The Boise area has a fairly large Bosnian population, but not many Bosnian eateries to show for it.
Sure, you can get a strong cup of coffee and gyro-like sandwiches at Bosnia Express (BoEx) on Emerald Street. But until recently, no restaurant offered a full-blown Bosnian menu. All that changed last year when Sofra Bosnian Grill opened in the former Pier 49 Pizza spot, near the corner of Eagle and Overland roads in Meridian.
In many ways, the cuisine of Bosnia-Herzegovina is similar to the food dished up in other countries of the western Balkans —Serbia, Croatia and Montenegro — and even Albania, Greece and Turkey farther to the south. Spinach-packed phyllo pies, grilled kebabs and puffy sandwiches with aromatic meats are popular in this stretch of the Adriatic Sea. Let’s not forget all those cucumbers, tomatoes, peppers and eggplant that grow so well in the Mediterranean.
Owner Edina Delic, who hails from the northeastern part of Bosnia, goes out of her way to give diners a taste of her homeland. She bakes bread daily and makes fresh cheese and just about everything else from scratch. This attention to detail and authenticity has garnered her restaurant rave reviews from customers.
The dining room is not much to look at in terms of interior design, with its stark, strip-mall ambience and rows of booths. But the friendly staff is welcoming and knowledgeable. Four flat-screen TVs dominate the décor, including two behind the counter that flash photos of the menu and food on a continuous loop.
The affordable menu features a few starters, salads, soups and a lineup of traditional entrées that are indicative of the region where Delic grew up. It also includes some standbys from other spots in the Mediterranean, including a Greek-style gyro and a shawarma sandwich of Egyptian persuasion. Sofra doesn’t serve beer or wine, but you can score an eye-opening cup of Bosnian coffee and espresso drinks.
Fans of savory pies are in luck here. Order the burek entrée ($7.99) and you’ll get two baked pies — tubes of flaky phyllo dough filled with seasoned ground beef and finely chopped onion, rolled into a snail-like form — served with little cubes of feta, grape tomatoes, and sliced red onion and cucumber.
Zeljanica ($7.99/entrée) will remind diners of spanakopita from Greece. These flaky pies, also rolled into an ornate pattern, are filled with a verdant spinach and feta cheese mixture that is salty and earthy in a good way.
You might also want to wrap your hands around two golden-brown sirnica pies ($7.99/entrée), which are nice and flaky thanks to layers of puff pastry, packed with curdy cow’s milk cheese that squeaks a wee bit when your teeth sink into it.
These entrées come with a glass of kefir (plain yogurt drink). It’s somewhat unremarkable on its own, but it adds greatly to the flavor profile when consumed with the pies.
A spinach dip appetizer ($4.99) is essentially spinach-swirled béchamel served with warm wedges of chewy, focaccia-like bread for dipping in the velvety, rich dip.
Bosnian-style bean soup (grah) is not unlike a good ol’ American navy bean soup, only it’s spicier and made with beef and not ham hock. But you get the idea. The bowl of hearty soup ($7.99) is pocked with small white beans, red bell pepper, onion, carrot and lots of ground black pepper, and the side of bread makes it a meal.
Cevapi (a sandwich pronounced “cheh-VAH-pee’) is one of the national dishes of Bosnia-Herzegovina. A crusty disc of house-baked flatbread ($10.99/large) gets split and stuffed with grilled, skinless beef sausage links — redolent of garlic, paprika and parsley — and sliced white onion. The sandwich gets served with sour cream and a pureed veggie relish called ajvar that’s made with roasted red bell pepper, tomato, garlic and eggplant.
Sarma ($9.99) is another delicious dish from Delic’s home region. With this entrée, delicately simmered cabbage rolls filled with seasoned ground beef and long-grain rice are smothered with paprika-spiked tomato sauce next to a large dollop of sour cream.
Bosnians love their grilled meats. It’s common throughout the country to find vendors cooking kebabs along the roadside. Here, the chicken shish kebab ($9.99), smoky and tender marinated chicken breast linked with onion and bell pepper, come properly flame-seared on metal skewers. Two kebabs are placed on a nest of green salad striped with chopped tomato adjacent to a side of tangy dressing (or rice, if you choose). Sofra also offers beef shish kebabs.
For dessert, try the Sofra cake ($3.25), a tall wedge displaying a smooth walnut mixture atop a layer of yellow sponge cake, finished with chocolate sauce and a big puff of whipped cream.
Sofra Bosnian Grill is certainly one of my favorite new restaurants in the Treasure Valley. I may have been a little late in checking this place out, but I’ll surely be back for more.
Statesman reviewers pay for their meals and attempt to dine anonymously. Email James Patrick Kelly: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Sofra Bosnian Grill
Address: 3665 E. Overland Road, Meridian
Phone: (208) 389-8690
Hours: 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday-Saturday
Menu price range: appetizers, soups and salads $3.99-$7.99; sandwiches and entrées $7.99-$10.99.
Libation situation: None
Kid friendly? Yes
Wheelchair accessible? Yes
Opened: August 2016