Located on 2954 W Irving Park Rd in Chicago, you’ll find the local and one of a kind Astoria Café & Bakery. Astoria serves a variety of Serbian cuisine, pastries, and custom cakes. The restaurant features foods found all over the Balkans, like sarma, burek, and pasulj. Astoria has it all. As a restaurant featuring all things Balkan, Astoria is primarily a bakery. With catering for parties to serving the iconic Astoria cake for a birthday, each item is homemade with love and care while also tasting amazing.
Once you walk into the restaurant, you’re greeted by the lovely owner, Tanja Jeftenic, and her mother, Snjezana Jeftenic. Although comprised of a small interior layout with numerous lavish tables and comfy benches along the windows and wall, the restaurant itself is cute and aesthetically pleasing. The white marble of the tables and the black and white striped cloth of the chair tie the whole restaurant together. The large windows to the front of the restaurant let you get the perfect lighting for pictures with your friends and capture the beautiful display of the food you order.
While waiting for your food after you order, your eyes can’t help but wonder and notice each detail of the interior. On the walls, beautifully edited pictures of the savory food sold on the menu and decorated cakes catch your eyes instantly. On the other side of the wall is the large and black letters that spell out “Astoria” with picture frames underneath it with more pictures of sweets that are served.
Once you order your food, just by the looks of the food you can tell how carefully decorated and crafted the food is made. My friend and I first ordered the meat burek which is the most popular savory dish in the Balkans. Burek is a baked dish made out of a thin flaky dough crust with fillings such as cheese, meat, spinach, potatoes and more. Burek is a very delicate and complex food item to create mainly because of how long it takes to make it and how tasteful you make it. The crust was perfect, not too flaky and not too greasy like other bureks I’ve had. There was a perfect balance between the meat inside and the dough crust.
After the burek, my friend ordered the Ferrero Rocher crepe, or palacinka, meanwhile I ordered the
Tutti Frutti crepe. In my friend’s crepe, it was made up of Nutella spread inside, Ferrero Rocher bits inside and topped with powder sugar, cookie crumbles, and whip cream. The sweet sensation that fills your mouth which each bite of the crepe is enchanting and mesmerizing. The crepe itself is also still warm while you eat it, which makes it taste even better as the Nutella inside melts in your mouth. The Ferrero Rocher bits inside combine hazelnut with more hazelnut and leaves the crepe to be irresistible.
In my Tutti Frutti crepe, it was filled and topped with sliced fresh strawberries and bananas with whip cream
and powdered sugar. Inside of the crepe, there’s also vanilla sugar to compliment the sweet strawberries and sugar together. The crepes here aren’t super thin like French people make their crepes, and instead, they’re thick enough to enjoy while still be able to fill the inside up with any filling you desire. The Tutti Frutti crepe is perfect for your breakfast if you’re trying to stray away from chocolate and have a fruitful morning.
Astoria Café and Bakery is probably one of the fastest and most delicious growing local bakery and restaurant in the Chicago area. While serving Balkan dishes, Jeftenic also offers different flavors that can seem more American to give people a feel for Balkan-American mixed foods and encourage them to come back and try more traditional Balkan foods. A few examples are the pizza and taco burek that include a variety of ingredients to make it taste like a food item that you’ve had before and that you’re not worried about branching out to start trying Balkan cuisine.
While being a local bakery and restaurant, Astoria is truly unique and one of the best Balkan restaurants that I’ve been to in Chicago. The aesthetic, the decorating, and the food and desserts that taste like home are what complete this restaurant. If you’re interested in trying something new, I encourage you to stop by Astoria Chicago and get a feel for yourself on what the Balkans are most known for: our heavenly food. On a scale of one to ten, I’d give Astoria a ten because of the quality of the food and the wonderful service by the Jeftenics.