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Seklycia (Lithuanian)

Seklycia (Lithuanian)
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  • Seklycia (Lithuanian)

    Post #1 - December 23rd, 2006, 5:50 pm
    Post #1 - December 23rd, 2006, 5:50 pm Post #1 - December 23rd, 2006, 5:50 pm
    Not all that long ago there were many Lithuanian restaurants in Marquette Park: Tulpe, Neringa, Nida, Palanga, Ruta, Seklycia. Now Seklycia is the sole survivor. Seklycia keeps a low profile and it's easy to understand why it gets passed by.

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    The glass door at the left is for the restaurant (sometimes you need to ring the bell by the inner door).

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    Inside it's very homey, plain, and clean. Most customers seem to be longtime neighborhood residents but outsiders receive a genuine welcome. Lithuanian is the predominant language but English-only is no problem. The menu, with clear translations, is fairly extensive, with many American dishes plus a roster of Lithuanian standards. Those familiar with Healthy Food in Bridgeport should feel at home. Complete meals are under $7 and begin with a large bowl of soup (with a large boiled potato on the side) and a bread basket holding three varieties.

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    I especially enjoyed the mild sauerkraut soup (there are usually about four varieties including mushroom and spinach).

    Then a trip to the modest salad bar for iceberg lettuce with the appropriate accompaniments including pickled beets and three bean salad.

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    There are specials every day. One visit I opted for zemaiciu blynai, stuffed potato pancakes.

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    In this version fluffy mashed potatoes surround minced meat and onions (another version, kedainiu blynai, uses shredded potato but I haven't seen it at Seklycia). These were skillfully prepared, nearly greaseless, and delivered seconds out of the pan. In some Lithuanian restaurants, the bacon garnish is an afterthought, a dry crumble of bacon made many hours before. This little hash of bacon and onion seemed freshly prepared and added greatly to the dish.

    Another visit I tried balandiniai, stuffed cabbage, a gently sweet homelike version.

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    This dinner comes with mashed potatoes (and some pretty forgettable vegetables) but I paid the $1.50 kugelis surcharge and enjoyed a nice version, fluffy inside and crusty outside. Even though I liked the kugelis a lot, the balandeliai with their gravy called out for plain old mashed.

    After cleaning my plate, hoping I wouldn't explode before reaching the door, the dessert tray was presented. Nothing remotely exotic, things like pudding, Jell-O, squares of cake.

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    I enjoyed a blessedly small cup of tapioca pudding (hadn't had that in maybe ten years).

    Seklycia doesn't serve breakfast and that's a shame because I think they'd do a good job with it. Yet there are a few dishes on the regular menu that would probably make a fine early meal. It would be hard to go wrong with a plate of kugelis ("Breakfast of Champions"). Then there are the various crepe- and pancake-like items. The Seklycia Famous Apple Pancakes, the only item listed on the menu in italics, particularly caught my eye.

    Seklycia
    2711 W 71st St
    Chicago
    773-476-1680
    Every day, 10am-6pm (I think these may be shorter winter hours)
  • Post #2 - December 23rd, 2006, 6:28 pm
    Post #2 - December 23rd, 2006, 6:28 pm Post #2 - December 23rd, 2006, 6:28 pm
    Rene G,

    Those balandiniai are calling my name. They look similar to the Jewish style hulapches (sp) my Bubbe used to make. You continue to amaze me with the number and quality of places you uncover on the south side and points beyond!
    Steve Z.

    “Only the pure in heart can make a good soup.”
    ― Ludwig van Beethoven
  • Post #3 - December 24th, 2006, 5:25 pm
    Post #3 - December 24th, 2006, 5:25 pm Post #3 - December 24th, 2006, 5:25 pm
    I hope you enjoy Seklycia. I should warn you that balandiniai aren't offered every day. I'm not sure how often they're on the menu but I had mine as a Thursday special.
  • Post #4 - December 24th, 2006, 5:35 pm
    Post #4 - December 24th, 2006, 5:35 pm Post #4 - December 24th, 2006, 5:35 pm
    Rene G wrote:I hope you enjoy Seklycia. I should warn you that balandiniai aren't offered every day. I'm not sure how often they're on the menu but I had mine as a Thursday special.


    Thanks for the warning. I'd likely make it there on a Saturday, though I'm sure there will be other interesting items on special.

    Regards,
    Cathy2

    "You'll be remembered long after you're dead if you make good gravy, mashed potatoes and biscuits." -- Nathalie Dupree
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  • Post #5 - December 24th, 2006, 5:37 pm
    Post #5 - December 24th, 2006, 5:37 pm Post #5 - December 24th, 2006, 5:37 pm
    "Hulapches!" I haven't thought of them in ages and I never had any idea how to spell them. Wonderful to be reminded. Now if I only had the old recipe. Anyone else have one?
    "Strange how potent cheap music is."
  • Post #6 - February 8th, 2010, 11:19 am
    Post #6 - February 8th, 2010, 11:19 am Post #6 - February 8th, 2010, 11:19 am
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    To finish up an upcoming Sky Full of Bacon video podcast on Healthy Food, I needed some shots of the now-defunct Lithuanian shopping strip in Marquette Park on 69th street, which is labeled "Lithuanian Plaza" although since the closing of Lithuanian Plaza Bakery & Deli a couple of years ago, it in fact has no functioning Lithuanian businesses left (at least that were apparent in daytime; hard to tell with some that might still be taverns). That was how I rediscovered this old thread about what is now, I believe, the last remaining Lithuanian restaurant in the city proper.

    Reading the post by Rene G above, Seklycia sounded elderly bordering on sepulchral, its entrance disguised to the crime-ridden neighborhood around it (note Rene G's photo of the sign cryptically promising "Lithuanian Human Services"), a buzzer allowing admittance to the few who know. I envisioned the last, preserved-in-amber holdout against the waves of change that had integrated Marquette Park in the 1960s.

    In fact, Seklycia is nothing much like that at all. The cryptic sign is down, replaced by the jaunty message above, and there's no bell to ring to go in. (The neighborhood doesn't seem bad at all, frankly— mostly daycare centers.) The dining room could be any modest cafe in a small town, and a waitress several decades below 80 cheerfully took my order as modern American pop music played on a tinny radio. Figuring this was likely to be my one shot here, I ordered the $7.99 Lithuanian combo. It started with bread, continued with a huge bowl of beet soup (which tasted a bit French oniony, as in, there might be a package of onion soup mix in there) accompanied by a boiled potato, and then— I was nearly full by this point already— proceeded to a massive plate of kugelis (fluffier than Healthy Food's, quite good), sausage (overcooked and not that interesting; definite win for Healthy Foods here), sweetish sauerkraut (just fine and improved the sausage immeasurably), and a terrifyingly large "zeppelin," a big wad of ground pork meat inside a 3/4" football-shaped shell of gooey potato dough, which I could barely face at all— it was like some form of mutant dim sum. Lunch concluded with tapioca pudding, which I enjoyed shamelessly. All in all, the meal was just fair, and not a replacement for Healthy Food, but clearly there are at least some good things on the menu.

    It was when I went to the bathroom that I discovered that in fact my original preconception of Seklycia wasn't entirely wrong— the next room was the grandmotherly holdout against history that I had expected the whole restaurant to be, with old ladies playing cards or knitting at tables and, interestingly, a "Bibliothek" full of Lithuanian books. I no longer saw it as sad and a bit gothic, though. As the sign says, Seklycia is about 20 years old— which means it's really not a remnant of the old Marquette Park community but a new business, relatively. Someone saw the neighborhood as it was in the late 80s, long after all the turmoil and the "white flight" and the irreversible emigration of Lithuanian Chicago to the suburbs, and still had faith enough in it to open a restaurant and make it a kind of center for what community remained. I find that kind of heroic, and if you ever find yourself in that area, or feel like making a trek to an obscure corner of the south side, you could do worse than to offer Seklycia a little support— and, as the sign says, enjoy Lithuanian gasp.
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  • Post #7 - February 8th, 2010, 2:16 pm
    Post #7 - February 8th, 2010, 2:16 pm Post #7 - February 8th, 2010, 2:16 pm
    Seklycia is owned and operated by the not for profit Lithuania Human Services Council. It's a social services organization which, among other missions, provides assistance to the remaining Lithuanians, mostly seniors, who remain in the area. In the past it delivered familiar food daily to the homebound but that has been discontinued as the population dwindles.
  • Post #8 - February 8th, 2010, 2:22 pm
    Post #8 - February 8th, 2010, 2:22 pm Post #8 - February 8th, 2010, 2:22 pm
    Ah! Now the old sign and the large second room all make sense. Thanks for clarifying that.
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    New episode: Soil, Corn, Cows and Cheese
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  • Post #9 - February 10th, 2010, 5:23 pm
    Post #9 - February 10th, 2010, 5:23 pm Post #9 - February 10th, 2010, 5:23 pm
    It's good to hear Seklycia is still around. During my last visit to Healthy Food someone told me it went out of business. With the closing of Anton Kampas and Lithuanian Plaza Deli on 69th, then losing Healthy Food, I think you're right, Seklycia is the only source for Lithuanian food within the city limits (Mabenka, in Burbank, is just across the street from Chicago).

    But there are still other worthwhile Lithuanian attractions in Marquette Park. When visiting Seklycia, be sure to see the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary Church (69th at Washtenaw) with its traditional Lithuanian cross.

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    Nearby, at 67th and California in Marquette Park itself, is the Darius and Girenas monument, one of my favorite public sculptures in Chicago. It was erected in 1935 to commemorate the ill-fated 1933 transatlantic flight by two Lithuanian aviators.

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  • Post #10 - February 10th, 2010, 9:02 pm
    Post #10 - February 10th, 2010, 9:02 pm Post #10 - February 10th, 2010, 9:02 pm
    I thought that possibly Grand Duke's might be within the city limits but with further checking it is located in Summit, Il, which is right across the street from Chicago (similar situation to Mabenka's). Grand Duke's also has a deli next door that you can shop in as long as you don't get there too late. On some Friday evenings they have a musician there that does Lithuanian music and American Dance hits, and last time sang Abba's dancing queen in Lithuanian and nearly got a standing ovation.

    Grand Duke's
    6312 S Harlem Ave
    Summit, Il 60501

    http://www.granddukesrestaurant.com/ind ... =1&lang=en
    One Mint Julep was the cause of it all.

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