Saturday I went out to try a new place that was referred to me by a friend. I went with my sister and her family. Taste of Europe is a little Eastern European deli in an industrial area on the northwest side of Indianapolis that serves hot food in a small dining room off to the side of the store.
Upon entering Taste of Europe I noticed shelves containing packages with labels in languages I hadn’t seen since leaving Europe nearly 20 years ago. It felt foreign yet familiar. I saw jars filled with different pickles and sauces including Ajvar (pronounced ayvar). There were drinks with labels unfamiliar to most Americans and sweets like prepackaged Baklava, Milka milk chocolates, and other wonderful foods and tidbits.
Almost right in front of the entrance is a counter with a cash register and an illuminated glass menu board with a menu hand written in luminescent ink to the right of the cash register and a small white board tacked to the wooden pillar to the left with the daily specials scrawled on it in dry erase marker. Behind the counter stood Lou Mladenovic, the Yugoslavian born proprietor, and his wife Donna. Like many of the European canteens I used to visit when I was younger, meal orders are taken at the counter.
I don’t rightly remember what brought the subject up (maybe it was the glass deli counter off to the left of us) but we began talking about the sausages on the menu and Lou brought each of us a small paper plate with some cheese and some samples of Hungarian sausage. One was mild with a smoky flavor and the other was similar but with a peppery bite (a tell-tale sign of pepperiness in sausage is a bright red tinge and this one definitely had it). The cheese was semi-soft and served at room temperature and the flavor reminded of a cross between an Ementaller and a Gouda, delicious! We then placed our orders and were told to sit any where we’d like in the back room.
The seating area can sit up to 45 people but we were in no danger of being crowded out because only one other table was occupied. The seating area consists of two rooms in what looks to have been a re-purposed office with waiting area. One wall is dominated by a fireplace set in the center of it, and the opposite wall has a couple of large bay windows flanking what looks to have been the front door of the office. There are some pictures on the wall and the area is well lit.
The tables are Formica and the chairs are banquet hall chic. They are plain, bare, and only meant to serve one purpose; to give clients a place to sit down and eat.
Overall the décor is minimal at best but then Taste of Europe is primarily a deli store and not a formal restaurant.
The handful of customers that were there when we arrived were almost done with their meal, so essentially we were the only ones awaiting service. Once the order was placed, we waited no more than 5-10 minutes for the meal to be brought out. Drinks were self serve so we had no issues with refills. Throughout the meal Lou brought out small delicacies from behind his meat counter. We had samples of a beef sausage reminiscent of hard salami in texture but with a much different but very tasty flavor. He also brought us samples of smoke-cured bacon, pork shoulder, and head cheese.
Considering that only Lou and Donna were there, if they had a really good run on the dining room and some folks in the store, they could get overwhelmed and as a result service might suffer. As we were the only people there; however, the service was great and we greatly enjoyed Lou’s hospitality.
Judging from the condition of the floors, shelves, counters, chairs and tables, Lou and Donna keep their deli clean and tidy. When the customers before us left, their table was promptly cleared and the table cleaned.
Ok… here’s where it gets really interesting. As I stated earlier, Lou kept bringing us samples of different sausages, cheese, and smoked meats. They were all high quality and delicious.
For our meals, I ordered the Lamb Stew from the specials board, my sister got the Kraut & Sausage, my brother-in-law ordered the Boeuf Bourguignon, and my niece got the Cevapcici (pr. Chevapchichi), listed as Cevap on the menu. Lou told us to get out drinks out of the cooler and sit wherever we liked. I should mention here, there are no alcoholic drinks, merely some American and European soft drinks and water. Oh yeah, you can also order a Turkish coffee if you like.
The servings were generous, and I mean generous. Each dish was served with a large dinner roll of soft bread. My Lamb Stew was hearty and delicious. The lamb was very mild and tender and served in a very thick stew of mixed chopped vegetables, very much like a goulash. The stew was so good I used my bread to mop up the plate.
My sister’s Kraut & Sausage was also very tasty. The sausage was a Kielbasa that is available for sale in the deli. The sauerkraut was fresh and prepared properly by first washing out the brine so it didn’t taste too salty or overpoweringly sour. My sister had a very hard time letting me have a taste.
My brother-in-law’s Boeuf Bourguignon wasn’t the Boeuf Bourguignon you’d get in a Frenchman’s house or a French restaurant for that matter. It was much more like a beefy version of my stew which is to say a goulash. That being said, the beef was tender and the stew was well prepared, scrumptious, and satisfying.
In my opinion, the dish that stole the show was the Cevapcici my niece ordered. First, the serving size was exceptionally generous. There had to have been at least nine, maybe more of those mouth-watering small skinless sausages of pork and lamb along with a great heap of creamy coleslaw on the plate. Served alongside was some sliced onion, and some feta cheese. For condiments there was a small plastic tub of Ajvar and Czech mustard. For those of you that do not know what Ajvar is, it is made primarily of red bell peppers, eggplant, and garlic mixed with other sundry ingredients to make a scrumptious relish that I have no problem making a pig out of myself with. I’ve been known to eat it straight out of the jar with a fork! Anyway, back to the food. The Cevapcici was as good as any I have ever had, and I thought the coleslaw was over the top. My niece didn’t care much for it as she prefers vinegar based slaws, so being the generous Uncle that I am I helped her finish it.
To complete the meal, we ordered dessert. My sister and my niece each ordered a slice of Atomic Cake. Don’t ask me what is in it, I just know it was dense and had some cheese cake, chocolate, raspberry or strawberry jam, and whipped cream or fluff in it. They scarfed it down in seconds! I ordered a slice of German Chocolate Cake. It was exactly what I expected in flavor; however, the cake was just a touch dry. Still I enjoyed it tremendously.
The Juicy Bits
I fully enjoyed a Taste of Europe. I was reminded of the canteens I used to visit for lunch and the Balkan restaurants my family used to frequent in Europe. The menu is straight forward and the proprietors very friendly and obviously proud of their ethnicity and food, and want to share it with their customers. If all you are interested is having a wonderful tasting Eastern European meal in a no frills atmosphere, Taste of Europe is the place for you! I should also mention that while my meal and drink came out to less than $15, I spent so much time at the meat counter that my total bill came out to nearly $55!
In summary: Taste of Europe is a great place to go if you want a good lunch or dinner with no frills. The food is fresh, satisfying and above all delicious. Just don’t go there expecting to eat and leave because it’s guaranteed you’ll find something else in the store to add to your bill!
Taste of Europe
4320 West 96th Street
Indianapolis, Indiana 46302
Tel: (317) 337-8797
Hours: Tuesday – Saturday (10:00 a.m – 8:00 p.m), Sunday (10:00 a.m – 5:00 p.m.)