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Café Mediterano Cooks Up Turkish Delights and More in Essex Junction

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Café Mediterano - MATTHEW THORSEN
  • MATTHEW THORSEN
  • Café Mediterano

Vietnamese restaurants have cropped up all over Chittenden County. African markets, too. But Vermont's Bosnian contingent still flocks to one village for its favored flavors: Essex Junction. Café Mediterano is the only restaurant in the 802 that serves up a full menu of Mediterranean street food.

Location Details Café Mediterano
60A Pearl St.
Chittenden County
Essex Junction, VT
802-878-9333
Bosnian and Mediterranean
Café Mediterano - MATTHEW THORSEN
  • MATTHEW THORSEN
  • Café Mediterano

Most nights, Eastern European customers fill the tables at the casual café, watching Bosnian news or singing competitions on a pair of flat-screen TVs. But Americans also appreciate Barney Crnalic's home cooking. It includes perfectly crisped slices of gyros meat — lamb-and-beef loaf on a spit — served in pitas or wraps, on salads, or on platters accompanied by seductively fluffy, buttery rice.

Crnalic's hummus is garlicky; his dolmades are pillowy and tingling with citrus. The falafel, filled with roughly chopped chickpeas, makes for an exceptionally hearty snack.

And those are just the Turkish delights.

Bosnian specialties keep diners noshing into the night. A meat pie called burek is lightly spiced beef encased in crackling, buttery phyllo dough. Spinach-and-cheese pies come with a crust that recalls the crêpe-like tenderness of Hungarian palacsinta or Polish nalesniki. Crnalic finishes them on his panini press, leaving crisp grill marks in the soft dough.

Café Mediterano - MATTHEW THORSEN
  • MATTHEW THORSEN
  • Café Mediterano

But the main attraction at Café Mediterano is evapi. Served on a fluffy homemade roll, the juicy beef sausages Crnalic makes from scratch pack a spicy, garlicky wallop. He serves the roll with kajmak, a cross between mild, soft cheese and clotted cream. The result is a Bosnian "cheeseburger" with way more flavor than your average American beef patty.

Save room for Crnalic's homemade baklava. Its cloak of honey is just sweet enough not to overwhelm the nuts and spices within. The dessert didn't originate in Bosnia, but Mediterano is all about breaking down borders. No matter where you're from, deliciousness needs no translation.

This article was originally published in 7 Nights: The Seven Days Guide to Vermont Restaurants & Bars in April 2014.