Like most people who live in Manhattan, I’m guilty of perpetually ignoring the Bronx. I’ve eaten food from almost 90 countries, but have deigned to visit the Bronx only three times. That’s kind of lame, and I kind of suck.
But my anti-Bronx suckitude isn’t actually all that bad by Manhattanite standards: according to a survey conducted by an online dating site, only 16% of New Yorkers from the other four boroughs would ever date somebody from the Bronx. Yup, if you’re from the Bronx, you can pretty much only get laid with other people from the Bronx. Aren’t you impressed by how charmingly open-minded New Yorkers are?
In an effort to compensate for my own pathetic Bronxlessness, I decided to date several women from the Bronx, just to see what would happen.
I’m lying. I already have a smoking-hot girlfriend, so I decided to eat as many bureks as I could in a single afternoon in the Bronx instead. The total? Five bureks—in four different flavors—from three different restaurants owned by immigrants from three different Balkan nations.
In case you’re not familiar with them, bureks are the Balkan’s version of a good slice of pizza: quick, tasty, cheap, doughy, and satisfying. Most bureks are made from layers of paper-thin phyllo dough, stuffed with meat, cheese, spinach, pumpkin, or other fillings. They’re kind of like a relatively macho, egg-free quiche, or maybe a cross between deep-dish pizza and a stuffed croissant. I’m pretty convinced that bureks are like sex or pizza: even when they’re bad, they’re still pretty good.
Our first stop, Dukagjini Burek in Bronxdale, was better than pretty good. And it actually resembled a pizza joint, with a blissfully simple menu: you could have your choice of meat burek ($4 for a large slice), cheese burek ($4 for a large slice), or spinach burek ($4 for a large slice). Or yogurt. That’s it. No other options, besides espresso and bottled beverages. And they were out of spinach bureks when we arrived, so we ate a cheese burek and meat burek.
Both bureks were incredible—crispy on the outside, but blissfully doughy on the inside, stuffed with wonderfully spiced ground beef and something resembling a mild feta cheese, respectively. The lovely lady behind the counter (presumably an ethnic Albanian of some sort; the owners of Dukagjini Burek are Kosovo-born Albanians) pulled the bureks straight from the oven and hacked each full-sized pie into four slices immediately before serving them to us. It was as fresh and tasty as a burek can get.
Our second burek stop was somewhat less inspiring. We headed to the Arthur Avenue-area outlet of Djerdan, a small, Bosnian-owned chain of burek bakeries. The store’s lone employee was incredibly warm and friendly, but the stick-shaped meat bureks—the only flavor available—were dry and lifeless, and tasted like they’d been removed from the fridge and put in a convection oven. Which they were, I think. The bureks were cheap ($4.25 for a pair of good-sized sticks), but they were basically the burek equivalent of, say, Domino’s Pizza—okay if you really need pizza (or a burek) and delicious if you’re drunk… but definitely not the best burek in the Bronx.
The Bronx burek circuit redeemed itself on our third stop, at Tony and Tina’s Pizza and Burek, an Albanian-owned spot on Arthur Avenue. Tony and Tina’s offers a pretty solid variety of bureks, filled with cheese, spinach, beef, or pumpkin. Since our first few bureks were stuffed with meat and cheese, we opted for a spinach and a pumpkin burek ($4 each).
It’s a little bit unfair to compare any other burek joint to Dukagjini Burek, but Tony and Tina’s came pretty close. The wedge-shaped spinach burek lacked the straight-from-the-oven doughy genius of Dukagjini, but the slightly creamy scallion-and-spinach filling was appealing enough.
The pumpkin burek, on the other hand, was pretty special: coils of fresh dough, stuffed with small globs of lightly seasoned pumpkin puree. And don’t we all love globs of pumpkin puree? It was everything you would ever want from a good slice of pumpkin pie, except that the pumpkin was unsweetened, and the dough was far fresher than an average pie.
See? Bronx food doesn’t suck, although I probably still suck for taking two years to figure that out.
758 Lydig Avenue, Bronx
Subway: Pelham Pkwy (2, 5 trains)
Tony and Tina’s Pizza and Burek
2483 Arthur Avenue, Bronx
Subway: Fordham Rd. (B, D trains) or Metro-North to Fordham
593 Crescent Ave., Bronx
Subway: 182-183 Streets (B, D trains)