>> Café Bubamara | Eat the World NYC

26 August 2019

Café Bubamara

SERBIA 🇷🇸

Like most areas in and around the city of Paterson, the small neighborhood of Botany Village was once full of folks who worked in silk and wool mills at the beginning of the 20th century. The small community is part of Clifton, NJ, running just north of Passaic and touching the Passaic River. Plant nerds will be disappointed to find out the namesake is actually the Botany Worsted Mills, which opened along the river in 1889 and operated until the 1950's, although most of the factory complex is still intact along Dayton Avenue to the south.

Along with Garfield on the opposite side of the bank, the neighborhood has a large amount of Eastern Europeans and their descendents. Besides a nearby Hungarian butcher and Bosnian burek shop just south on Parker Avenue, there is a Balkan market across the street and plenty of Polish establishments across the river.


One of the most noteworthy businesses in Botany Village, Clifton, and the entire vicinity is a growing cafe named in Serbian (бубамара) for a ladybug. Unlike many Balkan spots in and around New York City and northern New Jersey, the menu takes a deeper look at the cuisine and offers much more than the most famous simple dishes.

It was surprising to see the name Turkish coffee ($3, above) on this menu, as during trips in Serbia and Bosnia there was constantly scolding for using the term. "This is Serbian coffee" would be a typical response. No matter what it is called, the presentation alone is worthy of an order as the set comes on a wonderful plate. A full list of coffee and tea drinks are available and can be enjoyed in their brand new and quite comfortable outdoor covered garden.


Before diving into some of the more rare menu items, at least one homemade burek ($6.35, above and below) must come to the table. Although this size is described as "personal" it is still quite large and comes with a full bottle yogurt for dipping, drizzling, and sipping, an essential part of eating a burek.

As seen below, this version is with spinach but is packed with cheese. The dough is very thin and very hard to cut nicely, layers of it and the filling almost become one mass towards the center. It is one of the better bureks you will taste in the area.


Also available in mini versions for half the price, these present good options for taking home. Besides spinach, there is meat, cheese, potato, zucchini, mushrooms, and apple versions.

The cafe itself has a very friendly vibe and is set up well to take solo diners or large groups. Especially now with the back garden and large flatscreen TV, just about anything can take place here.


Anyone having traveled in Turkey will recognize the Đevrek ($13.75, above and below) as simit, but as with many foods consumed by the peoples of the Ottoman Empire, the influence was left behind as the borders shrank in size. This dish comes with a truly Mediterranean bent though, using the cured meats so popular on both sides of the Adriatic Sea and a cheesy yogurt topping to make it uniquely Balkan.

In the end the "beef" version (below) tastes a bit like pizza, and there is absolutely nothing wrong with that. Pepperoni and cheese combine within the crisp, sesame-encrusted bread to create bites of pure joy, especially when a generous dollop of yogurt is placed on top.

A pepperoni pizza inside of simit, almost.

If you get up to walk around and give your stomach a break between courses, you might notice Serbian or Macedonian conversations here and there, but the motif of the restaurant seems to be an ode to Yugoslavia, with the old flag hanging proudly in the garden and framed photos and items displayed everywhere including the beloved Yugo car, which unfortunately was only marketed in the United States for a brief stint ending in 1992.


Translated to English as "savory crepes" the slane palačinke ($12.95, above and below) are available in both oven baked and fried formats. On this day, the latter sounded right and was ordered with ham, cheese, and mushrooms. It is served with another sour cream concoction, this much more savory with garlic and herbs.

Often you can eat non-fried palačinke in Serbia as a dessert, with jam or fruit or cheese, which resembles a blintz. A special asterisk on the menu recommends that you ask your server for the sweet crepe list, if you still have room for another course near the end of a meal.


With no knowledge of anything similar to this here or during travels, an order of yogurt popara ($11.75, below) was a must. This dish is made using stale old crusty bread and yogurt and comes just slightly sweet from sugar or cheese or a combination of both. Other versions of popara are usually eaten for breakfast, and it can easily be imagined that this would work for that too, maybe with a drizzle of honey.


Café Bubamara is obviously the type of place that folks living within five or ten miles will make their regular local hangout, but it is also worth coming from farther afield for the unique items coming out of the kitchen. Newcomers are welcomed as old friends, and the bright ladybug shows itself on almost every surface.


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Café Bubamara Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for posting that place in Botany Village. My dad grew up there. My grandfather had a grocery there. I still like to go back to catch the resonance of the new people like these Serbs.

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