Burnaby’s humble, pedestrian Edmonds St. neighbourhood is rapidly developing. A tall condo tower (probably one of many destined for this area) is near completion at the corner by Kingsway, and another was recently completed just across the street. Surrounding these shiny, new developments are squat, old three story walk-ups and single family homes. Mirroring this area’s diversity, Edmonds St. offers a surprisingly diverse array of ethnic groceries and restaurants, everything from Malaysian, Thai, Vietnamese and Saudi to African, Filipino, Bosnian and Chinese. It is, essentially, a microcosm of our Metro.
The Serbian-run Balkan House is the kind place that still serves old-fashioned meat and potato Sunday buffets. The interior decor can most accurately be catalogued as “Eastern European Hunting Lodge”. Dark wood panelling, fake beams, brown pendant lights, overstuffed booths, and rugs all combine to create a warm but dark and masculine atmosphere. Thankfully, it has been spared the flat screen TV contagion that has infected most of the restaurants for many kilometres around.
The service is “European old-school” which is supposed to imply attentive, unobtrusive, and professional. It comes from a time when no one gave a shit about how your first few bites are tasting. It’s all business. No chit chat.
If you love meat, this is the place for you. “Balkan” food — meaning the food of Serbs, Croats, Bosnians, Albanians, Macedonians, Bulgarians, Romanians and Greeks (did I miss anyone?) — is a veritable celebration of grilled meats. Take this opportunity to load up on various types from the grill. If you are with a group, order a mixed grill of Sausages (Cevapcici, $10.50), Shish Kebab (Raznjici, $11.95-$13.95), Meat Patty (Pljeskavica, 15.95) and Lamb Chops (Jagnjeci Kotleti, $17.95). My personal favourite is the Smoked Pork Neck (Dimljena Vjesalica, $15.95).
If you are alone (and famished) order one of the mixed grills that includes the Neck for $16.95. If you have ever eaten at a Greek family restaurant in the 70’s and the 80’s, then you would be familiar with all the salads and side dishes. Think calamari, tomato salad, feta — that sort of thing. Tripe lovers (count me in) should try the Beef Tripe Soup (Skembici, $7.95).
(If you haven’t completely overdosed on meat after a meal here, then make sure to check out Jovo the Butcher across the street. Buy some of his smoked sausage, pork loin, and bacon).
Balkan House belongs to a rapidly diminishing restaurant genre and I feel the need to document these anachronisms before they get renovicted out of the Lower Mainland. With new density coming just a few blocks away, I would hope that the new condo-dwelling inhabitants would come and patronize it and all the little family run restaurants on this strip. And I don’t doubt that they will. But as this neighbourhood changes character, many of these places will likely close or move away anyway. So go out to Edmonds Street and check them all out now while you still can.