Afternoon Snack: Burek at Muncan in Astoria and Ridgewood, Queens
It's late afternoon and dinner is a few hours away. Where do you get a quick bite to carry you through the day? Afternoon Snack looks at quick bites to tide you over without spoiling dinner. Got a snack we should check out? Let us know. —The Mgmt.
Fans know, Muncan isn't just good for their smoked and cured meats. Surveying their massive stock of sausages, bacons, and hams can be a tiring affair, and when you're all stocked up you may find your stomach grumbling. But there's no reason to look elsewhere for a bite.
At both locations, they produce fantastic burek, the pan-Ottoman pastry of phyllo--airy and crispy on the surface, doughier as you dig deeper--layered with a savory filling. Burek come in all shapes and size. Here, they are spiraled, in similar fashion to the pumpkin burek at Tony and Tina's, which, family heir Marko Stefanovic explained, is a result of the phyllo they use and not a stylistic choice.
Four flavors ($4 a piece) are available daily. Ground beef and cheese are the traditional options, but there's also the more modern apple and recently introduced jumari varieties. In each, the phyllo is excellent, without the distracting grease that sometimes develops in less caring kitchens. But, as elsewhere, the beef was my least favorite—though a few drinks in, I don't think I'd be singing the same tune. It's still good, but not as tasty as their cheese burek, which has a more developed flavor and a restrained richness.
The nontraditional varieties, though, are where it's at. Seasoned with cinnamon, the apple burek tastes a good deal like a crunchier, lighter Eastern European apple pie. It's an irresistible intermingling of fruit and dough.
The jumari, garnished with luscious pork fat sliced off the deep fried rinds, is food to revel in. The filling is made by grinding the pork rinds into smaller, softer bits and, then, mixing them in with cheese. They wisely don't load up on the meat, which could be overwhelming, and some bites consist exclusively of cheese. But the end result is fantastic, a match made in heaven, and a single bite will have you asking, "where have you been all my life?"
These burek are made to go, so there's no oven to heat them up, but if you can suffer the wait you won't be disappointed. If not, they aren't too shabby cold, either.
About the author: Chris Crowley is a former Serious Eats intern and the author of the Bronx Eats column. You can follow him on twitter here, or pay a visit to his new food blog, Sound Bites, over on Wordpress.