Last Saturday, my husband took me out on our first date together in over 5 years. Our first time eating at a restaurant without my having to order foods that I can quickly choke down between keeping a close eye on our two very well behaved, but they are still, children.
My older daughter for two days walked around the house feeling very excited for me and telling me that she would help me pick out my clothing, jewelry, help me put on my makeup and "Oh, Mommy, you have to wear high heels because you never do. Why don't you wear them, Mommy?" (sans high heels I can actually chase after my two children much better on the trails and playground, of course) and pressures that "You have to kiss Daddy under the moon, Mommy! Oh, that would be so romantic, and then maybe you two will be in love like on your wedding day!"
We drove down into Chicago and arrived at 5961 North Elston Avenue, Smak Tak! Polish Restaurant.
The restaurant was small, about 5 tables and also bar seating, perfect for an intimate dinner with your outdoor loving spouse.
The entire restaurant was wood paneled. Not that cheap 1970's "wood" paneling but real rich honey toned wood with beams and wooden joints. It looked like the inside of our old house in Maryland, where my parents had put up the paneling to give the house a more cozy Polish countryside feeling.
It worked. My husband and I locked eyes and began talking about our honeymoon in Poland. About the small restaurant we had found on the side of the road from Warsaw to Wroclaw. How Smak Tak! looked so similar.
The man behind the counter, probably the owner, lit a small candle for us and took our orders. I placed mine in Polish and my husband in English, because we could with no issues either way, which I know is something people think can be an issue with ethnic restaurants.
My husband ordered Bigos (Hunters Stew old Polish Style) and a Placke po Wiegiersku (Hungarian Potato Pancake folded over gulash, mushrooms, peppers and topped with sour cream).
I ordered a bowl of Zupa Grzybowa and the Loin with Peach.
I had to quickly snag the photos because my husband doesn't understand my constant obsession with photographing what we eat. And because he eats very fast.
The Zupa Grzybowa was delicious, just the way my family makes it. I ate the entire large bowl while thinking of my Babcia.
My loin with peach was wonderful and I really enjoyed eating it. I had only had that one time that I remember before at a restaurant visiting family outside of Warsaw as a teenager. The accompanying carrot salad and cucumber salad made me chuckle because my husband's grandmother would make two large bowls of it for holidays, one for the family and one for my husband. Also, I had made the carrot salad very recently at our house and my husband had looked at me as though I was crazy when I served it with our dinner.
My husband gloated quietly over eating Bigos in place of soup and I held myself back from lecturing him that soup is good for the stomach before eating and laughed that he wanted to eat Bigos instead of soup.
My husband ate his Bigos and said it was very delicious, better than mine. I tried it and while it was not as good as my Babcia's (nobody can cook as well as your Babcia can, after all), it was very tasty and the flavors were well developed.
His Hungarian Potato Pancake looked delicious and of course I stole a bite. Or two. It reminded me of when I went to Poland for one of my cousin's weddings. My Wujek and I were driving from Warsaw to Wroclaw and construction had us taking a detour. We stopped at a large pink looking hotel in the middle of what seemed like nowhere. The inside was quite posh and we ate Hungarian Potato Pancakes outside on the veranda. My Wujek ordered me a large one although I had known that with Polish food portions I could not eat more than a small. The flavors then and now were comforting.
The restaurant itself was very clean. The floors were not carpeted, which has always struck me as being too dirty for restaurants.
A couple seated away from us had a giggling toddler with us who was obviously enjoying his food and being at the restaurant while seated. Another patron enjoyed his paper after a long work week.
The service was prompt, not too quick. One peeve I have about chain restaurants is that courses are brought out in a rush, one on top of another so that you can't enjoy your meal and company and feel rushed to get out of there.
The owner was friendly but not hovering over us while we pondered the menu or ate, which is something that can happen in locally owned restaurants.
All together, including the tip, we spent less than $60 for everything and had food to take home to the kids so that they felt a bit involved in Mama and Daddy's "date".
I would very gladly return to this restaurant, with or without children. While there is no "children's menu", I don't think there is a need for one. What child doesn't love pierogi, potato pancakes, or Kotleti?
If you are interested, the Smak Tak! restaurant website.
I received no compensation in any manner for this review and all opinions are mine. The restaurant and it's staff were not even aware of me photographing the food or owning this blog.
Other posts to read:
Once Upon a Polish Wedding
Love Letter to Wroclaw