With Playska, Tim Wiechmann Is Ready to Bring Balkan Street Food to Boston

Just don’t ask too many questions about the menu’s signature sandwich.

playska cambridge tim wiechmann

Chef Tim Wiechmann shows off his signature pljeskavica sandwich at Playska. / Photograph by Webb Chappell

For a guy on the verge of opening an Eastern European takeout joint—the kind of place that could use a little explanation—Tim Wiechmann is acting remarkably cagey about details. “It’s, uh, definitely going to be a Balkan sandwich shop,” he says, in response to my way-more-specific question. “I’ve got my bread together and my meat together. The other stuff is just…filling the colors in.”

This much we’re sure of: The new spot opens this month in Inman Square. It’s called Playska, short for pljeskavica, a popular Balkan sausage/burger hybrid that will be the centerpiece of a menu that also includes house-baked breads, pastries, salads, and condiments from the area. Wiechmann became fascinated with the region by accident during reconnaissance trips throughout Europe for Bronwyn, his tribute to Teutonic sausage-craft in Union Square, and began selling pljeskavica at Prototype Tuesdays, a series of weekly experimental menus. “They were so successful,” he marvels. “I was like, I can build a whole concept around this.”

On paper, at least, it sounds like a mash-up of Sofra and Cutty’s, Serbian-style. But there are, well, some details he’s loath to part with. Wiechmann allows that his “playska” will be made from ground beef and pork formed into a patty—but he’s not willing to tell us the shape yet. Or how he’ll cook it. “I’ve tested grilled, griddled, steamed, and roasted,” he says. “All four tasted great.”

When it comes to the rest of the menu, Wiechmann is a little more forthcoming: It’ll include bureks and pogacha (see “Vocab Lesson,” below); house-pickled stone fruits (apricots, cherries); and a Bulgarian tomato-feta salad called shopska. But about that blasted playska—the item so beloved he named the entire place for it? Ništa.

After several attempts to extract a little more information about his signature item, I’m reduced to waving his own press release at him. Says right here that your playska will feature “a red pepper compote, a house sauce with a cream cheese base, red onion, and pickled cucumber.” Is this correct? “Yes.” So I’ll ask you one more time: What’s in this patty besides ground meat?

“That’s the one thing I really want to keep a secret,” he says. “I don’t want everyone making playskas everywhere.” Is that really a danger? “I don’t know. But what exactly goes into a playska I’d rather not talk about.”

Vocab Lesson

A glossary of Balkan foodstuffs.

Pljeskavica: The street-food inspiration for the playska (pictured above) is traditionally a grilled patty of two or more ground meats (beef, veal, pork, or lamb) enhanced with paprika and onions, served naked or as a sandwich.

Burek: A difficult-to-master style of layered pastry made from flaky sheets of phyllo-like dough, which Wiechmann plans to lavish with cheese and seasonal delicacies like foraged mushrooms and nettles.

Pogacha: A yeasty, soft-crumb white bread eaten in Serbia, Croatia, and Macedonia. Wiechmann’s playskas (at least as of press time) will be served on a rendition naughtied up with rendered bacon fat.

Ajvar: Serbia’s answer to ketchup, this sweet-savory marmalade made from red peppers and garlic will get slathered onto Wiechmann’s playskas—and packaged for retail sale in the shop’s refrigerated case.