A restaurant can't survive 50+ years in business, plus a pandemic, without something compelling to offer. And such is the case at Old Town Serbian Gourmet Restaurant, 522 W. Lincoln Ave.
In many ways, walking into the dining room at the restaurant is like stepping back in time. Textured plaster walls are covered in photographs, emblems and old paintings. The floor is covered in crimson carpeting and the tables are topped in white linen.
But, it's that old school charm – along with a menu of tried and true staples from Serbian salad and goulash to handmade cevapcici (sausage) and desserts — is part of what makes the 50+ year old restaurant so incredibly appealing.
“We’ve kept things traditional,” says second-generation owner Natalia Radicevich, who assumed restaurant ownership from her parents Alexander and Radmila in 2010.
“There are things quintessential to dining — linens on the tables, nice plates and glassware – and the idea is to give everyone who walks through the door an experience.”
That type of experience now extends to the restaurant’s brand new sidewalk patio, which offers views of the St. Josaphat Basilica, which is just a block away.
Radicevich says she hopes that the restaurant’s sidewalk dining takes off. “It’s such a beautiful view, dining under the beautiful basilica domes that are all lit up at night … it’s very magical under the starry sky.”
But guests can also take in the patio views on Sunday mornings from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. thanks to the roll-out of a brand new Old Town menu featuring a range of amazing brunch-worthy dishes, many of which are like nothing else in the city.
Serbian brunch = delicious
Take the deliciously flakey Breakfast Burek, for example.
This “open-faced” version of the traditional Serbian pastry features thin, crispy layers of buttery phyllo dough and guests’ choice of fillings: spinach and egg or spinach, cheese and egg. Each burek comes with a fresh egg on top ($18).
It’s perfect alongside a fresh Strawberry Mint Frost featuring pureed strawberries, lime and ice with mint and a topping of whipped cream ($9).
Or choose from more traditional brunch drinks like a peach bellini ($9), mimosa ($9) or Serbian bloody mary featuring a housemade mix with house-charred tomatoes, onions, peppers, aromatics and spices and served with a garnish of feta cheese ($12).
There’s Schnitzel a la Holstein featuring guests’ choice of pork, veal or cauliflower steak that’s hand-breaded, pan-fried and served with a fried or poached egg on top ($18). Meanwhile lobster benedict comes piled high with sauteed spinach, fresh tomatoes, lobster and housemade hollandaise.
On the sweeter side, there are tender Baklava (pronounced bak LA va) Pancakes topped with ground walnuts, Serbian baklava syrup (flavored with orange, lemon, ginger, clove, star anise and cinnamon) and buttery phyllo dough flakes, which make every bite into a textural feast ($14.95).
There's also Serbian Cinnamon Babka French Toast featuring slices of fresh babka griddled in butter until golden and served with sweet bourbon sauce ($13.95).
Be sure to ask about their indulgent chocolate-filled burek, a shareable treat featuring chocolate-filled phyllo topped with powdered sugar. It’s delicious.
For guests who’d prefer, the restaurant also offers buttermilk pancakes with strawberries or blueberries ($11.95; or choose chocolate chips for +$2.50); traditional three-egg omelets with fillings like onion, spinach, ham, peppers, mushrooms and feta cheese; or even a simple classic breakfast featuring two eggs (your way) with toast and a choice of housemade sausage or bacon ($12.95). View the full brunch and dinner menus online.
You can also catch Old Town Serbian Gourmet at the South Shore Farmers Market on Saturdays where they will be selling an assortment of prepared foods including breakfast bureks, shaved lamb sliders with pesto and strudel. Be sure to say hello to Natalia if she is working!
Old Town Serbian Gourmet Restaurant is open Wednesday and Thursday from 5 to 9 p.m., Friday and Saturday from 5 to 10 p.m. and Sunday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. for brunch and 5 to 10 p.m. for dinner.
Lori is an avid cook whose accrual of condiments and spices is rivaled only by her cookbook collection. Her passion for the culinary industry was birthed while balancing A&W root beer mugs as a teenage carhop, fed by insatiable curiosity and fueled by the people whose stories entwine with each and every dish. She’s had the privilege of chronicling these tales via numerous media, including OnMilwaukee and in her book “Milwaukee Food.” Her work has garnered journalism awards from entities including the Milwaukee Press Club.
When she’s not eating, photographing food, writing or recording the FoodCrush podcast, you’ll find Lori seeking out adventures with her husband Paul, traveling, cooking, reading, learning, snuggling with her cats and looking for ways to make a difference.