds of times. This afternoon I decided to stop in. Once through the door, I found only one table open. The other two were occupied -- one surrounded by a group of large men, some drinking coffee and the others beer, and at the other was owner Deta Lekic (day-tuh lay-kitch) herself, checking her blood pressure with a home monitor.
She explained she was fine, but she and her family were concerned about her health as of late, since Lekic's own mother died Jan. 5, apparently of a heart attack, in the family's native Montenegro a country once part of the former Yugoslavia. So her daughter bought her a blood pressure machine. She asks if my own mother is "still here" and when I said no we both kind of pause, give each other that knowing smile and then she grabs a menu.
The centerpiece of her menu is the burek, a gorgeous savory pastry with a variety of fillings: spinach and cheese in one; ,a three-cheese in another; potato, onion and black pepper in still another; and finally meat, potato, onion and black pepper.
I asked about her personal favorite.
"Well, I'm not a spinach kind of girl," said Lekic, in her deep Eastern European accent. "But for me, I like the potato, onion and black pepper."
I ordered one on the spot and was lucky that she had one available, considering all the to-go orders the restaurant was working on.
Lekic took me back to the modest kitchen where a long-time friend was helping make the bureks. She explained that the homemade pastry, somewhere between the consistency of a phyllo dough and a pie crust, is rolled in a circle. The ingredients are added and after what appears to be a complicated rolling process, the burek is put in to the electric oven and baked at about 400 degrees for 3 or 4 minutes.
The gorgeous pinwheel-shaped pastry is a satisfying meal for two if you order a large, which will set you back $6.50 with smaller versions for $4 and $2.50.
While this would normally be served with yogurt in her home country, she has added items to her menu to satisfy American tastes, salad and cola.
A proud woman, Lekic admits that fellow Montenegrins are in the burek business around Chicago, but that hers are the best.
"I'm not a professional cook, my mother taught me. And I make it all myself -- everything is homemade here, everthing fresh."