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Telva at the Ridge Expands Balkan Treat Box’s Brilliance to Breakfast in Webster Groves

Telva at the Ridge, the new Webster Groves restaurant from the Balkan Treat Box family, makes the best breakfast sandwich I’ve ever eaten. This is no small praise. Just in 2024 so far, I’ve highlighted the breakfast sandwiches at the Biscuit Joint in Midtown and June’s Breakfast + Patio in Shiloh. The new edition of my STL 100 — published this week but written before I’d visited Telva — declares the exceptional Combo at Songbird in Forest Park Southeast the best breakfast sandwich in St. Louis.

Like Songbird’s Combo, Telva’s Breakfast Sendvic doesn’t try to reinvent the dish. Chef Loryn Nalic follows the basic template of bread, egg and cheese, with the option to add beef bacon or sudzuka, Bosnian beef sausage. Nalic does possess a secret weapon, though: her other restaurant.

Each day at Balkan Treat Box, Nalic’s husband, Edo, and father-in-law, Fadil, bake miniature loaves of Bosnian somun bread in that restaurant’s wood-fired oven. The crusty, char-flecked, but still airy somun proves as ideal for bracketing Telva’s breakfast sandwich as it does for cradling Balkan Treat Box’s cevapi, holding its form while it soaks up the sudzuka patty’s peppery juices. Rather than, say, a dash of hot sauce, the Sendvic’s vital, transporting accent is the somun’s hint of campfire smoke.

The Cilbir at Telva at The Ridge

Telva officially opened in January at Rolling Ridge Nursery in Webster Groves’ Old Webster district. The new restaurant expands Balkan Treat Box’s locally and nationally renowned Bosnian and more broadly Balkan cooking into breakfast fare. It also establishes a significantly higher benchmark for the crowds the Nalic family — married couple Loryn and Edo with Edo’s younger brother, Emir, and parents, Fadil and Zehta — can draw.

Loryn and Edo launched the Balkan Treat Box food truck in late 2016. (She is a St. Louis native; he emigrated from Bosnia.) The brick-and-mortar location followed in early 2019. That storefront is small and perpetually packed, the counter-service line often snaking among the tables.

Telva, in contrast, sprawls across Rolling Ridge’s upper level. Much of that is dedicated to a single large dining room, though there are also tables in a much smaller and cozier nook. On my visits, both areas were full or almost so. Telva also offers counter service, and here the team’s Balkan Treat Box experience results in an efficient process. You are assigned your table when you order, and when the line grows especially long, an employee with a tablet will join the stationary cashier to take orders.

The dining room at Telva at The Ridge

Breakfast is the focus of Telva’s compact menu, but the savory fare is equally appealing for lunch, and the Sloppy Mustafa Tost is hearty enough to put you to bed until tomorrow. This brilliant riff on moussaka and the Sloppy Joe tops a thick slice of toast with ground beef in a sauce of warm spices and dusky, slowly percolating heat. You barely see this moussaka layer at first, though. The kitchen hides it under a whole fried egg, generous shavings of double-cream feta cheese and fresh oregano leaves. Break the egg’s yolk with your fork, and the already rich dish generates its own, even more indulgent sauce.

In cilbir, a Turkish egg dish, three sauces compete for your attention: the twilight-orange yolks of two gently cooked eggs, a scarlet tomato-chile brown butter and a cooling, but still pungent garlic yogurt, all of it showered with fresh herbs. Swirl the sauces together and scoop the egg onto toast for a complete bite: soulful, tangy, herbaceous, umami-laden, with a teasing heat.

The Sloppy Mustafa Tost

Amid all these substantial, eggy dishes, Telva’s delicate gozleme just might sneak off with your affections. Available in limited quantities, the gozleme is a flatbread filled with a very thin layer of herbs and cheese. It looks like a quesadilla, though the flatbread isn’t as substantial as a tortilla; the texture resembles a more toothsome phyllo. The flavor is a distillation of early spring. You can add an egg to this, too, but you don’t need to do so.

As with its somun, Telva also bakes its pastries daily at Balkan Treat Box. I’m always thrilled to find another restaurant where you can’t repurpose the scones as a brick, and Telva’s sour-cherry scone conveys a pleasant chew and the tart, fresh flavor of its featured fruit. Baklava is sticky with the sugar syrup agda, crumbly with nuts and crackling with its layered phyllo. Unable to wait for dessert, I vanquished my order in a few bites before my main course arrived.

The double espresso I had ordered encouraged me to devour the baklava. When I tell you Telva serves both the best chocolate-coconut and chocolate-hazelnut lattes in St. Louis (the Cupavac and Eurocrem lattes, respectively) — sweet but not cloying, velvety in body from the foam to the bottom of the cup — it might not be as competitive an honor as the best breakfast sandwich, but it’s no less of a reason to visit.

Source: Still Today