Banh mi cevapcici, Sunset Pho Caffe Credit: Mike Sula

Some time ago I threatened to start posting a cevapcici of the week, celebrating the ubiquitous Balkan sausage in all its glorious diversity. Other sausages got in the way—there was just so much sopressata and morcilla to write about. But then I got word of an intriguing cross-cultural hybrid in a West Rogers Park Vietnamese restaurant: a sandwich already born of colonial culinary miscegenation, joined in perfect union with the skinless beef sausage from southeastern Europe.

My friends, I give you the banh mi cevapcici.

It’s the creation of Ngoc Diep Stakic and husband Zel, owners of the one-year-old Sunset Pho Caffe. Ngoc, who hails from Ho Chi Minh City, has been making cevapcici spring rolls for Zel (Rijeka, Croatia) ever since they got married a decade ago. Last summer Zel, a realtor, was showing the space—the erstwhile Balkan Sunset Caffe—to a potential client with Ngoc tagging along. Impressed with his pitch, she asked if she could have it, and Sunset Pho Caffe was born.

Pho dac biet, Sunset Pho CaffeCredit: Mike Sula

It’s an unusual place to look over a Vietnamese menu with a full complement of rice, noodles, pho, and specials like curried frogs legs and clay pot catfish. It’s all dark wood, track lighting, slivovitz behind the bar, and the sibilant sounds of Serbo-Croatian from longtime regulars hunkered over bowls of bun bo hue. On the other hand, slurp a bowl of Ngoc’s intoxicating pho dac biet on the covered patio alongside busy Western Avenue on a humid afternoon and you might as well be on a Saigon sidewalk.

Banh mi cevapcici, Sunset Pho CaffeCredit: Mike Sula

The Vietnamese have been eating betel-leaf-wrapped beef sausage sandwiches (banh mi bo lo lat), for like forever, so a banh mi cevapcici really isn’t all that weird. The Stakics serve thin grilled beef/veal cevapcici with the aforementioned spring rolls and with rice noodles, but it’s on the crispy house baked roll, with Ngoc’s house-made mayo, pickled carrots and daikon, raw jalapeno, and cilantro, that it achieves sausage sandwich singularity.

Ăn ngon nhé/ Dokbar tek!
 

Sunset Pho CaffeCredit: Mike Sula

Sunset Pho Caffe, 5726 N. Western, 773-275-2327