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#1
Posted December 3rd 2004, 9:36am
One of my favorite places in the city, Paprikash, is under new ownership. A recent post on CH complains about misleading pricing, a small menu, bad service, and worse food under the new ownership. The post also alleges that one of the waiters complained that the new owner was "screwing everything up".

Paprikash's website confirms the ownership change in a photo at the bottom of the page.

This drives home my feeling about how an experience dining out is deeply rooted in time, as much as it is in "place". The wonderful meal you had at that little place that you love may not be there tomorrow, next week, or an hour from now. Consistency and longevity are elements that we sometimes assume, but usually do not apply. Paprikash was one of those places that I assumed would be around for a long time and always be the same.

Best,
EC
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#2
Posted December 3rd 2004, 11:03am
I've eaten twice at paprikash in two weeks, most recently last friday, and it was fine both times, and certainly not similar to what he described...

The menu we were offered was identical in price and selection to the one on the website. Someone else should be able to tell how different that one is from the menu of 6 months ago, but it looks the same to my often faulty memory.

I'm not saying it was a perfect meal, but it was certainly good, warming, and the such. She had the chicken paprikash, I had the lamb stew special. The stew was quite good, the chicken paprikash fine (not quite perfectly cooked white meat, and I like more hot paprika than sweet).

The langos was, as always, fried garlicky excellence.

I believe they had a super special musical guest coming around this time. Did he maybe show up on that night? Last time I was there on a thursday it was packed, with a four person gypsy band playing, but we were seated immediately and given the same menu and prices as this most recent visit.

I really think Jimbo caught them on a "special" night, one where they were trying to churn out too much food because of the high volume of guests, and doing a little profit taking as well.

-ed
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#3
Posted December 3rd 2004, 11:16am
gleam wrote:I've eaten twice at paprikash in two weeks, most recently last friday, and it was fine both times, and certainly not similar to what he described...

That is good to hear
gleam wrote:The menu we were offered was identical in price and selection to the one on the website. Someone else should be able to tell how different that one is from the menu of 6 months ago, but it looks the same to my often faulty memory.

Looks pretty much the same to me.
gleam wrote:I really think Jimbo caught them on a "special" night, one where they were trying to churn out too much food because of the high volume of guests, and doing a little profit taking as well.

This does seem enitrely possible, thank you Ed. Paprikash is one of my favorite winter restaurants. I'll be back there soon to check it out.

Best,
EC
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#4
Posted December 30th 2005, 12:16pm
My contribution to the "downhill alert".

My mom has been wanting to go to Paprikash for a while; I waved her off of it last year because of the change in ownership and rumblings of decline. Figured this year we'd go and settle the issue.

OK, issue's settled for me. Place has gone downhill badly. Menu seems smaller than I remember it [as was commented on above]; I can't site specific things dropped, but I remember more stews and more clearly "Hungarian" items on the menu. Now, it's more the usual suspects: chicken or veal paprikash, a wienerschnitzel, the stew wrapped in the potato pancake, liver and onions.

I thought the prices were quite high for what they gave you. I ordered a wienerschnitzel with some kind of 'german' potato preparation. What I got was a sub-par piece of veal that had been breaded an inch beyond the margins of the veal to make it look bigger than it was. The potato dish was a smashed up boiled potato with 5 or 6 shreds of sauteed onion and some parsely on the top. My mom and niece got the potato pancake/beef stew item, and one of them commented that the pancake tasted 'floury' [maybe the potatoes were grated too finely?].

Also, they charged extra for soup or salad after charging me $18 for the schnitzel ["and the portions are so small!"]. The lovely garlic fried dough they dished out back in the day was much too greasy and much too not-garlic-y. We dined early, but still waited a long time for the food and about 20 minutes for our change. A table that emptied next to us wasn't bussed for 30-40 minutes. Seriously, we could have had better food and service at several of the Polish restaurants I drove past to get to Paprikash for half the price.

Paprikash enjoyed a stint in my dining rotation as a go-to place. I'm sad to say that, in my judgement, the place has jumped the shark.

Giovanna
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#5
Posted December 30th 2005, 12:32pm
We were at Paprikash two weeks ago, for the first time. The service was alright if a bit slow. The food I found okay but maybe not as good as I may have expected. A bit disappointing overall (I deleted what pics I took) - especially the desserts. The "chestnut puree" with cream had strands of chestnut forced through a ricer* over obvious (tasteless) "whipped cream" from a can (nice looking rosettes though).

*A2Fay: "looks likes a mound of worms"
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#6
Posted December 30th 2005, 5:46pm
sazerac wrote: The "chestnut puree" with cream had strands of chestnut forced through a ricer* over obvious (tasteless) "whipped cream" from a can (nice looking rosettes though).

*A2Fay: "looks likes a mound of worms"


Having lived in Budapest for 5 years and just returning from a trip there three weeks ago, I can vouch that this is exactly what gesztenyepure served in Hungary looks like. It looks like brownish spaghetti and is served with whipped cream, more often than not from a can. Personally, I don't like the stuff, but many Magyars swear by it. One of those aquired tastes, I suppose, like Unicum liquor (which I do love).

I haven't been to Paprikash since about April or so, but my last visit there I was very impressed. Of course, I didn't eat there under its old ownership, but I can attest to the authenticity of the food.

edit: Found a picture of typical Hungarian chestnut puree
Last edited by Binko on December 30th 2005, 6:17pm, edited 1 time in total.
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#7
Posted December 30th 2005, 6:08pm
We took my Hungarian born sister-in-law there last summer. While there was a fair amount of "mama cooks it this way" and "not like mama" during the meal, she and the rest of us left pretty darn satisfied. I agree that compared to, say, Operetta, it seems a bit more pricey. Still, I'd return.

Rob
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#8
Posted December 31st 2005, 5:06pm
Giovanna wrote:OK, issue's settled for me. Place has gone downhill badly. Menu seems smaller than I remember it [as was commented on above]; I can't site specific things dropped, but I remember more stews and more clearly "Hungarian" items on the menu.

I haven't been there lately, but the menu on their Web site reflects what I remember. As far as I know, they still have the same chef. I never thought the food was remarkable -- I used to like Kennessey's more -- but it is the only Hungarian restaurant Chicago has.
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#9
Posted December 31st 2005, 7:40pm
They've moved into what was Rapp's restaurant at NW highway and Ridge. Downtown Arl Hts just NW of Vail.
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#10
Posted January 6th 2006, 3:24pm
LAZ wrote:I never thought the food was remarkable -- I used to like Kennessey's more -- but it is the only Hungarian restaurant Chicago has.


Paprikash came up in a conversation today with Bruce Kraig of Culinary Historians. He mentioned the chef at Paprikash used to be the chef at Kennessey's, which I found interesting in light of this comment. Bruce knew Paprikash was under new ownership though it was news to him the food has declined with this change.

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#11
Posted January 6th 2006, 3:45pm
They've moved into what was Rapp's restaurant at NW highway and Ridge. Downtown Arl Hts just NW of Vail.


This was my biggest food disappointment of the year; the closing of Rapp's. Been going to Rapps for nearly 20 years specifically for the open face butt steak sandwich with thin onion rings similar in style to Hackney's. At $9.95 it was one of the best steak deals around. After having not been there for about 7 or 8 years and then going back sometime last year the steak and rings tasted exactly the same. Came to find out the chef and main cook had been there for approx 30 years. A rarity and sad to see the place go.
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#12
Posted January 8th 2006, 7:25pm
Cathy2 wrote:He mentioned the chef at Paprikash used to be the chef at Kennessey's.

Kennessey's in Hinsdale or the one on Belmont?
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#13
Posted January 9th 2006, 5:01pm
LAZ wrote:
Cathy2 wrote:He mentioned the chef at Paprikash used to be the chef at Kennessey's.

Kennessey's in Hinsdale or the one on Belmont?


According to Bruce, Chef Bela was at the Belmont...and likely at the Hinsdale location after Ivan sold the city location.

From your recent visit do you sense he is still at Paprikash? My estimate he is not.

Regards,
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"You'll be remembered long after you're dead if you make good gravy, mashed potatoes and biscuits." -- Nathalie Dupree
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#14
Posted January 10th 2006, 9:39pm
Cathy2 wrote:From your recent visit do you sense he is still at Paprikash?

I haven't been there since the changeover, but I'm on their e-mail list and he was referred to a few months back.

I don't know how to account for the differences between the food at Kennessey's and Paprikash, but other factors besides the chef may have played a role.
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#15
Posted January 11th 2006, 2:17pm
Hello! I'm a new member and saw the topic of Paprikash and couldn't help but jump in.

We've made many trips to Paprikash and in the past we've always had excellent service and food. My husband is Hungarian and while I can replicate his favorite dishes in our kitchen, I haven't been able to replicate mine, thus our trips to Paprikash.

Since the ownership change I've been a bit dissapointed in the service that we've gotten there. I've noticed that they've changed a few dishes on the menu and increased the prices but I haven't noticed a switch in the size of the portions. The service that we've had the few times we've gone recently has been very bad and rushed. We had a waitress that kept asking us every 15 minutes if we were finished yet. I've also noticed that the quality of the soup isn't quite as good as it was prior. I had the Jokai Bableves (which is a bean soup with Debrecen sausage) and it was more like beans and water. Very thin and lacking in flavor. Each time we've gone they've also been out of almost everything on the dessert menu.

I can't say it's so bad that I wouldn't go back but it's slightly dissapointing to see the quality of certain dishes going down, being as it's the only Hungarian resturant in Chicago. One of the things that I can recommend there on the appetizer menu is the Mittei (which I might have misspelled) which is Romanian garlic sausage.

There is also a Hungarian foods distributor here in Illinois. They have two locations now, one in Glen Ellyn (On Roosevelt Road) and one up north in Vernon Hills. They're called Bende. I usually make trips out there off and on and pick up Hungarian wine and the Gesztenyepure (chestnut puree) which seems to be a requirement at special celebrations. They also have a nice selection of various Hungarian Salami (Csabai and Teli), Paprika/s and other tasty things.
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#16
Posted January 11th 2006, 3:20pm
Erzsi wrote:. . .There is also a Hungarian foods distributor here in Illinois. They have two locations now, one in Glen Ellyn (On Roosevelt Road) and one up north in Vernon Hills. They're called Bende. I usually make trips out there off and on and pick up Hungarian wine and the Gesztenyepure (chestnut puree) which seems to be a requirement at special celebrations. They also have a nice selection of various Hungarian Salami (Csabai and Teli), Paprika/s and other tasty things.

Their products, of which I have tried many, have been excellent. FYI, they are carried at Lincolnwood Produce (~Lincoln and Touhy) and Produce World (Dempster and Waukegan, Morton Grove). I especially love that Hungarian-style bacon. Yum!!

=R=
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#17
Posted January 11th 2006, 3:48pm
Hi,

While Bende may distribute Hungarian foods, isn't it also a producer of Hungarian sausage? The Vernon Hills is a company store where they also produce their sausages. I was there once, though the posted hours indicated it should be opened, it was closed. I advise phoning ahead at least to the Vernon Hills location.

Bende Inc
925 Corporate Woods Parkway
Vernon Hills, IL 60061
847-913-0304

Bende Inc
444 Roosevelt Road
Glen Ellyn, IL 60137
630-469-6525
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"You'll be remembered long after you're dead if you make good gravy, mashed potatoes and biscuits." -- Nathalie Dupree
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#18
Posted January 11th 2006, 4:58pm
Cathy2 wrote:Hi,

While Bende may distribute Hungarian foods, isn't it also a producer of Hungarian sausage? The Vernon Hills is a company store where they also produce their sausages. I was there once, though the posted hours indicated it should be opened, it was closed. I advise phoning ahead at least to the Vernon Hills location.

Bende Inc
925 Corporate Woods Parkway
Vernon Hills, IL 60061
847-913-0304


They do produce their sausage at the Vernon Hills location. They distribute it to other Hungarian stores across the US (Otto's is one that comes to mind) and also local deli's. You can also find a selection of their products at places like Bobak's. The hours at their Vernon Hills location are a lot shorter than the hours at their strictly retail location in Glen Ellyn.


The Vernon Hills location seems to change their hours arbitrarily. The location in Glen Ellyn has only been open for a few months. It doesn't however carry strictly Hungarian only products. They had a variety of different European chocolates, cookies, teas and beers. They have a deli counter there with samples of the salami and bacon out for you to try. They have a nice selection of Tokaji wines which are some of my favorites. They also have quite the selection of preserves (we like the rose hip, quince and sour cherry), syrups for drinks, and preserved pickles and vegetables.

I also like the 'fresh' Paprika that they carry called Eros Pista. It's nice to add into stews and soups for a little kick. They also have a very tasty eggplant spread called Ajvar which is eggplant, red peppers and garlic, it comes in hot and mild and it's very good over bread or toast. They also have Lecso which a lot of people refer to as Hungarian Salsa. It's tomatos, with peppers and onions. It's nice to eat over noodles, farmers cheese and sour cream. It's also nice as a sandwich spread.

The one thing that they don't carry is the fresh Garlic Sausage. You can find that particular item at a deli in the city called Lalich. I would recommend calling in advance to make sure they have it. I haven't been in there since sometime in August when I bought a big batch and froze it. I know that they make it fresh usually twice a week. They do sell in large quantities when my brother in law visited from DC he took 1000 pieces home with him over ice.

Lalich Delicatessens
4208 W Lawrence Ave, Chicago, IL 60630
773-545-3642
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#19
Posted January 11th 2006, 5:58pm
Erzsi wrote:

I also like the 'fresh' Paprika that they carry called Eros Pista. It's nice to add into stews and soups for a little kick.


How does this paprika compare to the varieties carried at The Spice House? Is it worth a special trip if one is a paprika fan?
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#20
Posted January 11th 2006, 6:11pm
stevez wrote:
Erzsi wrote:


How does this paprika compare to the varieties carried at The Spice House? Is it worth a special trip if one is a paprika fan?


Personally I think that it is worth the trip. It's in a jar the size of a medium jar of babyfood. Don't quote me for sure but I believe it runs around $3. You can see the seeds and the peppers ground up so it isn't totally smooth. The consistency is similar to the Garlic Chili Sauce that you can get in some Asian markets. I also buy both sweet and hot (ground) Paprika to have on hand for dishes. Another interesting condiment is Horshradish Mayonaise I believe it's called tomas majonez and it's sold in a yellow tube.

I should go on record to say that I enjoy going to different markets and trying all sorts of condiments and things in search of something new to try and experiment with. :D
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#21
Posted January 11th 2006, 6:16pm
Erzsi wrote:
stevez wrote:
Erzsi wrote:


How does this paprika compare to the varieties carried at The Spice House? Is it worth a special trip if one is a paprika fan?


Personally I think that it is worth the trip. It's in a jar the size of a medium jar of babyfood. Don't quote me for sure but I believe it runs around $3. You can see the seeds and the peppers ground up so it isn't totally smooth. The consistency is similar to the Garlic Chili Sauce that you can get in some Asian markets. I also buy both sweet and hot (ground) Paprika to have on hand for dishes. Another interesting condiment is Horshradish Mayonaise I believe it's called tomas majonez and it's sold in a yellow tube.

I should go on record to say that I enjoy going to different markets and trying all sorts of condiments and things in search of something new to try and experiment with. :D

Not 100%, but I'm fairly certain that a similar product (several types, IIRC) are carried at Joe's Sausage on Western. I'm partial to the dry stuff -- especially the exquisite grade -- but the jarred stuff is potent, fun to play with and plenty delicious.

=R=
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"When you’re young, it’s all fillet steak. But as you get older, you have to move onto the cheaper cuts..." --M. Gustave

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#22
Posted January 11th 2006, 6:47pm
ronnie_suburban wrote:Not 100%, but I'm fairly certain that a similar product (several types, IIRC) are carried at Joe's Sausage on Western. I'm partial to the dry stuff -- especially the exquisite grade -- but the jarred stuff is potent, fun to play with and plenty delicious.

=R=


It sounds like a visit to The King is in order for me. It's a much closer jaunt than driving all the way out to Vernon Hills. I'll check with Joe first. Thanks.
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