Hamburger is one of the most popular foods in the world, however in the Balkans and especially in the former Yugoslav countries, the most popular dish with minced meat remains cevapi or cevapcici. It is considered a national dish of Bosnia and Herzegovina, and is also common in Bulgaria, Serbia, Croatia, Montenegro, North Macedonia, Kosovo, Slovenia, Albania and Romania. Cevapi has its origins in the Balkans during the Ottoman period and represents a regional speciality similar to kebab. During the Ottoman occupation, hajduks (rebels, outlaws) made the hajducki cevap, which was easy to make, out of pieces of meat and smoked lard on a skewer roasted over fire. Cevapi as it is made today is said to have originated in Belgrade in the 19th century, and then spread throughout the Balkans. It entered Croatia in the second half of the 20th century and became extremely popular.
Cevapi are usually served as 5 –10 pieces in a flatbread, with chopped onions, minced red pepper, salt and various types of cheese. They are made from minced beef meat, but also from lamb or pork or a mixture. Croatian cevapi is most often made with a combination of the three types of meat, along with freshly chopped onions and kajmak (cream cheese) or ajvar (a special kind of sauce made from red peppers, eggplants and chili peppers). In Croatia, the most popular places to serve cevapi are small restaurants or canteens (kantuns). Some of them may have a small seating area, but basically they offer take-away food.
The Croatian city of Split seems to be the best place to try this Croatian street food variant of cevapi. Two small places in the historic center of this wonderful and historic city compete to serve the best cevapi in town (and probably in Croatia). One is Kantun Paulina (Matošića ul. 1, Split), a small place run by a family since 1969. Famous among the locals, Paulina serves five classic cevapi in a bread roll with onions, kajmak and ajvar. The other place not far from Paulina is Ba!Će (Križeva ul. 1, Split). This place also serves excellent cevapi and in addition to take-away also has a small seating area. Here five (or seven or ten) cevapi are served in somun (traditional Bosnian bread) along with onions and ajvar. In the summer, when many tourists visit Split, during peak hours you will probably have to wait in a long queue to be served in one of these two places.
We hope to convince you that if you are visiting Croatia and especially Split and want to try a juicy hamburger, just do not do it and try the delicious cevapi, at least most locals will do the same.