Beginning at the turn of the twentieth century, Serbian immigrants began flooding Chicago’s Southeast Side. Known for their toughness, they immediately became a force in the South Side’s steel mills, standing in front of blast furnaces shoveling coal, and cooling off between shifts in local taverns. Their reputation as iron workers became legendary, as the local Germans, Greeks, Italians and Poles grudgingly admired their ability to walk a narrow I-beam twenty stories up in below-zero weather, often wearing nothing but a sweatshirt. The Southeast Side has changed drastically, but you can still get a taste of Serbian food and culture on the North Side at the annual Serb Fest. Sample whole lamb and pig slow-barbecued on a rotisserie over open coals. Or taste the grilled skewers of raznjici. The best may be the Cevapi, lean ground beef and lamb rolled up in sausages the size of breakfast links. Grill them up, toss ten on a pita with onions tzatziki and you have the national Serbian dish.
Holy Resurrection Serbian Orthodox Cathedral church grounds, 5701 Redwood, (773)693-3367, serbfestchicago.com
Best of Chicago 2012