In the rock climber’s paradise – the town of Demir Kapija (Демир Капија), it is hidden the worst restaurant in Macedonia. It is so terrible that I gladly return over and over again, every time I’m in the neighbourhood and it became my favourite place in the whole region.
The restaurant Kučkin (Kuchkin / Кучкин), meaning “Dog’s” was introduced to me by the rock climbing community some years ago. It was especially recommended for its gigantic salads. Since I love to try out new tastes, I hopped on my bicycle to make an evening, 111 km trip to the restaurant. And ever since, I keep doing that.
The restaurant is not difficult to find, but if you are not looking for it, you will not find it. It is located close to the centre of Demir Kapija, opposite the train station, and a few meters down in a small street. I’ve seen it only during warm months, when it is easy to identify amongst the local houses because it has no fence, a big paved area in front, and a lot of chairs and tables scattered around. Most of the time there is no one at the tables, unlike the other restaurants in Demir Kapija where other people do stop by very often. The chairs and tables look terrible. In a normal circumstance I would reconsider twice if I want to sit there. None of it looks even remotely tempting.
Once overcoming the unpleasant feeling of the state of it all, you may sit down. But do not expect a prompt service. One should feel like at home there. So feel free to go inside and take a table cloth for your table. While you are at it, you can take some plates as well. When inside you may bump into the owner, whether the lady or the man, does not matter, feel free to order a salad and a drink. But do not expect any English language support.
Once you are settled on the table, and your salad is in the process of preparation, you may want to think to go to the toilet. You may, but you should keep that thought only to a bare necessity. The toilet is through the adjoining entrance. Next to the door that says ‘Retirement’s Club of Demir Kapija’ and just on the right. Though I’ve seen worse toilets, this one is not failing to add to the gruesome image of the restaurant as a whole.
Finally, the salad will arrive. It is a pile. One salad could feed two or three hungry bicycle riders. The basis of the salad is cabbage. It is finely chopped and squeezed to be made very soft and tasty, and then mixed with some carrots. Like a cover, the cabbage is decorated with tomatoes, cucumbers, white cheese, boiled eggs, olives, onion, hot peppers and depending of the season: fried zucchini or boiled potatoes. Plenty, from all of the ingredients. And it is so tasty that I wish I could eat two of them at once, though I am not able to finish even one that I shared half with friends. It just may be too salty for some likings. However, with some beer, it goes just perfect.
Though there are other things one can eat, and they taste perfectly good, Kučkin, remains to be one of the best salad experiences in the country.
At the end, if you have not made friendship with the owners, then you will love them when they will present you a bill of about 400 denars (which is about seven euros) for two people. The salad costs only 200 denars, while everything else is extremely cheap. All of the underinvestment in the restaurant really pays off, since the only thing that is important and you really pay for is the good food.