Smoked Meat-Stuffed Balkan 'Burgers' at Astoria's Djerdan
Pljeskavica (PLYESS-ka-vee-tsa) is a Bosnian sandwich of ground beef and lamb molded into a thin, oversized disc and cooked on a grill, then stuffed in a slightly stiff, mildly flavored bun. That method means it's compared to a burger almost every time it's mentioned in American press, even if the analogy isn't entirely apt. When you look at a pljeskavica's cross-section you can see that the meat takes on a bouncy, sausage-like texture more than one of a loosely packed burger. But enough nitpicking: the experience of eating one is much like eating a burger—that is, one of hapless, meaty joy.
$12 gets you their plain pljeskavica, which is lightly smoky and sweetened by a touch of onion (also, it's huge, definitely best to share), but for an extra $2 you can get the punjena version. It's the same wheel o' beef and the same bun, but the meat is folded in half and stuffed with chunks of thick-cut smoked meat and crumbles of especially tangy feta. They go a long way toward flavoring the mild patty, well worth their two buck surcharge.
The sandwich, stuffed or unstuffed, comes with pungent red pepper spread (ajvar, which with this burger analogy you could call the Balkan ketchup) and raw chopped onions. Add 'em both to the meat as well—they're good additions.