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  • Smak Tak

    Post #1 - September 23rd, 2008, 9:59 am
    Post #1 - September 23rd, 2008, 9:59 am Post #1 - September 23rd, 2008, 9:59 am
    Image

    I'd like to nominate Smak Tak - a truly fabulous gem in Jefferson Park. They are open 7-days a week but often Mellonhubby and I find ourselves the only table seated in the place on a Saturday night. I live in constant fear of Smak Tak closing in the middle of the night like so many great restaurants of years gone by.

    There are lots of Polish resturants in the area, but in the 14 years I've lived in Chicago I have yet to encounter a one that is as consistantly fantastic as the 'Tak': crispy potato pancakey goodness, fluffy and perogi, breaded pork cutlets that would make your grandmother cry, tender and savory golomkis, and fabulous daily specials.

    The list of Smak Tak posts are short and sweet: one main post and some other favorable mentions hear and there on the board. It's an economy of loving words for a place that gets the job done every time.

    Smak Tak has all the qualities of what I'm looking for when I think of a great neighborhood restaurant - excellent food, great (if typically dry-humored and Eastern Euro) service, and an affordable meal that I can return to many times a month. Mellonhubby and I ate there last Thursday evening and were discussing how we were suprised that the 'Tak' wasn't a GNR. So I'd like to help change that.

    Smak Tak thread:
    viewtopic.php?f=14&t=14884&hilit=smak+tak

    Other Smak Tak mentions:
    viewtopic.php?p=182275#p182275
    viewtopic.php?p=181877#p181877 (this one's by me!)
    viewtopic.php?p=208057#p208057

    Smak-Tak
    5961 N Elston Ave
    Chicago, IL 60646
    773 763-1123
    http://www.smaktak.com/
  • Post #2 - September 23rd, 2008, 10:03 am
    Post #2 - September 23rd, 2008, 10:03 am Post #2 - September 23rd, 2008, 10:03 am
    Based on my one visit last week, and on other posts from people whose opinions I respect, I can easily second this nomination. And it's not even another fast food/hot dog/taco joint!
  • Post #3 - September 23rd, 2008, 10:05 am
    Post #3 - September 23rd, 2008, 10:05 am Post #3 - September 23rd, 2008, 10:05 am
    mellonhead wrote:I'd like to nominate Smak Tak - a truly fabulous gem in Jefferson Park.

    Mellonhead,

    Not 20-minutes ago I was thinking Smak Tak would be a terrific GNR nomination. An enthusiastic heck yeah on my part.

    Enjoy,
    Gary
    One minute to Wapner.
    Raymond Babbitt

    Low & Slow
  • Post #4 - September 23rd, 2008, 10:15 am
    Post #4 - September 23rd, 2008, 10:15 am Post #4 - September 23rd, 2008, 10:15 am
    Yay, it was on my short list too, though I felt I couldn't because my only significant post about it is so long ago it was in Chewmutt days. But absolutely, Smak Tak. One of the little gems of Chicago's Polish presence, a cozy hunting lodge tucked way up on Elston that transports you instantly to the old country with mittel-European atmosphere and freshly prepared, hearty food. (Yes, I am generating quotes where I suspect they'll be needed!)
    Last edited by Mike G on September 23rd, 2008, 10:20 am, edited 1 time in total.
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  • Post #5 - September 23rd, 2008, 10:17 am
    Post #5 - September 23rd, 2008, 10:17 am Post #5 - September 23rd, 2008, 10:17 am
    Consistently the best soup and pierogies in Chicago. I've never brought anyone to Smak-Tak who hasn't thanked me.

    Best,
    Michael
  • Post #6 - September 23rd, 2008, 10:39 am
    Post #6 - September 23rd, 2008, 10:39 am Post #6 - September 23rd, 2008, 10:39 am
    This was in the top three on my personal nomination list. Richly deserving and so damn delicious. I spent some time in southern Siberia (Transbaikal area, near Ulan Ude, in Buryatia, www.golosa.org ) with Old Believers who were originally from Poland (centuries earlier), and Smak Tak comes closest to replicating their hearty winter fare.
  • Post #7 - September 23rd, 2008, 11:09 am
    Post #7 - September 23rd, 2008, 11:09 am Post #7 - September 23rd, 2008, 11:09 am
    Great choice. A most worthy nomination!

    =R=
    Why don't you take these profiteroles and put them up your shi'-ta-holes? --Jemaine & Bret

    There's a horse loose in a hospital --JM

    That don't impress me much --Shania Twain
  • Post #8 - September 23rd, 2008, 1:09 pm
    Post #8 - September 23rd, 2008, 1:09 pm Post #8 - September 23rd, 2008, 1:09 pm
    I can't think of a more deserving place, although I'd put it more in the Gladstone Park area than Jefferson Park.

    Smak-Tac=YES!
    Steve Z.

    “Only the pure in heart can make a good soup.”
    ― Ludwig van Beethoven
  • Post #9 - September 23rd, 2008, 2:16 pm
    Post #9 - September 23rd, 2008, 2:16 pm Post #9 - September 23rd, 2008, 2:16 pm
    I would definately throw my support behind this place. We've had a few meals here, and everytime we've been everything has been spot on. I confess I too was worried as the few times we've been in there we've been their only table. I'd hate to see a place that delivers this well close. According to my husband they have some of the best mushroom soup he's ever had.
    One Mint Julep was the cause of it all.
  • Post #10 - September 27th, 2008, 7:45 am
    Post #10 - September 27th, 2008, 7:45 am Post #10 - September 27th, 2008, 7:45 am
    Long time lurker...first time poster. I am happy that you have nominated Smak Tak for a GNR. I discovered LTH a few months back and it is because of this board that I ventured into Smak Tac last month. I have been back twice since then. My children (4 and 7) ask to go back weekly--and it truly is, IMO a GNR. Small, cute, clean the delivers a solid meal each and everytime. With the brisk autumn season nearing, I am looking forward to my next meal there.
  • Post #11 - September 28th, 2008, 9:46 pm
    Post #11 - September 28th, 2008, 9:46 pm Post #11 - September 28th, 2008, 9:46 pm
    HI,

    Smak Tak evokes the old Alka-Seltzer commercial with Peter Boyle, "I can't believe I ate the whole thing."

    Dinner for three people this evening began with complimentary bread and butter, a dozen pierogi of various kinds swimming in butter, two mushroom soups, white borsht with an egg, Bigos with mashed potatoes, chicken cutlet with mashed potatoes and beet salad, Polish sausage with cabbage and cheese filled blini. Yes, leftovers were brought home, though we ate most of it on the premises. Sour cream was well represented in practically every course.

    Probably another Alka Seltzer commercial would be rather fitting, "Next time you overeat, take what guys who overeat for a living take: Alka Seltzer."

    Definitely GNR material.

    Regards,
    Cathy2

    "You'll be remembered long after you're dead if you make good gravy, mashed potatoes and biscuits." -- Nathalie Dupree
    Facebook, Twitter, Greater Midwest Foodways, Road Food 2012: Podcast
  • Post #12 - September 28th, 2008, 10:01 pm
    Post #12 - September 28th, 2008, 10:01 pm Post #12 - September 28th, 2008, 10:01 pm
    What is there to add? Outstanding pierogi and the mushroom soup is not to be missed.
  • Post #13 - September 29th, 2008, 8:14 am
    Post #13 - September 29th, 2008, 8:14 am Post #13 - September 29th, 2008, 8:14 am
    Cathy2 wrote:Definitely GNR material.

    I'm a fan of Smak Tak, but dinner last night reinforced my appreciation in a number of ways starting with filling, rich, textbook perfect pierogi, blueberry unusual and delicious.

    Mixed Pierogi

    Image
    Image

    Potato pancakes hit a high note, I'd add them to Great Chicago Potato Pancakes along with Podhalanka and Resi's.

    Potato Pancakes

    Image

    Main courses were very good, with my bride's moist tender breaded pork cutlet with mushrooms my favorite and sweet cheese blintz with peaches providing a perfect cap to our meal.

    Breaded Pork w/mushrooms

    Image

    Sweet Cheese Blintz

    Image

    Happily the place was packed when we got there at 5:30 with a 30-minute wait, not a problem as Harry's On Elston, a friendly neighborhood bar, is but a few doors East. I simply gave Smak Tak my cell phone number and they called when the table was ready.

    In addition to groups of families there was a birthday party complete with B-Day Cupcakes!

    Birthday Celebration

    Image

    As an aside, for the more literal GNR minded amongst us, while dining at Smak Tak who should walk in for take out but our neighbor Elaine, now that's a Great Neighborhood Restaurant.

    Enjoy,
    Gary
    One minute to Wapner.
    Raymond Babbitt

    Low & Slow
  • Post #14 - October 9th, 2008, 1:54 pm
    Post #14 - October 9th, 2008, 1:54 pm Post #14 - October 9th, 2008, 1:54 pm
    I'm also coming out of lurkdom to show my support for Smak Tak. This place is truly a gem. And is one of the reasons why I enjoy reading LTH so much.
  • Post #15 - October 15th, 2008, 11:51 pm
    Post #15 - October 15th, 2008, 11:51 pm Post #15 - October 15th, 2008, 11:51 pm
    I'm afraid this nomination has gotten a little buried, and yet I think it is one of the best nominees this season for a GNR!

    Their goulash served in a potato pancake is one of the best things I have ever eaten, but everything on their menu is excellent. I have taken Polish friends there, and they've all raved.

    And looking at the pictures on this thread is just a reminder that I need to get back there as soon as possible!

    I heartily support this nomination!
    "Life is a combination of magic and pasta." -- Federico Fellini

    "You're not going to like it in Chicago. The wind comes howling in from the lake. And there's practically no opera season at all--and the Lord only knows whether they've ever heard of lobster Newburg." --Charles Foster Kane, Citizen Kane.
  • Post #16 - October 16th, 2008, 12:22 am
    Post #16 - October 16th, 2008, 12:22 am Post #16 - October 16th, 2008, 12:22 am
    I certainly hope the thread is quiet because it's a shoo-in. It should be.
    Ed Fisher
    my chicago food photos

    RIP LTH.
  • Post #17 - March 19th, 2010, 12:28 pm
    Post #17 - March 19th, 2010, 12:28 pm Post #17 - March 19th, 2010, 12:28 pm
    Image

    This is one of the few places I've managed to get to while visiting home over the past couple of years, and I've enjoyed it so much that I've eaten there multiple times despite not having many meals to work with. One of my favorite restaurants of the past couple of years, and I couldn't imagine one that embodies the GNR spirit more.

    I'd elaborate, but this is one of the few Chicago restaurant about which I'm already on record here in recent years. Emphatic support for renewal, and I couldn't agree more with the sentiment that I hope it's quiet because everybody assumes it's a shoo-in.

    (Edited to add gastroporn)
    Last edited by Dmnkly on March 19th, 2010, 11:03 pm, edited 1 time in total.
    Dominic Armato
    Dining Critic
    The Arizona Republic and azcentral.com
  • Post #18 - March 19th, 2010, 12:50 pm
    Post #18 - March 19th, 2010, 12:50 pm Post #18 - March 19th, 2010, 12:50 pm
    I, too, enthusiastically support the renewal for Smak Tak. It's hearty, wholesome food in one of the most cozy restaurant interiors I've ever experienced. It's my favorite BYO in the city.
  • Post #19 - March 19th, 2010, 1:34 pm
    Post #19 - March 19th, 2010, 1:34 pm Post #19 - March 19th, 2010, 1:34 pm
    I've been several times in the past few months and although I did not post on these meals, I'm happy to support renewal. My only quibble is that I never walk out of that place, I always waddle. :roll:
    Gypsy Boy

    "I am not a glutton--I am an explorer of food." (Erma Bombeck)
  • Post #20 - March 19th, 2010, 1:52 pm
    Post #20 - March 19th, 2010, 1:52 pm Post #20 - March 19th, 2010, 1:52 pm
    I've only been once, but it was recently. Three of us sampled (too) many dishes and everything was great, from the soup to the side salads to the meat to the potatoes. On a cold winter day, this is one of a handful of restaurants I'd really crave. Enthusiastic support for renewal.

    Ronna
  • Post #21 - March 19th, 2010, 1:54 pm
    Post #21 - March 19th, 2010, 1:54 pm Post #21 - March 19th, 2010, 1:54 pm
    Gypsy Boy wrote:My only quibble is that I never walk out of that place, I always waddle. :roll:


    Excellent point. Smak Tak is definitely a guaranteed-to-make-you-waddle restaurant, and I can't say that about many places. As I usually ride my bike to Smak Tak, I need for a verb for the biking-equivalent of waddling. Barely-able-to-pedal just doesn't have a ring to it. :D
  • Post #22 - March 19th, 2010, 3:22 pm
    Post #22 - March 19th, 2010, 3:22 pm Post #22 - March 19th, 2010, 3:22 pm
    I also strongly support renewal for Smak Tak. I was blown away on our recent visit. The huge plates of simple, well-prepared peasant food really reminded me of eating food from my mom's kitchen. That is one of the highest compliments I can issue, and my doing so screams GNR to me.

    We were sad to see that only one other table was occupied during our meal (though it was a bleak and snowy weeknight). This place should not only have its GNR renewed, but it should be highlighted for Save This Restaurant status.

    --Rich
    I don't know what you think about dinner, but there must be a relation between the breakfast and the happiness. --Cemal Süreyya
  • Post #23 - March 20th, 2010, 7:39 am
    Post #23 - March 20th, 2010, 7:39 am Post #23 - March 20th, 2010, 7:39 am
    RAB wrote:We were sad to see that only one other table was occupied during our meal (though it was a bleak and snowy weeknight). This place should not only have its GNR renewed, but it should be highlighted for Save This Restaurant status.


    Ya know, it's funny. That seems to be the enigma of the place. You go and there's no one there. In all my visits, the place always seems to be empty or nearly so. Guess I must go at the wrong times. I don't know what the "right" times are, but I'm certainly pleased to see that the place shows no signs of slowing down.
    Gypsy Boy

    "I am not a glutton--I am an explorer of food." (Erma Bombeck)
  • Post #24 - March 20th, 2010, 1:25 pm
    Post #24 - March 20th, 2010, 1:25 pm Post #24 - March 20th, 2010, 1:25 pm
    Gypsy Boy wrote:
    RAB wrote:We were sad to see that only one other table was occupied during our meal (though it was a bleak and snowy weeknight). This place should not only have its GNR renewed, but it should be highlighted for Save This Restaurant status.


    Ya know, it's funny. That seems to be the enigma of the place. You go and there's no one there. In all my visits, the place always seems to be empty or nearly so. Guess I must go at the wrong times. I don't know what the "right" times are, but I'm certainly pleased to see that the place shows no signs of slowing down.


    Whenever I go there, it's jam-packed. In fact, my last two visits I had to leave and go elsewhere because it was so crowded.

    Smak-Tak has been around for over a decade. They've got a pretty strong built-in clientele. I don't think they're closing unless they want to.
  • Post #25 - March 21st, 2010, 4:30 pm
    Post #25 - March 21st, 2010, 4:30 pm Post #25 - March 21st, 2010, 4:30 pm
    I already loved this restaurant after one visit. It's a wonder when a place can wow with seemingly simple preparations of potatoes, butter, cabbage, sour cream, and pork - but that's exactly what happened. And this is before Dom's post forced me to try Hungarian Style Pancake. It's made me feel cheap to have declared my love before I even saw the best they had to offer.

    A dinner here was part of a 3-part wedding present I gave to two friends, trying to show them the best of Chicago's ethnic cuisines. We waddled out, having eaten heartily of much deliciousness, happy and loving life in the middle of winter. That says GNR renewal in my book.
  • Post #26 - March 21st, 2010, 5:48 pm
    Post #26 - March 21st, 2010, 5:48 pm Post #26 - March 21st, 2010, 5:48 pm
    gastro gnome wrote:A dinner here was part of a 3-part wedding present I gave to two friends, trying to show them the best of Chicago's ethnic cuisines.

    What were the other two parts?

    And yes, I am both a fan of Smak Tak the restaurant and Smak Tak the GNR renewal.
    One minute to Wapner.
    Raymond Babbitt

    Low & Slow
  • Post #27 - March 21st, 2010, 9:30 pm
    Post #27 - March 21st, 2010, 9:30 pm Post #27 - March 21st, 2010, 9:30 pm
    I decided on 3 dinners featuring 3 different cuisines. We have a log of great food, but when I tried to come up with 3 exemplars of Chicago ethnic dining, along with 3 cuisines that you might not get other places, I decided on Polish, Mexican, and Thai.

    Dinner #1 was the aforementioned at Smak Tak (100% delicious, time to renew). Dinner #2 was a few weeks ago at fellow GNR renewal-candidate, Mixteco Grill (wonderful, renewal also well-deserved). Dinner #3 will be at Spoon Thai.

    And lest this be any less than a Smak-Tak oriented post, just consider the deliciousness this restaurant can deliver with starch and dairy alone. An order of pierogis (filled with cheese or sauerkraut and mushrooms) drenched in butter and crisp and lacy potato pancakes topped with sour cream will satisfy you on a Lenten Friday. And that's the kitchen cooking with one hand tied behind their back!
  • Post #28 - March 22nd, 2010, 11:22 pm
    Post #28 - March 22nd, 2010, 11:22 pm Post #28 - March 22nd, 2010, 11:22 pm
    I too heartily endorse Smak Tak's GNR renewal. The Hungarian-style pancake elicits such groans of pleasure from anyone I bring there, I blush :wink:
  • Post #29 - March 24th, 2010, 7:40 pm
    Post #29 - March 24th, 2010, 7:40 pm Post #29 - March 24th, 2010, 7:40 pm
    I don't eat this type of food very often but when I do, this is one of just a couple places I head. It's consistently excellent and the soups -- among other dishes -- make it a genuine destination. And yes, that stuffed Hungarian pancake is one of the greatest culinary inventions known to man! I think it should be renewed.

    =R=
    Why don't you take these profiteroles and put them up your shi'-ta-holes? --Jemaine & Bret

    There's a horse loose in a hospital --JM

    That don't impress me much --Shania Twain
  • Post #30 - March 25th, 2010, 5:02 pm
    Post #30 - March 25th, 2010, 5:02 pm Post #30 - March 25th, 2010, 5:02 pm
    My ex-wife's grandmother had a Polish caregiver who spoke no English, and had only been in this country several months, but she was an excellent cook, and I still remember her pierogi fondly. Smak Tak's are easily their equal, and bring back many great memories of the food the caregiver made for us. It also brings back memories of my ex-wife, but I won't hold that against Smak Tak.

    Definite renewal.

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