When Ellie’s Euro-American Grill & Coney opened in Berkley in 1983, its lineup of soups, salads, breakfast dishes, Coney Islands, burgers, hot and cold sandwiches, entrees and desserts were pretty much what one would expect from a self-described “grill and coney.”
The restaurant had something unique about it, however: food reflecting the Macedonian origins of its naturalized owner-chefs Jonce “Jason” and Elica “Ellie” Ilievski. Buoyed by the popularity of their home cooking, the Ilievskis decided to make Central European dishes the focus of their cozy diner. Renamed Ellie’s Grill, there isn’t a Coney dog in sight.
The menu and chalkboard specials include house-made dishes hailing from the Balkans, Hungary and Poland.
Ellie’s Balkan specialties include Pleskavitsa, a seasoned beef and pork Balkan burger incorporating chopped onions; Kebap, seasoned beef and pork links; Ranichi, two grilled pork skewers; Macedonian Mixed Grill, featuring Balkan burger, pork skewer, Kebap and pork tenderloin: and meatless Macedonian Vegetable Deluxe, with seasonal grilled veggies. The house-marinated meats made the mixed grill I shared recently a delicious choice.
Dinner plates include Djuvech rice, a moist, tomato-based rice with bits of vegetables, and delectable, vinegary coleslaw. The same entrees are offered a la carte at lunch; for a nominal charge, add soup, salad or coleslaw.
“Our Hungarian dishes are very popular,” Ellie Ilievski said. “People come to try a bit of everything, then return for their favorites.”
I especially like the bone-in Chicken Paprikash, served in a paprika sauce over house-made spetzle. Other guests swear by Hungarian beef tips with spetzle, goulash (stew) and beef stroganoff. The Polish choices, on Wednesday and Thursday only, include sauerkraut and cheese pierogi, kielbasa plate, and stuffed cabbage in a flavorful tomato sauce with mashed potatoes and vegetables. Some of everything is in the Polish Combo.
Hand-battered fish and chips, featuring house-made tartar sauce, is always listed, along with macaroni and cheese — shells covered with a variety of cheeses. On Friday only, seared tilapia and pickerel fish are available on a bed of seasoned brown rice with sauteed vegetables.
The spinach pie is so good here, it sometimes runs out early. The light, flaky phyllo dough has a traditional Greek filling and tzatziki sauce.
The diner’s hearty soups, originating in cold climes, are especially welcome now. My soup of the day, cabbage-bean, was savory and good-tasting with bits of kielbasa. Five entree salads listed on the menu are enhanced by choosing a house-made dressing: ranch, Greek, Italian or maple balsamic.
Do save room for the fabulous baked goods at Ellie’s Grill. Guests especially enjoy Kreamish and (hey, it’s gluten-free!) Triple Chocolate Mousse Cake.
Not long ago, the restaurant got rid of the original pink, sponge-painted walls that Ellie hated in favor of a neutral palette with colorful artwork. Most of the seating was converted to booths for greater comfort. Renee and Christine are the friendly, helpful servers.
Esther Allweiss Ingber
2033 Coolidge Road, Berkley
$$½ out of $$$$$