The story of Three Brothers is a dramatic one. “My father bought this tavern in 1950,” recalls proprietor Branko Radiecevich. “He chose the name Three Brothers in anticipation of his three sons coming to the United States. Alexander, Milutin, and I escaped Yugoslavia in 1956. It was a real reunion; I had not seen my father for fourteen years, when we were separated in a Nazi concentration camp.”
Branko’s family restaurant has become a quiet landmark that attracts eaters from all walks of life and all ethnic groups. Accommodations are polite but humble – dine at a bare-top, steel-banded table – and the ethnic food is grand. We started with lemon-and-wine marinated rice-stuffed grape leaves, which were served with black olives and firm sticks of nut-sweet kashkaval (a goat’s milk cheese) and a “Serbian salad” of tomatoes, green peppers, and onions veiled with a web of finely-grated Bryndza, a soft goat’s-milk cheese.
When we first came for supper in the fall, Branko reminded us that it was leek season and brought out a savory pastry pie layered with caramelized peppered leeks. He was even more enthusiastic about roast lamb, a Three Brothers signature dish that is basted four hours in its own juices with tomato, pepper, onion, and garlic, and served just barely on the bone. Poke it with fork tines, and bite-size hunks of meat separate from the haunch and fall into the juice on the plate. The menu describes it as A must for the lamb lover; but we suspect that even non-lamb lovers might find its refined taste irresistible.
The building in which Three Brothers serves these fine meals is a corner tavern that was built in 1897 and for decades was owned and operated by the Schlitz Brewing Company. The Schlitz insignia – a globe – still crowns the peak of the roof. There are no longer seats at the old bar, which runs the length of the front room and is now a service area, but the wood-floored saloon retains the warmth of a community gathering place.
Recently several Roadfood.com members met at Three Brothers for dinner. Everything is still as described in Michael Stern’s original review. The food is outstanding. Selections from the menu include roast lamb shank, stuffed grape leaves, bureks, musaka, Wiener schnitzel and Serbian salad and hors d’oeuvres. The service is very friendly and “familyish.” Branko Radiecevich, the 80 year old owner, and his family maintain the reputation for fine service that has made Three Brothers a very popular place for an encounter with “Old World Style” dining. Full bar service is available.
The most popular of the dishes selected by our party was the burek. A crusty pastry shell is filled with your choice of cheese, beef, or a spinach-cheese mixture. This is a rich and very filling entree. Three of our party selected the spinach and cheese version. Custom made for each order, it takes some time to bake, but the results are certainly worth the wait. Over two inches thick, the appearance and aroma drew positive comments as they came from the kitchen. The burek is as good to eat as it is beautiful. All three of us had leftovers to take home at the end of the night.