The Legend of Loki
Belgrade has many legends, but there’s only one that managed to rally hundreds of people around the humble pljeskavica. Meet Belgrade Legend Sasa Mitrovic, the owner of the food stand Loki.
It all started over twenty years ago, when Mitrovic opened Loki in a public square near Kralja Petra. His food stand sustained Serbians with pljeskavica, cevap, and gurmanska 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. A loyal following developed among hard-partying Beogrdjani emerging from bars at four in the morning. Loki became a quintessential Belgrade experience, like walking on Knez Mihailova or getting ripped off in a taxi from the airport.
But in 2010, the good times were coming to an end for the humble, green-roofed shack. Kralja Petra’s fortunes were rising–and so was the value of the land that Loki sat on. Based on rumor and my poor translation of news articles, it seems that Mitrovic didn’t own the land, but tried to claim that Loki had historic value that prevented a tear-down. Celebrities, models and sports starts called for Loki to remain on municipal land. Authorities were undeterred. A court ruled that Loki would be no more.
Beogradjani took to the streets to prevent Loki from being torn down. At least five police showdowns occurred. Workers, patrons, and Mitrovic himself formed human barriers to prevent the bulldozer from breaking down tradition. During the fifth stalemate, Mitrovic locked himself in his kiosk and threatened to light it on fire if the police dared to come any closer. He was subsequently arrested, along with 50 other people. Loki was later bulldozed to the ground.
The legend doesn’t end there. Several weeks later, Mitrovic opened a new Loki not far from his old location. The new Loki was in a proper storefront that some claim Mitrovic owned for many years. It still stands there today.
My question is, why didn’t Mitrovic use his storefront before things came to fisticuffs? Perhaps he wanted to thumb his nose at Belgrade authorities/prospecting real estate investors. Maybe he wanted to keep the storefront as a private bar for close friends. Possibly, he bought it in the months leading up to the court decision, knowing the Loki stand would one day be no more. Or maybe…he knew that a legend always needs a little mystery.
*For a proper rendition of facts, see the Serbian article about the arrest here. Information about the old Loki is scarce, so feel free to correct me/add your own impressions in the comments.