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Smilga: Lithuanian in Darien

Smilga: Lithuanian in Darien
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  • Smilga: Lithuanian in Darien

    Post #1 - October 30th, 2005, 2:41 pm
    Post #1 - October 30th, 2005, 2:41 pm Post #1 - October 30th, 2005, 2:41 pm
    Finding good Lithuanian food used to be easy. Marquette Park supported numerous delis and restaurants, including Tulpe, one of the best. As Lithuanians moved from the city to the suburbs, finding a good Lithuanian restaurant became increasingly difficult. However, with a new wave of Lithuanian immigrants arriving, the Lithuanian dining scene has perked up. In Marquette Park there's Antano Kampas (corner of 69th and Washtenaw) and Lithuanian Bakery and Deli (69th and Talman). These are primarily delis with a couple of tables for eating in. Neither of them is worth much of a detour, although the Lithuanian Bakery makes cepelinai (ground beef encased in potato dough) daily. Their quality varies.

    One of the newest Lithuanian restaurants/delis is Smilga, at the southwest corner of Plainfield Road and Lemont Road in Darien. Decorated in a seashore motif, with fishing nets on the ceiling and arrangements of dried fronds on the walls, it serves excellent renditions of classic Lithuanian dishes such as: cepelinai, potato pancakes, mushroom dumplings and crepes with various fillings. You'll also find the traditional beet and cabbage soups as well as specials of the day. For dessert there are a variety of Lithuanian cakes and other pastries.

    The most expensive item on the menu was $6.80 for chicken Kiev. Most of the dishes are in the $4-$6 range. The restaurant has a dozen or so tables. There is also a deli featuring ready made items as well as foods and drinks imported from Lithuania. Although the restaurant caters to Lithuanians, there is an English menu.

    Smilga is definitely worth a visit if you're in the area. Try the cepelinai!

    Smilga
    2819 83rd Street
    Darien, IL
    630-427-0929

    M-Sat 8 am--10 pm
    Sun 10 am--9 pm
  • Post #2 - October 30th, 2005, 3:51 pm
    Post #2 - October 30th, 2005, 3:51 pm Post #2 - October 30th, 2005, 3:51 pm
    Thanks for the info. I'd love to try soon.

    The pattern of movement/re-immigration reminds me of both Polish (and especially) Czech. In both cases, the old school places mostly vananished or moved out to the suburbs, but in recent years places have opened catering to the newest immigrants. For instance, Operetta gets a crowd much differnent from the Bohemian places in Berwyn and Brookfield and beyond.
    Think Yiddish, Dress British - Advice of Evil Ronnie to me.
  • Post #3 - October 30th, 2005, 3:52 pm
    Post #3 - October 30th, 2005, 3:52 pm Post #3 - October 30th, 2005, 3:52 pm
    Marija:

    Thanks for the report. Smilga sounds interesting indeed and I'd like to try to get out there soon, perhaps as part of a Saturday outing to the southwest.

    Antonius
    Alle Nerven exzitiert von dem gewürzten Wein -- Anwandlung von Todesahndungen -- Doppeltgänger --
    - aus dem Tagebuch E.T.A. Hoffmanns, 6. Januar 1804.
    ________
    Na sir is na seachain an cath.
  • Post #4 - October 31st, 2005, 2:46 pm
    Post #4 - October 31st, 2005, 2:46 pm Post #4 - October 31st, 2005, 2:46 pm
    Wow, thanks. My in-laws are very nearby, and I missed this place completely. Antonius, FYI, Darien is next to Westmont which has been established here as one of the main suburban ethnic dining areas. If you go, you must check out Westbrook Market about 5 or 10 min away.
  • Post #5 - November 4th, 2005, 4:15 pm
    Post #5 - November 4th, 2005, 4:15 pm Post #5 - November 4th, 2005, 4:15 pm
    Thanks very much for the mention of Smilga. I can’t wait to try it.

    Also thanks for reminding us that there are Lithuanian places other than Healthy Food in Chicago. I’m getting a post about Marquette Park ready but still have more eating to do. Here are a couple photos of the shops you mentioned, both worth a visit.

    Antano Kampas, 2656 W 69th
    Image

    Lithuanian Plaza Bakery and Deli, 2616 W 69th
    Image
  • Post #6 - November 8th, 2005, 12:16 pm
    Post #6 - November 8th, 2005, 12:16 pm Post #6 - November 8th, 2005, 12:16 pm
    Alright, some fellow Lithuanians....or at least Lith. Food lovers.
    I've been to Smilga twice. Actually, good food. However, the service seemed like they had just opened that day. Very slow, not that we were in a hurry.
    Tulpe was my favorite for ANYTHING. Sorely missed. Nida was very good too, on 71st and Rockwell. Neringa on 71st and Talman--yum. Marquette Deli, just east of 71st and Rockwell. Venta, next to Paulius Hardware.Ramune's on 69th, between Rockwell and Maplewood.
    It was a hell of an eating campus back in the day. The new places are good too. Racine Bakery is excellent (Archer Ave.). Seklycia on 71st is very good. Mabenka on Cicero and 78th is good, but runs hot/cold. Depends on the day, I guess.
    Any one have any Bacon bun places? Please remember, I have tried all the places on the SW side, and the only decent one is Racine Bakery.
  • Post #7 - November 8th, 2005, 1:20 pm
    Post #7 - November 8th, 2005, 1:20 pm Post #7 - November 8th, 2005, 1:20 pm
    FWIW, a new Lithuanian cafe has opened in Darein or Westmont in the Falconer PLaza. I think its on Main near 63rd, but I could be wrong. Interesting strip mall, as are many out that way. Other businesses in the little tract include an Indian meat market, a Taiwanese restaurant (and a Taiwanese benevolent society of some kind), and a Mexican BBQ.
  • Post #8 - November 9th, 2005, 1:58 am
    Post #8 - November 9th, 2005, 1:58 am Post #8 - November 9th, 2005, 1:58 am
    PizzaHolic67 wrote:Nida was very good too, on 71st and Rockwell. Neringa on 71st and Talman--yum.

    Are these both gone?
  • Post #9 - November 10th, 2005, 1:12 pm
    Post #9 - November 10th, 2005, 1:12 pm Post #9 - November 10th, 2005, 1:12 pm
    LAZ wrote:
    PizzaHolic67 wrote:Nida was very good too, on 71st and Rockwell. Neringa on 71st and Talman--yum.

    Are these both gone?


    Oh heck yeah. I went looking for them one day several years back and the commercial strip on 71st was half dead and very changed from the late 70's when last I frequently haunted.

    Looking forward to ReneG's report on what's hoppin' now down there. I'm surprised to see the new Lithuanian places, since 4 years ago or whatever I was last there I was hard pressed to see any remaining Lithuanian presence at all.

    Giovanna
    =o=o=o=o=o=o=o=o=o=o=o=

    "Enjoy every sandwich."

    -Warren Zevon
  • Post #10 - November 19th, 2005, 8:40 pm
    Post #10 - November 19th, 2005, 8:40 pm Post #10 - November 19th, 2005, 8:40 pm
    My wife and I went searching today for Neringa and anything else on 71st street but came away unsuccessful. Looks like there are a couple of places on 69th but what used to be on 71st is now gone. If I'm wrong, please let me know so we can return. Otherwise, Lemont and other 'burbs seem to be the best bet. Sveiks!
  • Post #11 - November 20th, 2005, 4:46 pm
    Post #11 - November 20th, 2005, 4:46 pm Post #11 - November 20th, 2005, 4:46 pm
    Seklycia, at 2711 W 71st, seems to be the last remaining Lithuanian restaurant in Marquette Park. You can sit down to eat at Antano Kampas (2656 W 69th) but it’s more of a café/deli than regular restaurant. And there’s always Lithuanian Plaza Bakery and Deli (2616 W 69th).
  • Post #12 - August 25th, 2006, 4:10 pm
    Post #12 - August 25th, 2006, 4:10 pm Post #12 - August 25th, 2006, 4:10 pm
    I had originally planned to go to Katy's Dumplings for a late afternoon lunch, but I found out that they were closed for vacation. Since I live only about a half mile from Smilgia, I thought I'd give it a try.

    The restaurant/deli has an interesting "airy rustic" feel to it. It is laid out as if the mini-grocery was a home, and the restaurant seating area was a garden, complete with picnic tables. For 3pm on a Friday, about a quarter of the tables were taken, and the deli was doing a steady business. It is definitely an ex-pat hangout, but the staff was very friendly to me as a local.

    I was torn between items, so I tried one of their potato-based combos (#4), consisting of a "Zeppelin" (boiled potato with meat dumpling), a "Kugelis" (potato cake with bacon), and a potato pancake "with meat." And a Diet Coke, served in a chilled 16oz plastic bottle with a glass of ice.

    For $7.50, combo #4 is a lot of food!:
    Image


    The texture of the Zeppelin surprised me. It was an almost gelatinous exterior, and I did not enjoy it and left most of it. The meat in the insidem, however, was very tasty. The same meat turned out to be inside the potato pancake, which was by contrast very tasty. It was a bit greasy, but much lighter than the type of pancake served by a Jewish deli such as Manny's.

    The kugelis was good - it had freshly fried up bacon bits, how could it not be good?? But it wasn't outstanding. Next time, I'm going to try some of their beet salad, and try the potato pancakes without the meat.

    The total including tax and tip was $12.04.
  • Post #13 - August 25th, 2006, 5:14 pm
    Post #13 - August 25th, 2006, 5:14 pm Post #13 - August 25th, 2006, 5:14 pm
    Great picture of a very white meal!
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  • Post #14 - March 26th, 2010, 8:25 pm
    Post #14 - March 26th, 2010, 8:25 pm Post #14 - March 26th, 2010, 8:25 pm
    Ms. Ingie wrote:I met Cathy2 and LAZ for lunch at Cafe Smilga on Friday. It was very enjoyable, but left me in a food coma. Cafe Smilga is not for anyone on Atkin's. Probably the funniest line of the day went something like this - Waitress: "Do you want to order any meat? You have lot's of potatoes." We started out by ordering Red Beet Salad which consisted of beets, beans, pickles, carrots, and POTATOES. (I also detected black olives.) The salad was available made with either oil or mayonaise. Cathy asked the waitress which she prefered and we were told mayo, with a nod that led us to believe, "what else?" Cathy and LAZ decided to have the homemade bread kvass to drink. Kvass is a fermented beverage. I declined and decided to stick with water, but our kind waitress brought me a sample. It wasn't bad, very interesting. Smelled a bit like beer and I thought it tasted like a cross between beer and hard cider.

    Ordering, after that point, got even tougher. I had settled on POTATO Sausage. Some how in my mind I was thinking it was something like Swedish Potato Sausage, but it was a potato mixture studded with bacon (I've seen it called potato bacon pudding) stuffed in a casing, served with a side of sour cream and chopped, cooked bacon in lots of bacon grease. (Oh yeah!!!) Cathy and LAZ had a hard time deciding between POTATO pancakes, Kugelis (grated POTATO cake), Zeppelins (dumplings made from POTATO dough), other dumplings and various pork dishes. I suggested we try the "Kugelis, plain potato pancakes, dumplings with meat" combo platter. It was at this point that the waitress made the POTATO comment, so LAZ tacked on a fried "Meat Pocket." The other items also came with sour cream and more bacon!!!

    The beet salad was delicious. Nice texture and great flavor. I was very pleasantly surprised. (Not a big beet person.) The potato sausage was heavenly. Unique texture, not like mashed potatoes, but not just grated potatoes, studded with bacon and held together with bacon grease. The potato pancakes were fair; they appeared to be deep fried; definately not as good as mom's. The "Kugelis" was similar in texture and flavor to the potato sausage, but sans casing and bacon pieces and it was fried, so the top and bottom were crisp. You definately could taste the bacon fat. The small dumplings were filled with ground pork. Slather on the sour cream and bacon pieces - a tasty treat. Some carmelized onions would have really taken them over the top. The fried meat pocket looked like very large, thin calzones. Not bad, but nothing special.


    An old friend of mine calls this kind of cuisine "stuff stuffed with heavy," and that phrase certainly described our highly soporific meal. I was very glad we got the beets! It was the lightest of the dishes, even with the mayo. Just about everything else came drenched in bacon fat.

    Of the other dishes, I liked the potato sausage the best. The dumplings were also excellent. (And they are available for purchase at a number of stores around Chicagoland http://www.smilgadumplings.com )

    I have had better kugelis elsewhere, usually with bacon inside, and a coarser texture and crisper exterior.

    Next time, I'll try to order more of the meat dishes and salads.

    Kvass, I think, is an acquired taste that I have not yet acquired. It tasted like sweet beer. Smilga offers two varieties, their house-made and a commercial product. Cathy2, who has a longer acquaintance with the drink, enjoyed it much more than I did.

    Smilga is a small place with seating at wooden picnic tables. Along with the dining room, there is a store area selling Eastern European foods and a deli counter with meats and prepared dishes.
  • Post #15 - March 26th, 2010, 9:30 pm
    Post #15 - March 26th, 2010, 9:30 pm Post #15 - March 26th, 2010, 9:30 pm
    LAZ wrote:An old friend of mine calls this kind of cuisine "stuff stuffed with heavy," and that phrase certainly described our highly soporific meal.

    "Stuff-Stuff with Heavy," one of Calvin Trillin's more memorable phrases.

    In British Boiled, Calvin Trillin wrote:The English style of Continental cuisine was planted, I've always thought, by some Anglophobic Frenchman who managed to persuade dozens of prospective restaurant proprietors and country-hotel keepers that the way to prepare sophisticated food was to stuff something with something—almost anything—else, and then to obscure the scene of the crime with a heavy, lava-like sauce. He demonstrated to all of them, for instance, how to stuff a chicken breast with a plum that is, in turn, stuffed with an almond. I wouldn't be surprised to hear that he is now experimenting with hypodermic needles to perfect a method of stuffing the almond with paté. Since the dishes that result from these acts of cumulative stuffing all taste and weigh more or less the same, Alice and I have always referred to them by a single generic name—Stuff-Stuff with Heavy.
  • Post #16 - May 23rd, 2010, 10:22 am
    Post #16 - May 23rd, 2010, 10:22 am Post #16 - May 23rd, 2010, 10:22 am
    Hi,

    While Bacon is currently a trend, like avocado green and harvest gold appliances in the 1970's. Bacon in Lithuania is a lifestyle or at least at Lithuanian restaurants like Smilga.

    Our first course was the only one not blessed by bacon. It was a beet salad with pickles, carrots and potatoes dressed with either mayonnaise or vegetable oil. I think there was probably a third option not mentioned on the menu: sour cream. We went with the waitress's personal preference of mayonnaise.

    Image

    Our first introduction to the bacon lifestyle was their potato sausage available with either bacon sauce or bacon and sour cream.

    Image

    This potato seemed to be in a natural casing with a filling of puree potatoes, whose texture reminded me of ground tapioca. There was a vein of ham or bacon going through the middle. Please note there is reflecting pond of bacon fat on this plate.

    Image

    We next ordered Samogitian meat pancakes with sour cream and bacon on the side, though not pictured.

    Image

    This was a lackluster dish for me with very little flavor, though you could pep it up with the bacon.

    Image

    We shared a combo plate of Kugelis, potato pancakes and dumplings with meat aka Pelmeni, which came with bacon and sour cream.

    Image

    Compared to Healthy Food's Kugelis, this kugelis had few bacon bits. If I recall correctly, the texture was quite similar to the potato sausage. The potato pancakes were very much of the same school, too, which meant only the pelmeni offered any contrast to this style of potato preparation.

    We never did contemplate dessert, because we were already afraid of sleeping through the afternoon.

    Of course, there is a lot more food to try that may not be bacon-centric. They offered fish dishes, with an especially attractive herring with potato. Lots of dumplings, stuffed crepes and omelets. You could actually order without any hint of bacon touching your plate.

    After our meeting nearby, LAZ and I returned to do a little shopping. I was thrilled to find they were selling Russian style sour cream with fat content of 20 and 35 percent. I like this style because it has few additions to the cream. It pours like thickened cream from the container, instead of holding its peak like our sour cream.

    Of course, while visiting one cannot help but recall the last days of Healthy Foods documented by Mike G's The Last Days of Kugelis:



    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 #17 - May 23rd, 2010, 10:58 am
    Post #17 - May 23rd, 2010, 10:58 am Post #17 - May 23rd, 2010, 10:58 am
    Funny this thread got a bump today. :)

    Driving in Lyon's yesterday I spotted the threads namesake and almost locked on the binders to go back to stop in. Had a schedule though and will have to return soon

    JVK Company, Inc.‎
    http://www.smilgadumplings.com
    4320 Lawndale Ave, Lyons
    (708) 442-6388‎

    Hours:10am – 6pm - Monday through Saturday. Closed Sunday.

    Their website wrote:JVK Company, Inc. started with a small and cozy Café “Smilga” located in Darien, IL. The Lithuanian owners “The Kriauciunai family” decided to bring their authentic and ethnic food taste to Chicago.
    "Very good... but not my favorite." ~ Johnny Depp as Roux the Gypsy in Chocolat
  • Post #18 - May 23rd, 2010, 2:42 pm
    Post #18 - May 23rd, 2010, 2:42 pm Post #18 - May 23rd, 2010, 2:42 pm
    Cathy2, thanks for posting the video of Healthy Foods.
  • Post #19 - July 12th, 2010, 10:33 pm
    Post #19 - July 12th, 2010, 10:33 pm Post #19 - July 12th, 2010, 10:33 pm
    Hi,

    Since Healthy Foods closed, is it possible Smilga and Duke's are the only Lithuanian restaurants left?

    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 #20 - July 12th, 2010, 10:49 pm
    Post #20 - July 12th, 2010, 10:49 pm Post #20 - July 12th, 2010, 10:49 pm
    No, there's Seklycia, Mabenka, and a small seating area for hot foods at Lithuanian Plaza on Roberts Rd., at minimum. I think there are a couple of restaurants in Lemont, as well.
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  • Post #21 - July 12th, 2010, 11:30 pm
    Post #21 - July 12th, 2010, 11:30 pm Post #21 - July 12th, 2010, 11:30 pm
    Sagil's Restaurant
    6814 W 87th St, Burbank
    (708) 598-0685

    Small diner with some Lithuanian offerings.

    Not bad!
    "Very good... but not my favorite." ~ Johnny Depp as Roux the Gypsy in Chocolat
  • Post #22 - July 12th, 2010, 11:46 pm
    Post #22 - July 12th, 2010, 11:46 pm Post #22 - July 12th, 2010, 11:46 pm
    Mike G wrote:No, there's Seklycia, Mabenka, and a small seating area for hot foods at Lithuanian Plaza on Roberts Rd., at minimum. I think there are a couple of restaurants in Lemont, as well.

    I used to work in the Lemont area and while I find it hard to believe, there are no Lithuanian restaurants there (please prove me wrong).

    Another (weak) source for Lithuanian...

    Holy Family Villa (a nursing home)
    12220 S Will Cook Rd, Palos Park
    (630) 257-2291

    Has a once a year fund raiser where they sell half pans of kugelis. Sometime in the late fall. They put out big signs on the corner.

    Dashing in, grabbing a pan and several forks and noshing on them in the parking lot with a couple of friends. Mmmm... Good! :)
    "Very good... but not my favorite." ~ Johnny Depp as Roux the Gypsy in Chocolat
  • Post #23 - July 13th, 2010, 8:24 pm
    Post #23 - July 13th, 2010, 8:24 pm Post #23 - July 13th, 2010, 8:24 pm
    Hi,

    Thanks for the replies. I am taking some Culinary Historians people there for lunch. I didn't want to be caught making an incorrect statement.

    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 #24 - July 13th, 2010, 10:25 pm
    Post #24 - July 13th, 2010, 10:25 pm Post #24 - July 13th, 2010, 10:25 pm
    A few years ago we were in Lemont and saw a couple of mittel-European-ish restaurants. Perhaps I'm wrong to assume that they were Lithuanian, or any specific thing. But given that Lemont seems to be the suburban center of Lithuanianness these days, I'd be surprised if their menus didn't reflect that to some degree, anyway.

    Here's one, that's officially Polish:

    http://www.oldtownrestaurant.com/about.htm

    But say, what's that third item on the Appetizer menu...
    Watch Sky Full of Bacon, the Chicago food HD podcast!
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  • Post #25 - July 14th, 2010, 8:49 am
    Post #25 - July 14th, 2010, 8:49 am Post #25 - July 14th, 2010, 8:49 am
    Mike G wrote:But given that Lemont seems to be the suburban center of Lithuanianness these days

    Maybe more than just suburban:

    http://www.lithuanianworldcenter.org/
  • Post #26 - July 14th, 2010, 9:08 am
    Post #26 - July 14th, 2010, 9:08 am Post #26 - July 14th, 2010, 9:08 am
    I had lunch at Chinese Kitchen in Westmont yesterday. There is a Lithuanian restaurant (sorry, I didn't note the name) directly next door in the same strip mall, but it was closed. As we were walking in to Chinese Kitchen, a patron came by for the Lithuanian restaurant and was met with a locked door, leading me to believe that the restaurant was simply closed for the day and not permanently, although I didn't investigate further.

    Chinese Kitchen
    6551 South Cass Avenue
    Westmont, IL 60559
    (630) 968-3828
    Steve Z.

    “Only the pure in heart can make a good soup.”
    ― Ludwig van Beethoven
  • Post #27 - July 14th, 2010, 9:11 am
    Post #27 - July 14th, 2010, 9:11 am Post #27 - July 14th, 2010, 9:11 am
    stevez wrote:I had lunch at Chinese Kitchen in Westmont yesterday. There is a Lithuanian restaurant (sorry, I didn't note the name) directly next door in the same strip mall, but it was closed. As we were walking in to Chinese Kitchen, a patron came by for the Lithuanian restaurant and was met with a locked door, leading me to believe that the restaurant was simply closed for the day and not permanently, although I didn't investigate further.

    Chinese Kitchen
    6551 South Cass Avenue
    Westmont, IL 60559
    (630) 968-3828



    its called:

    Ruta
    6551 S. Cass Ave Suite L
    Westmont, IL.
    630-353-0244

    Ive never been.
  • Post #28 - July 14th, 2010, 10:39 am
    Post #28 - July 14th, 2010, 10:39 am Post #28 - July 14th, 2010, 10:39 am
    Map
    "Very good... but not my favorite." ~ Johnny Depp as Roux the Gypsy in Chocolat
  • Post #29 - July 31st, 2010, 6:50 pm
    Post #29 - July 31st, 2010, 6:50 pm Post #29 - July 31st, 2010, 6:50 pm
    Panther in the Den wrote:Sagil's Restaurant
    6814 W 87th St, Burbank
    (708) 598-0685

    Small diner with some Lithuanian offerings.

    Not bad!

    Dang! Stopped by today with visions of Kuglis dancing in my head only to find out the restaurant had changed hands 4 months ago and has a new name and menu.

    Asked if they still offer Lithuanian and got a flat "No". She tried to sooth me by mentioning they sometimes have pierogies and polish sausage as a special.
    "Very good... but not my favorite." ~ Johnny Depp as Roux the Gypsy in Chocolat
  • Post #30 - May 6th, 2019, 2:46 pm
    Post #30 - May 6th, 2019, 2:46 pm Post #30 - May 6th, 2019, 2:46 pm
    Is that still the case? Their FB suggests it's still Lithuanian.
    https://www.facebook.com/pg/cafesmilga/ ... e_internal
    I want to have a good body, but not as much as I want dessert. ~ Jason Love

    There is no pie in Nighthawks, which is why it's such a desolate image. ~ Happy Stomach

    I write fiction. You can find me—and some stories—on Facebook, Twitter and my website.

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