Natalie Gjekmarkaj knows how to make byrek, said by some to be among the best street food in the world. Now, she has brought the recipe and its secrets to 12th Ave.
“My home country Albania — byrek. Even in Italy, Croatia, Serbia… If you go in Turkey it’s a big deal, too,” Gjekmarkaj tells CHS.
Quietly the newest part of 12th Ave’s Seattle U-proximate food and drink scene, Byrek and Baguette has opened near the corner of E Columbia inside a former Vietnamese restaurant. There, you’ll find a deli case full of byrek and Gjekmarkaj baking away to fill orders from what has become a bit of a booming business providing her flaky creations for business lunch delivery.
The byrek is intended to be a savory, light pastry. “It’s a very light dough and you need to work it about three times and keep it very thin,” Gjekmarkaj says. Her fillings are simple. She currently offers six:
- Fresh Spinach, green onions, and ricotta cheese 4.25
- Ricotta, cottage, and feta cheese 4.25
- Beef, onion, and tomato 4.50
- Leek, egg, and feta cheese 4.25
- Diced yukon potatoes, and red onions 4.25
- Granny Smith apple, walnuts and caramel sauce 4.50
You can grab two for $7.49 or one with salad for $5.95. The byrek are served with yogurt sauce, also crafted by Gjekmarkaj. As for the baguette part, there are also turkey or ham sandwiches on offer.
“I am by the students,”Gjekmarkaj said of her location across from the university campus. “You can have it fast. And it’s cheap, too.”
Byrek and Baguette’s 12th Ave cafe is actually the second location for the business. Gjekmarkaj opened up in a teensy tiny space in the Bellevue Square mall, of all places, last November. At 94 square feet, the first Byrek and Baguette has served as a place to get the venture started and begin business deliveries on the Eastside. It’s also been a source of some new-era product testing for the old country byrek. Gjekmarkaj says she has refined her recipes based on the reviews and feedback gathered during her first months of business in Bellevue.
“They know about burgers but they don’t know anything about byrek,” she said. “So I appreciate their feedback.”
Now Gjekmarkaj’s focus — when she’s not rooting for Kristjan Sokoli — is on growing her business in Seattle. She wants to keep things mostly simple but is looking forward to introducing delicious Albanian food and drink to the mix. You might find drinking yogurt on the menu next.
Byrek and Baguette is now open at 732 12th Ave. Hours are currently 10 AM to 9 PM (sometimes later!) on Monday through Friday. Weekend hours are still being worked out but are shaping up as 10 AM to 6 PM in the near term. You can learn more at byrekandbaguette.com.