This past weekend, with the season's first winter storm brewing, my wife and I made our first visit to Paprikash. Paprikash has gotten a fair amount of praise on this board, and mostly I just want to add a voice to the chorus, and thank its most vocal supporters, especially the erstwhile Harry V., for directing us out west.
The food was quite good. We both played it safe, her opting for beef gulyas, me for veal paprikash. Both were warm, tasty, and filling, the gulyas a bit more full-flavored and peppery, the paprikash heavier in the stomach but lighter in spice with the addition of sour cream to the gulyas sauce. A fairly sweet glass of Bull's Blood worked well with these foods. The cucumber salad (with a bit of sour cream) I thought delicious, a vibrant yet simple take on the humble cucumber. I was surprised at how good this was.
But the biggest surprise (even bigger given the height of my anticipation) were the large, round "garlic doughnuts" provided gratis shortly after entering, even before the complementary bread basket. I've never been to Merlo, so I have no quibble with Mr. V.'s rating of this delicacy as the second best free item in Chicago. These treats were brought to the table fresh-fried, still hot (imagine a "HOT GARLIC DOUGHNUTS NOW" neon sign flashing in the window), full of garlicky goodness and doughy doughnut dough, without overwhelming on either count--a really perfect balance of two wonderful yet rarely paired treats.
Service was delightful, with a subtly cheerful somewhat coy waitress who seemed genuinely pleased to be there. I think we were lucky to hit it on a night quite busy, as well--the lively warmth of the place greeted us from the moment you open the door. (Well, the second door--we were greeted by a larger-than-life eastern European ceramic chef when we opened the first. Don't let him scare you off.)
If we lived in the neighborhood, we would surely be back regularly. As it stands, it is a wonderful place to visit on a cold, wintry Chicago night. Thanks again to all.
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