There were so many errors in my previous short post on Romanian restaurants I’d like to make amends with this longer report.
I was intrigued by Nelly’s Saloon so last evening I decided to stop by. In case it wasn’t open I took along the addresses of some other Romanian places. Without planning to, I ended up visiting four restaurants.
Nelly’s was very different than I expected, more an upscale restaurant than blue-collar bar.
Instead of sitting at a table (with white tablecloths) I sat at the bar with an older Romanian gentleman who was having a bowl of soup. The beer and wine selection was sadly limited (though the bartender’s English was limited so I may not have learned the full extent of the offerings).
Menu from Nelly’s Saloon
I had a fresh cabbage salad and pork stew (not on menu). The salad was simple and very good, with very fresh cabbage and a perfectly balanced oil and vinegar dressing. The stew, in a simple tomato gravy, was good but not terribly exciting. Mashed potatoes were real and good. A huge basket of excellent bread, with a springy chewy texture, came along. A very satisfying meal.
It turns out that Nelly’s has been in business for about twenty years but has only been serving food for three. Live musicians perform every Friday, Saturday and Sunday. If you care about music this weekend be sure to call ahead because one of the musicians is on vacation.
After Nelly’s I decided to walk up Elston to see what was happening at Continental Café.
Continental Café’s Sign and New Facade
The report of remodeling was indeed correct but the project is nearly finished and they will reopen on Sunday, August 7. There will be a new menu but it will still contain some Romanian dishes. It looks like a nice space. Hopefully the food will be good.
At this point I was at Addison so I figured I should go west to see if Bucovina was open. It was. Since I was there I decided to get something to take home (I was still full from Nelly’s). I decided on mittei with a side order of mamaliguta plus a tomato and cucumber salad. While I was waiting I had a glass of Romanian lemon soda (Perla Harghitei brand). This was quite good, with an unidentifiable perhaps herbal flavor, that I liked a lot. I’ll be looking for this in stores. Bucovina has been open about three years. I have a copy of their menu, more extensive than Nelly’s, which I hope to get around to scanning and posting. They serve no alcohol but allow BYO.
Food from Bucovina
Here’s my bedtime snack: a pound of sausage, two pounds of polenta, a pound of salad, and a pound of bread. Sausage was well-spiced but had some bone chips that detracted. I enjoyed the polenta but it would have been even better fresh. The feta-like cheese was very pungent and tasty. Salad was quite good and very welcome with all that meat and polenta. Bread wasn’t very good unfortunately.
Before heading home I thought I might as well swing by La Scala for the sake of completeness.
Via La Scala’s Sign
It sure doesn’t look like a Romanian restaurant and the doors were locked (it was nearing midnight) so I was going to call it a night. As I was leaving I noticed a side door leading to a noisy, smoky barroom filled with people eating, drinking, and playing pool. This was exactly as I had pictured Nelly’s. After a bit of initial confusion when I thought the owner was telling me to leave (he thought I was delivering food to the apartment next door) we had a nice chat and I learned that there are two menus: a rather schizophrenic Italian-like menu used in the restaurant and a menu printed only in Romanian used in the bar. The Romanian menu has many of the standards served at Nelly’s and Bucovina but has a few others such as veal brains and sweetbreads (the owner, Gabriel, seemed especially proud of these). He assured me that his food was the best, the most reasonably priced, and he would cook any Romanian dish given a little notice. Gotta love it. I’ll be back for sure.
I’ll probably go back to all. I bet Nelly’s would make a good schnitzel (I could hear them being pounded in the kitchen) and it would be fun to go on a music night. The new Continental Café is an unknown. Bucovina has a more extensive menu that looks worth exploring and I’d definitely take along a bottle or two of wine. La Scala is the kind of place I don’t always feel comfortable in but I think Gabriel would take good care of me and my friends (as well as other strangers).
3256 N Elston Av
open to 10pm, 11pm on Fri & Sun, to 1am on Sat
3661 N Elston Av
reopens 7 Aug 05
6107 W Addison St
Mon 4-11, Tue-Fri 2-11, Sat 12-11, Sun 12-10
Via La Scala
4368 N Milwaukee Av
open 7 days noon-midnight
if restaurant is closed, enter bar through door near Illy sign