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Met Kodra’s shop has been part of the New Bazaar neighborhood for more than sixty years. Quite an accomplishment in a city like Tirana where too many places come and go without a trace. There is a reason why this shop has survived Tirana’s tumultuous history, transformation, and changes in the population’s tastes and preferences. For a long time following the fall of Communism, locals moved away from traditional Albanian fare, preferring instead the newly offered taste of the western world. So, how exactly did Met Kodra survive and never lost its appeal? Read the story below.
Qofte zgare literally translates to “grilled meatballs.” Mention these two words to any Albanian, and they will tell you how good they “used to be.” Suffice it to say, then, that Met Kodra’s qofte zgare satisfy even the pickiest of Albanians. For nostalgic locals, these impeccably grilled meat sticks are the closest you can get to the authentic taste of the late 80s and early 90s. For visitors, these will quickly become as associated to Albania as bratwurst is to Germany or hot dogs to the United States.
A modest, unassuming man stands over the smoking grill, looking over an endless string of these tender and juicy meatball sticks. Do not be fooled by the inconspicuous shop. Though recently renovated and sporting a contemporary look, it remains quite simple and easily blends in with rows of similar-looking fast food shops in the bustling neighborhood. But, this shop is a little different.
To hear Tani, the current owner, tell the story, you come to realize the amount of loyalty to family and local businesses it takes to preserve tradition and quality. Mustafa Kodra, the original owner, whose portrait actually hangs on the wall, started the business in 1957. His son, and the shop’s namesake, Muhamet Kodra, followed in his footsteps. Now, Tani, who married into the Kodra family, has taken over the business where he has worked for the last 30 years of his life, “getting meat from the very same trusted butcher shop, keeping the same everything!” as he likes to say, a glint of understated pride showing through his smile. “If we do not preserve some traditions, what’s the point?” A man of few words, but he gets his point across.
At Met Kodra, you will find 100% fresh, organic beef grilled to perfect, juicy tenderness, sprinkled with the traditional mix of salts and herbs, served inside a hot, crispy and flaky bun. It seems simple because it is. But, it is precisely in these simple foods that one can truly taste the quality. Met Kodra’s delicious and authentic simplicity keeps people coming to this legendary place.
Countless customers come and go throughout the entire day, placing and picking up their takeaway orders. Others, like us, prefer to sit down and enjoy this brief return back in time. Especially after lunch, at its slowest hour, it is wonderful to relax with some qofte and beer in one of the few tables set up outside. While Met Kodra’s does not serve beer, his neighbor will be happy to bring it over. Just call him and he will serve you fresh draft beer from across the fence. See? Even this neighborly collaboration works its magic and takes you way back to simpler times.