Yapi Mediterranean Subs and Sandwiches Brings Bosnian Specialties to South St. Louis

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Lisa and Armin Grozdanic just may be serving the city's best cevapi at Yapi's Mediterranean Grill. - CHERYL BAEHR
  • Cheryl Baehr
  • Lisa and Armin Grozdanic just may be serving the city's best cevapi at Yapi's Mediterranean Grill.

Armin Grozdanic knows what it's like for the refugees who have recently relocated to St. Louis. After all, it wasn't so long ago that he was one of them.

"In 1996, my husband Armin was in a concentration camp in Bosnia for nine and a half months," Lisa Grozdanic explains. "He was able to flee with his family to Germany and then came here to St. Louis. That was seventeen years ago — and we've been together ever since."

The husband and wife team, who met as high school students at Cleveland NJROTC Academy, have made it their life's mission to help St. Louis' immigrants. For Lisa, it's through her full-time job in the social service department of the St. Louis Islamic Center. Armin's assistance comes in a culinary form — and in fact, it's what propelled the pair to open their new restaurant, Yapi Mediterranean Subs and Sandwiches (5005 S. Kingshighway Boulevard, 314-354-8333) in October.

Armin Grozdanic prepares the gyro meat. - CHERYL BAEHR
  • Cheryl Baehr
  • Armin Grozdanic prepares the gyro meat.

During Ramadan, Lisa explains, Armin cooks the iftar, or nightly post-fast meal, for two mosques. "This past year, he cooked for the Syrian refugees who have no running water or gas to cook for themselves," says Lisa. "Imagine, it's the heat of the summer, you've been fasting all day, and you have no way to eat. Armin brought them food to break the fast."

Though the Grozdanics' outreach was altruistic, it had the benefit of raising their profile as culinarians within the community, giving them the exposure and investments they needed to open a place of their own.

Yapi has quickly garnered a reputation as the place in town to get cevapi, a traditional Bosnian ground beef sausage dish served with sliced raw onions, sour cream and flatbread. "People says ours is the best," Armin says. "They ask why it's so good, not tough, and I tell them it's because I use fresh, organic ingredients and don't take shortcuts."

Yapi's signature cevapi, served with griddled flatbread, onions and sour cream. - CHERYL BAEHR
  • Cheryl Baehr
  • Yapi's signature cevapi, served with griddled flatbread, onions and sour cream.

You'll also find traditional daily specials, like goulash, on the menu, but the Grozidanics insist that Yapi is not strictly a Bosnian restaurant. In this spirit, the menu is peppered with everything from Mediterranean-inspired gyros to American subs, like a buffalo chicken melt. The restaurant's signature sandwich, the "Yapi Burger," features a mammoth patty of organic, grass-fed beef piled onto a fluffy roll with lettuce, tomato and thick-sliced onion.

Yapi is open Tuesday through Sunday from 11 a.m. until 8 p.m.

Click through for more photos of Yapi Mediterranean Subs and Sandwiches.

The buffalo chicken melt. - CHERYL BAEHR
  • Cheryl Baehr
  • The buffalo chicken melt.

Yapi is the only restaurant in town to serve the Bosnian cola, Sultan. - CHERYL BAEHR
  • Cheryl Baehr
  • Yapi is the only restaurant in town to serve the Bosnian cola, Sultan.

Yapi serves Bosnian, Mediterranean and American specialties. - CHERYL BAEHR
  • Cheryl Baehr
  • Yapi serves Bosnian, Mediterranean and American specialties.

Yapi is set up as a fast-casual cafe. - CHERYL BAEHR
  • Cheryl Baehr
  • Yapi is set up as a fast-casual cafe.

The "Yapi Burger." - CHERYL BAEHR
  • Cheryl Baehr
  • The "Yapi Burger."

Yapi's dining room. - CHERYL BAEHR
  • Cheryl Baehr
  • Yapi's dining room.

Yapi is now open on S. Kingshighway. - CHERYL BAEHR
  • Cheryl Baehr
  • Yapi is now open on S. Kingshighway.

We are always hungry for tips and feedback. Email the author at cheryl.baehr@riverfronttimes.com.

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