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Smak-Tak - great Polish in Jefferson Park

Smak-Tak - great Polish in Jefferson Park
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  • Post #121 - December 19th, 2010, 6:26 am
    Post #121 - December 19th, 2010, 6:26 am Post #121 - December 19th, 2010, 6:26 am
    ronnie_suburban wrote:
    saluki68 wrote:The family and I went over to Smak Tak tonight at 5:30 pm for dinner. However, after noticing an unusally high number of cars on the street, we walked in and found the place jammed. Not a table or chair available. Because of the crowd, we did not try to talk to the owner to see if this is now a common occurence. We never thought there would be a problem getting a table for 5 at 5:30 pm.

    We walked away with mixed feelings -- sad for missing a great dinner, but very happy that the place was full. We'll be calling for reservations, if they take them, from now on.

    The power of Michelin?

    =R=


    Much as I would love to believe that it's that simple (and I'm pleased for the owners no matter the reason), I have to believe that this was a one-off event. Maybe there was some special event (church, neighborhood, Polish calendar, something). I find it very hard to believe that the Michelin "award" would have that kind of effect. Especially at Smak-Tak. Especially at that hour.
    Gypsy Boy

    "I am not a glutton--I am an explorer of food." (Erma Bombeck)
  • Post #122 - December 19th, 2010, 11:26 am
    Post #122 - December 19th, 2010, 11:26 am Post #122 - December 19th, 2010, 11:26 am
    Gypsy Boy wrote:
    ronnie_suburban wrote:
    saluki68 wrote:The family and I went over to Smak Tak tonight at 5:30 pm for dinner. However, after noticing an unusally high number of cars on the street, we walked in and found the place jammed. Not a table or chair available. Because of the crowd, we did not try to talk to the owner to see if this is now a common occurence. We never thought there would be a problem getting a table for 5 at 5:30 pm.

    We walked away with mixed feelings -- sad for missing a great dinner, but very happy that the place was full. We'll be calling for reservations, if they take them, from now on.

    The power of Michelin?

    =R=


    Much as I would love to believe that it's that simple (and I'm pleased for the owners no matter the reason), I have to believe that this was a one-off event. Maybe there was some special event (church, neighborhood, Polish calendar, something). I find it very hard to believe that the Michelin "award" would have that kind of effect. Especially at Smak-Tak. Especially at that hour.

    I tend to agree but am curious. Since the OP didn't inquire, there's no way to know for sure what was going on. That said, I remember showing up there once on a Saturday in mid-December only to find them closed for a private party (and the space was full). In that case, though, there was a sign on the door indicating that they were closed for a private party.

    =R=
    By protecting others, you save yourself. If you only think of yourself, you'll only destroy yourself. --Kambei Shimada

    Every human interaction is an opportunity for disappointment --RS

    That don't impress me much --Shania Twain
  • Post #123 - February 5th, 2011, 5:11 pm
    Post #123 - February 5th, 2011, 5:11 pm Post #123 - February 5th, 2011, 5:11 pm
    I made my way to Smak Tak for lunch today. Having never been there I was really looking forward to it because of the praise LTH has always given the place.

    We were greeted by a gentleman, who I think was the owner, and seated. There was one other table seated in the otherwise empty restaurant. I was really excited by the menu. Growing up in a Polish house I was looking forward to food that reminded me of my Aunt's pierogi, Grandpa's cucumber salad and Mom's golabki.

    We started with the mushroom soup. This was a very good version, nice mushroomy flavor, and I think I detected a bit of my Aunt's secret mushroom soup ingredient, sauerkraut juice. I found the little pasta shells a bit odd but my friend says he's seen patsa in mushroom soup before. In my house we always had a side of cooked barley to spoon into the soup as you wished.

    Next were the pierogi. All I have to say is WOW! These may have been the best pierogi I've ever had. The dough was the perfect thickness and they were cooked perfectly. Served with a good bit of butter and a dollop of sour cream. We orderd the sauerkraut & mushroom and cheese & potato pierogis. The kraut and mushroom were good, but for me the stand out were the cheese and potato. I'm typically not a fan of cheese pierogi because the cheese is typically too sweet for my taste, but man, I've obviously never had them done right, because these just blew my mind. I'd go back just for these.

    I had to order the golabki. They were served with three sides. Beets which were nice. Some mashed potato which were really outstanding, cooked perfectly and simply prepapred. The potato was the star here rather than a ton of butter and cream. The last side was a cucumber salad. Now I guess I was expecting more of a salad that had some vinegar and onion to it like my grandfather's. This was just some slices of cucumber with sour cream and a bit of dill. It was just sort of a bland rich nothing. I wasn't a fan. The golabki were OK, of course when you eat something that mom used to make it rarely can compare. These were OK, the filling was nice but the sauce was very thick, rich and creamy. I'm used to having a bit of a lighter tomato sauce. Now I'm OK with things being different, but what I found is that the sauce here is so rich it covers the acidity of the tomato sauce which compliments the filling of the cabbage so well. Here all you get is rich and meat. Pretty much a miss for me.

    My friend ordered the veal cutlet with mushrooms. It came with the same sides. The cutlet itself was a bit dry, had an OK flavor, but nothing I'd order again, and was topped with some slightly dry sauteed mushrooms which had good flavor.

    All in all Smak Tak had some hits and some misses for me. I'll be back to work my way around the menu and to order more of the amazing pierogi.
    Check out my Blog. http://lessercuts.blogspot.com/
    Newest blog: You paid how much?
  • Post #124 - February 6th, 2011, 1:21 pm
    Post #124 - February 6th, 2011, 1:21 pm Post #124 - February 6th, 2011, 1:21 pm
    JLenart wrote:I had to order the golabki. ... The golabki were OK, of course when you eat something that mom used to make it rarely can compare. These were OK, the filling was nice but the sauce was very thick, rich and creamy. I'm used to having a bit of a lighter tomato sauce. Now I'm OK with things being different, but what I found is that the sauce here is so rich it covers the acidity of the tomato sauce which compliments the filling of the cabbage so well. Here all you get is rich and meat. Pretty much a miss for me.

    Hi,

    Do you have a recipe for golabki that you like?

    My 88-year-old friend Mom2 has been on an endless journey for the perfect golabki all her life. Or for at least the 42-years I have known her. If there is stuffed cabbage on any menu from Jewish delis to Polish or other ethnic restaurants, she must order it. I have made various stuffed cabbages, which I thought were pretty good. All of these have something missing, though undefined.

    At Sun Wah BBQ's New Year's dinner on Friday night, they had a Chinese version of stuffed cabbage:
    Image
    Sun Wah - Cabbage rolls by agashi, on Flickr

    I am very tempted to organized a batch for Mom2, to see what these might do for her.

    If you do have a golabki recipe you think is tops, I'd be thrilled to have something new to offer Mom2.

    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 #125 - February 6th, 2011, 2:45 pm
    Post #125 - February 6th, 2011, 2:45 pm Post #125 - February 6th, 2011, 2:45 pm
    Cathy,

    I'll ask my mom for it and send it to you.

    John
    Check out my Blog. http://lessercuts.blogspot.com/
    Newest blog: You paid how much?
  • Post #126 - February 6th, 2011, 3:19 pm
    Post #126 - February 6th, 2011, 3:19 pm Post #126 - February 6th, 2011, 3:19 pm
    JLenart wrote:Cathy,

    I'll ask my mom for it and post it.

    John

    Fixed. :wink:
    --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 #127 - February 6th, 2011, 10:58 pm
    Post #127 - February 6th, 2011, 10:58 pm Post #127 - February 6th, 2011, 10:58 pm
    Cathy2 wrote:At Sun Wah BBQ's New Year's dinner on Friday night, they had a Chinese version of stuffed cabbage:
    Image
    Sun Wah - Cabbage rolls by agashi, on Flickr


    I also had these cabbage leaves. About 80% of the interior was nothing other than rolled cabbage itself. It was like they placed a very little filling at the base of a cabbage leaf and then rolled the rest of the broad leaf up to fill most of what you see on the plate. I guess there are different approaches to this dish.
  • Post #128 - February 7th, 2011, 10:10 am
    Post #128 - February 7th, 2011, 10:10 am Post #128 - February 7th, 2011, 10:10 am
    JLenart wrote:I had to order the golabki. ..... These were OK, the filling was nice but the sauce was very thick, rich and creamy. I'm used to having a bit of a lighter tomato sauce. Now I'm OK with things being different, but what I found is that the sauce here is so rich it covers the acidity of the tomato sauce which compliments the filling of the cabbage so well. Here all you get is rich and meat. Pretty much a miss for me.


    As with many foods, there are different but still orthodox approaches. I grew up with the thin, acidic tomato sauce on golabki (halupki in my paternal babushka's house in Pittsburg). The more refined creamy sauce common at Polish delis here has grown on me, though the stuff based on condensed tomato soup sucks.
  • Post #129 - March 30th, 2011, 7:48 pm
    Post #129 - March 30th, 2011, 7:48 pm Post #129 - March 30th, 2011, 7:48 pm
    Six thirty on a Wednesday our party of 6 overflowed available table seating onto the center crest bar stools. Beet borscht with mini mushroom pierogi a tasty study in deep red. Tender mercifully medium chicken livers with lightly caramelized onions for my main and a few split orders of pierogi.

    Hard not to smile when the bill comes and you see the hyper reasonable price for mountains of soul warming belly filling deliciousness.
    Hold my beer . . .

    Low & Slow
  • Post #130 - May 10th, 2011, 9:03 am
    Post #130 - May 10th, 2011, 9:03 am Post #130 - May 10th, 2011, 9:03 am
    It was with some trepidation that I took my wife and mother-in-law, both Polish immigrants, to Smak Tak for Mother's Day. They are both skilled at cooking Polish classics, and I had not yet been. But a location convenient to my mother-in-law's condo and my faith in LTH gave me some courage.
    Perusing the menu, both ladies immediately focused on the Hungarian pancake. I went with the chicken liver special, and Junior chose an assortment of fruit pierogi.
    I breathed a sigh when the ladies gave a strong thumbs-up to the establishment, for both the food and ambiance. My livers were tender, and the sides of mashed potatoes and sauerkraut/carrot salad were well-prepared. I sampled a couple of the fruit pierogi and found them to be the best I have tasted. For starters, the kid and I had the borscht with mini pierogi. I proclaimed that the soup was almost as good as my mother-in-law's version. (diplomatic, but true)
    As we chatted with the proprietor, I got the impression that business remains spotty. The location is not a great one. And I always worry about Polish restaurants when the weather gets warmer -- so many of the favorites, such as the Hungarian pancake, seem most appealing as cold-weather comfort food.
    The boss's expression brightened when I mentioned LTH.
    A reminder that this is BYOB, so bring along your favorite Polish beer, mine being Tyskie.
    Last edited by TomInSkokie on November 20th, 2012, 9:16 am, edited 1 time in total.
  • Post #131 - June 12th, 2011, 7:32 pm
    Post #131 - June 12th, 2011, 7:32 pm Post #131 - June 12th, 2011, 7:32 pm
    Under the watchful eye of The Dolinsky - my wife and I had another great dinner this evening. Tonight's meal consisted of ground veal cutlet with mushrooms. Rarely do we both order the same thing. For whatever reason tonight was one of those moments. She gave me her mushrooms and I gave her my cabbage. That's why we get along so well. :D

    The only downside to the evening was that we were the only ones in the place at 5:30.
    Never order barbecue in a place that also serves quiche - Lewis Grizzard
  • Post #132 - June 12th, 2011, 9:15 pm
    Post #132 - June 12th, 2011, 9:15 pm Post #132 - June 12th, 2011, 9:15 pm
    Dave148 wrote:Under the watchful eye of The Dolinsky - my wife and I had another great dinner this evening. Tonight's meal consisted of ground veal cutlet with mushrooms. Rarely do we both order the same thing. For whatever reason tonight was one of those moments. She gave me her mushrooms and I gave her my cabbage. That's why we get along so well. :D

    The only downside to the evening was that we were the only ones in the place at 5:30.


    Dave, I was in around 8pm this evening and there were two other tables, a two-top and a huge group that seemed to have spent some time over a leisurely dinner. It was nice to see the place jumping a bit. We shared a borscht and a plate of savory pierogi, then the Picky Eater had the chicken/mushroom special while I went with the breaded pork cutlet, my standby. All terrific and a LOT of leftovers in the fridge.

    At the end of the meal, they brought us some cake - anyone have any idea exactly what kind it is? It looked like a pound cake, but had a much denser texture.

    Image
    "Baseball is like church. Many attend. Few understand." Leo Durocher
  • Post #133 - June 12th, 2011, 11:07 pm
    Post #133 - June 12th, 2011, 11:07 pm Post #133 - June 12th, 2011, 11:07 pm
    HI,

    Was it a cake or a cheesecake? Your picture suggests cheesecake, but not being there it's only a guess.

    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 #134 - June 13th, 2011, 6:12 am
    Post #134 - June 13th, 2011, 6:12 am Post #134 - June 13th, 2011, 6:12 am
    We were well behaved. Why didn't we get cake :?:
    Now that I think about it, I did notice the tables set up for a large group.
    Never order barbecue in a place that also serves quiche - Lewis Grizzard
  • Post #135 - June 13th, 2011, 6:51 am
    Post #135 - June 13th, 2011, 6:51 am Post #135 - June 13th, 2011, 6:51 am
    Ursiform wrote:At the end of the meal, they brought us some cake - anyone have any idea exactly what kind it is? It looked like a pound cake, but had a much denser texture.

    Image


    I showed this photo to my Polish wife, and she said this type of cake is called biszkoptowe. It's most similar to a sponge cake.
  • Post #136 - June 13th, 2011, 8:09 am
    Post #136 - June 13th, 2011, 8:09 am Post #136 - June 13th, 2011, 8:09 am
    Dave148 wrote:We were well behaved. Why didn't we get cake :?:
    Now that I think about it, I did notice the tables set up for a large group.

    You get the cake with the daily specials.
  • Post #137 - June 13th, 2011, 8:16 am
    Post #137 - June 13th, 2011, 8:16 am Post #137 - June 13th, 2011, 8:16 am
    EvA wrote:
    Dave148 wrote:We were well behaved. Why didn't we get cake :?:
    Now that I think about it, I did notice the tables set up for a large group.

    You get the cake with the daily specials.

    Ah Hah!
    Never order barbecue in a place that also serves quiche - Lewis Grizzard
  • Post #138 - September 10th, 2011, 7:07 am
    Post #138 - September 10th, 2011, 7:07 am Post #138 - September 10th, 2011, 7:07 am
    The dip in temperatures this week brought a craving for Smak Tak so off we went last night. I was very happy to walk into a nearly full house. Arriving just before 8pm, we had to wait a few minutes for a table to be bussed before we could sit. Very nice to see!

    Mushroom soup was fantastic, per usual. I'd been craving the pierogie all week and it did not disappoint. Jonathan tried the Ground Veal Cutlet for the first time and enjoyed it a lot.

    Love this place!
  • Post #139 - September 10th, 2011, 10:24 am
    Post #139 - September 10th, 2011, 10:24 am Post #139 - September 10th, 2011, 10:24 am
    LynnB, my family and I were one of the tables you were waiting for.

    We made our maiden voyage to Smak Tak last night and all I can say is this was the best Polish food I ever had. Dining with my wife and kids were my in-laws. My in-laws are from Poland and proclaimed this was the best Polish food they had in a long time.

    We started with an assortment of pierogis (potato/cheese, sauerkraut/mushroom, and meat), potato pancakes, and potato dumplings. I usually like pieogis more crispy but these were the best I have ever tasted, with the sauerkraut/mushroom the most tasty. The potato pancakes were thin and crisp, not greasy at all, enjoyed by all. The potato dumplings were light and airy with a simple butter sauce. I loved these dumplings.

    Entrees included the grilled sausage in old Polish style and breaded pork cutlet with mushrooms. Both fantastic.

    Smak Tak is a true GNR!
  • Post #140 - September 20th, 2011, 7:00 pm
    Post #140 - September 20th, 2011, 7:00 pm Post #140 - September 20th, 2011, 7:00 pm
    My wife and I took a friend out tonight for her birthday. The birthday girl had tonight's special of baked chicken with mushrooms and cheese. She chose borscht soup and graciously offered me a taste. While I'm not a huge fan of borscht - this wasn't bad.

    My wife had chicken noodle soup - which I stole a spoonful since she never offered me any. 8) Not too salty and quite tasty. She had the stuffed cabbage which she found quite tasty.

    I had the "shish kebab" with pork, bacon, and onion. Anything that includes pork, bacon and onion must be good and this was no exception.

    I really like the cucumber salad that comes with the entree. Some day I'll try to replicate it.

    All in all - a good meal. I'll double up on my cholesterol meds tonight. :D

    Forgot to mention - first ten minutes of our meal was Polish music. Rest of the evening - Pink Floyd. Amazing.
    Last edited by Dave148 on September 21st, 2011, 6:51 am, edited 1 time in total.
    Never order barbecue in a place that also serves quiche - Lewis Grizzard
  • Post #141 - September 20th, 2011, 11:14 pm
    Post #141 - September 20th, 2011, 11:14 pm Post #141 - September 20th, 2011, 11:14 pm
    Dave148 wrote:All in all - a good meal. I'll double up on my cholesterol meds tonight. :D


    Like a good friend of mine always says, "Just pop another Crestor!" :D
    Fettuccine alfredo is mac and cheese for adults.
  • Post #142 - October 3rd, 2011, 4:44 pm
    Post #142 - October 3rd, 2011, 4:44 pm Post #142 - October 3rd, 2011, 4:44 pm
    cilantro wrote:Public Service Announcement: Smak-Tak is now closed on Tuesdays.

    An esteemed colleague known to many LTHers is visiting from NJ and suggested Polish for dinner tomorrow, so I chose Smak-Tak. I just called the restaurant and they say, as does their website and Yelp, that they are open 7 days. I'll let you know how it is!
  • Post #143 - October 14th, 2011, 7:11 am
    Post #143 - October 14th, 2011, 7:11 am Post #143 - October 14th, 2011, 7:11 am
    I have never been steered wrong by a GNR yet... :)

    The prospect of a nasty commute in a driving rain last night prompted me to try fortifying carry-out from Smak-Tak. Now, I've never been a huge fan of the heaviness & blandness of Eastern European food in general, but Smak-Tak has definitely changed my mind. What a cute, pristine little haven! If my wife hadn't been waiting up in the north suburbs, I might have sat down and eaten there. At 4:45, the only other patrons were a Polish-speaking young mom & her two young kids, slurping massive bowls of steaming chicken noodle soup.

    I ordered the Hungarian pancake, which was almost crepe or omelette-like in that it was folded over, and filled with a concoction of pork, mushroom, maybe beef, green peppers & tomatoes, just delicious. Also got some cabbage rolls, which were solid, and then the phenomenal sauerkraut & mushroom pierogi. Funny--out of Mom's kitchen, these could have been a Jewish kreplach, an Italian ravioli, a Korean mantu or a Japanese gyoza. Man! Good stuff, not bland in the least, especially with the requisite sides of carrot salad, pickled & julienned beets & then of course the dill cucumber in white sauce.

    I would've, could've, SHOULD've brought the leftovers to the office for lunch today!
  • Post #144 - October 19th, 2011, 9:18 pm
    Post #144 - October 19th, 2011, 9:18 pm Post #144 - October 19th, 2011, 9:18 pm
    I discovered last week that Smak Tak is a good option if one is looking for dinner relatively near O'hare. Two recent visits have me thinking a third visit will not be far off. The hunter's stew and pierogis were particularly good last week. I was glad that the proprietor offered to split up the pierogi order into thirds so that we could enjoy meat, potato-cheese, and sauerkraut-mushroom varieties. What a pleasant place to dine on real food!
    Man : I can't understand how a poet like you can eat that stuff.
    T. S. Eliot: Ah, but you're not a poet.
  • Post #145 - November 21st, 2011, 4:06 pm
    Post #145 - November 21st, 2011, 4:06 pm Post #145 - November 21st, 2011, 4:06 pm
    Hello,

    We went to Smak Tak on Saturday night. I never would have heard of the restaurant without this forum. I actually registered to say thank you.

    We had a wonderful meal. The Borscht was fabulous. I think I picked up on about 5 levels of flavor in the soup. The Hungarian Pancake was so good that I actually finished it.

    Some messages I have read have shown some concern about the level of business there. Saturday evening the restaurant was full.

    It took hour after we ordered for our food to arrive. Is that typical? I ask because we want to go back, but that was about at the limit of our two children's patience. If so, maybe just Mom and Dad will go.
    "I live on good soup, not on fine words." -Moliere
  • Post #146 - November 21st, 2011, 4:26 pm
    Post #146 - November 21st, 2011, 4:26 pm Post #146 - November 21st, 2011, 4:26 pm
    bw77 wrote:Hello,

    We went to Smak Tak on Saturday night. I never would have heard of the restaurant without this forum. I actually registered to say thank you.

    We had a wonderful meal. The Borscht was fabulous. I think I picked up on about 5 levels of flavor in the soup. The Hungarian Pancake was so good that I actually finished it.

    Some messages I have read have shown some concern about the level of business there. Saturday evening the restaurant was full.

    It took hour after we ordered for our food to arrive. Is that typical? I ask because we want to go back, but that was about at the limit of our two children's patience. If so, maybe just Mom and Dad will go.

    Welcome, bw77, to LTH. Thanks, for checking in. I'm impressed that you finished off the Hungarian Pancake, something I've never been able to do. :D

    As for wait-time, I've never experienced one that long but I've also never been there when it was packed. It's never lightning fast but I think 30 minutes is about the most I've ever wait between ordering and eating at Smak Tak.

    =R=
    By protecting others, you save yourself. If you only think of yourself, you'll only destroy yourself. --Kambei Shimada

    Every human interaction is an opportunity for disappointment --RS

    That don't impress me much --Shania Twain
  • Post #147 - November 21st, 2011, 8:00 pm
    Post #147 - November 21st, 2011, 8:00 pm Post #147 - November 21st, 2011, 8:00 pm
    HI,

    Take into account there may be a new surge of interest given the revised Michelin Bibs, could this contribute to increased attendance?

    I have never been there where it was full or had to wait very long for dinner. Of course, I never visited on a Saturday evening, either.

    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 #148 - December 4th, 2011, 9:56 pm
    Post #148 - December 4th, 2011, 9:56 pm Post #148 - December 4th, 2011, 9:56 pm
    Went to Smak-Tak for the first time tonight and had a pretty bad meal. I've been talking this place up for months so I brought my Polish parents here for a "big night out." Looks like the next four or five dinners will be on me after this debacle.

    After talking about what to get and how to best share the experience we went with some items we probably knew the best—soups, pierogis, stuffed cabbage and potato pancakes—figuring we've had/made these enough and they would give us a good rundown of the restaurant.

    Damn, guys. Not sure what kind of Polish food you grew up on but there were few highlights.


    Polish rye w/ butter
    Quite good. Nice crust and tasted right.

    Red borscht soup
    This hit on all cylinders. Really nice with a real depth in the flavors. One of the best I've had. Everyone liked how light the broth was, yet the bowl was hearty enough to be a meal of its own with some dipping bread. I thought we were "on our way" at this point. Little did I know this would be the best thing we'd get by a longshot.

    Chicken noodle soup
    Not good. Looked nothing like the photos posted earlier. No celery. No carrots. No chicken. WTH kind of Polish chicken soup is this? Just broth and noodles with parsley floating on top. If you like Mrs. Grass then this is probably your favorite soup in Chicago because this tasted exactly like it. (In fact they may have not made chicken soup today—hence the "no chicken" part"—and this may have been Mrs. Grass with some extra black pepper in it. Awful.)

    Pierogis
    We specifically ordered an equal mix of cheese/potato, sauerkraut/mushrooms, sweet cheese and meat. We got 8 or 9 sweet cheese and 1 each of the others. How they messed this up with us being the only ones in there, I have no idea. Guess they were out of the good ones? Joking aside, the lone sauerkraut and mushroom filled pierogi was really good but the other fillings were average at best. I've had much better, I've had much worse. Why were they absolutely drowning in butter on the plate? Butter is tasty but that much, really? Good pierogis do not need that much. But like many others, I grew up on boiled and then pan-seared pierogis to get that drier, crispier crust so maybe that's what they were missing for me. Non pan-seared pierogis is just CRAZY talk. The applesauce and sour cream served for dipping were fine.

    Potato pancakes
    These were just a major disaster all-around. My mother pushed these aside and did not even eat more than three bites so I knew the dinner was unsalvageable at this point. They had this really, REALLY strong, bold burnt lard flavor. If you like that flavor then yes these would melt your face off because it's all I tasted. Yes, it is traditional to use lard to cook potato pancakes but there are other ways to do potato pancakes that are not so heavy-handed. The problem with this style is that it's the first thing that hits your palette and then it just... stays. It's very tough to get rid of that. Because potatoes are like sponges it was tough to pick anything else up other than the heavy lard. No pan seared potato flavor that I usually long for. No spices or anything unique at all. No crispy edges. Also, the mealy texture just isn't right in these. Proper potato pancakes need to have at least SOME shredded potatoes to be done right, in my opinion. That's the only way to get those super crispy edge of which these did not have. How ronnie_suburban could say these were the best he's ever had blows my mind. We clearly had two completely different cakes.

    Stuffed cabbage rolls
    Known as "gwumpki" to me growing up, I've probably had this dish a few hundred times, although it's not my favorite. My Polish father is the opposite and this is his absolute favorite dish. (I've always told people my Dad can judge two things in Chicago properly: hot dogs and gwumpki because he's eaten more of both than any normal human should.) So, I brought him here hoping these would impress him and he said this was one of the worst sauces he'd ever tasted. Just looking at it we could see something was wrong as it was bright pink instead of orange. It was a really, really sweet, pungent flavor that we've never tasted in stuffed cabbage before. None of us could pinpoint that flavor but it was very strong and it overpowered the otherwise decent tasting cabbage rolls. The filling was pretty good but he said they needed more garlic and especially more onions for some kick. That sauce though. Yowzers.

    Mashed potatoes
    Powdered with a sprinkle of dill. Rly? Bone dry and what you'd expect if this were Old Country Buffet. Pretty awful.

    Slaw & carrot slaw
    Very bland on the standard slaw. Not good by any definition. The carrot slaw had something sweet and mildly acidic going on but honestly, no flavor here either. Pretty terrible.


    Aside from the food, not a single diner came in for the duration of the meal. Nobody. And the server said maybe four words to us the whole time. I also think it's bullshit when a full service casual restaurant makes you spring for bottled water in addition to your sodas/drinks like this place did.

    You can hypothesize all you want on why this place is always empty. My opinion? It's awful.

    While I don't absolutely love every single GNR that I've tried so far, this is the first I've visited that I would absolutely never return to or recommend under any circumstance.
  • Post #149 - December 4th, 2011, 10:29 pm
    Post #149 - December 4th, 2011, 10:29 pm Post #149 - December 4th, 2011, 10:29 pm
    ChitownJackson wrote:You can hypothesize all you want on why this place is always empty. My opinion? It's awful.

    Not everything is equally great here but it sounds like even the dishes I consistently enjoy here were horrible for you. I've never had 'that' experience at Smak Tak but I've had it enough at other places to know that it happens. Bummer.

    =R=
    By protecting others, you save yourself. If you only think of yourself, you'll only destroy yourself. --Kambei Shimada

    Every human interaction is an opportunity for disappointment --RS

    That don't impress me much --Shania Twain
  • Post #150 - December 5th, 2011, 12:50 am
    Post #150 - December 5th, 2011, 12:50 am Post #150 - December 5th, 2011, 12:50 am
    ChitownJackson wrote:Non pan-seared pierogis is just CRAZY talk.


    I've never been to Smak-Tak, so I can't comment on how good it is, and I completely agree that pierogi should not be drowning in butter, but I almost never ever had pan-seared pierogi growing up, and even in my many visits to Poland, the style of pierogi I was most used to having was only boiled. I'm sure it all varies by region, but boiled pierogi were the most common, in my experience in Krakow and south of there. Same with the gołąbki. We usually did not have garlic in our stuffed cabbage rolls (I'd venture to say we never did.) And Polish chicken soup is usually a very simple affair. This is a pretty typical example of what it should look like. It's not supposed to be a chunky, meaty, heavy soup.

    That said, they may have had an off day, or you may simply not like this style.

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