Deta's Cafe in Rogers Park

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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."

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As a frequent Ch. visitor I am pleased to observe your new column. I will follow it with interest. I note in you article about Deta's that in your first paragraph you noted the "large men" were the customers. I have thought of this comment. What purpose does it serve? I don't recall ever reading a review with such a description. My best interpretation is that you are a closet frustrated novelist and you description was a thinly veiled attempt at filling out a "thin" article. Surely, the owner served more than one item. And please, the mother loss reference was poorly chosen and would be better placed in a short story.

here's the article larry gooch style:
Deta's Storefront Cafe, 7555 N. Ridge Ave. The End.

By the way burek are amazing and there's enough variation to have a blog of their own. Try Beograd's (vic. Irving Pk/Sacramento) or Noli's on Kedzie near the brown line. If they're still there.

Did you know that burek and the middle eastern "sambusek" are related? Some even believe the connection extends to the Indian subcontinent's "samosa!"

And if you've ever enjoyed "galactobourikos" I believe it just means "milk burek" in Greek...those ancient Turks sure got around...

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This page contains a single entry by Lisa Donovan published on January 5, 2008 6:02 PM.

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