Rodney Bowers is a busy man. In addition to launching his Little Italy meatball shop, Hey Meatball!, a couple weeks back, he’s designed the menu at Hrvati Bar, a Bavarian-style beer hole with a Croatian twist. Standing out from Koreatown’s bulgogi and soon tofu houses—in part thanks to a giant standing sign with Glagolitic script—the bar has a pared-down food menu, keeping much of the focus on the beer. The interior was designed by Brenda Bent (a.k.a. Susur Lee’s better half), who’s created a space that’s both lively and intimate, with nods to Croatia spotted on the walls, beer barrels dotted about and a 14-foot, custom-made communal table in the middle of it all.
Bucking the current local microbrew craze, Hrvati opts for a more Eurocentric beer list, serving many of its careful selection in large, satisfying steins ($5-$10). The current best seller is Ožujsko ($7.50), a Croatian lager whose label boasts its own popularity; Karlovačko, also Croatian, is due to arrive shortly. At present the bar is celebrating Oktoberfest, serving four of the official Bavarian beers currently being downed in Munich: Hacker-Pschorr, Spaten, Löwenbräu and Paulaner. (Indeed, this Saturday—the final weekend of this year’s fest—those beers will be served exclusively.)
Bowers’s menu is designed to be hearty enough to sop up the suds. The pljeskavica ($14) is a hormone-free Ontario beef hamburger dressed up with smoked mozzarella, caramelized onions and tomato, with sides of coleslaw and golden fries. The sausage platter ($12), or ćevapi, comes with sides of eggplant, roasted red peppers, sour cream and a buttered bun. And while vegetarians may feel a bit left out at present, we’re promised that a menu expansion is forthcoming—and as far as we’re aware, all the beers on offer are 100 per cent meat free.
Hrvati Bar, 690 Euclid Ave., 647-728-9936, hrvatibar.com