Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Hungarian Nirvana

It may seem like the posts are coming fast and furious suddenly, but I assure you, the previous two posts and the next four or five are not being posted in real time. I've sort of gotten a backlog of photos from various gustatory experiences over the last month, but just haven't had time to put much up on the blog.

That being said, I had the somewhat rare opportunity to visit a local Barberton eatery called Al's Corner Restaurant located at the corner of 4th and Tuscawaras Streets (just south of Lake Anna). What makes it rare, you ask? They are only open for lunch and only from 11 am - 2 pm. Unfortunately, considering I am usually working in either Cleveland or Canton during the day, that doesn't give me a whole lot of time to make a trip to Barberton in the middle of the day. Fortunately, I finally had the chance to do so and I have to say, it was worth the wait.

Al's Restaurant is unique in that when you walk in, you immediately get in line. The menu is fairly limited, but fairly straightforward. You basically make your way to the front of the line, place your order which is served from the hot line underneath the glass case, pay for your meal and then sit at either a table or a very long counter (U-shaped, of course). There is a soda fountain in the back of the restaurant where you get your own refills and a refrigerated case where the bottled waters are kept.

You can order any of the lunch items for $7.00 (this includes a slice of bread and your choice of beverage), any number of sides, or individual items for prices ranging from $2.00 - $6.00. They also have a sampler for $8.50, which gives you a taste of just about everything on the menu. Being as this was my first and probably only time for the foreseeable future, I decided on going with the sampler platter:

I thought I had taken more than just this one photo, but unfortunately, I was having some unexpected issues with my camera and by the time I realized that the other photos had been deleted, unfortunately, I had already dug into the dish.

Starting at 12:00 and moving clockwise, we have:

1) Piece of white bread that comes with the meal
2) Spaeztle-like dumplings mixed in with sauteed cabbage and onions
3) Sauerkraut and hot Slovenian sausage
4) Potato and Cheese pierogi
5) Cabbage roll

and right dead center in the middle is the chicken paprikash with dumplings.

Honestly, the only thing that didn't agree with me was the sauerkraut ... not too salty, but a bit too acidic for my taste. Everything else was just lovely, with the winner going to the chicken paprikash. It was nice and creamy with just a little bit of heat from the paprika. The chicken leg I was served was hot and juicy and tender. The only off thing about the paprikash was the dumplings. They were slightly more chewy than I would have expected. Then again, the spaetzle were lovely, so perhaps that was the way they were supposed to be. I'm willing to acknowledge that.

The pierogi was pretty good, although it could've used more cheese. The cabbage roll was quite lovely, being both firm enough to cut with a fork, and still tender and moist enough to satisfy my taste. The one interesting thing to note about the cabbage roll was that the ground meat inside the roll was actually pink. Now, normally that raises alarm bells, but after taking a bite, I can assure you that it was properly cooked. There may be some kind of chemical reaction going on here that I am unaware of that makes it pink, even though it is fully cooked. Either way, it was delicious.

Honestly, the only thing I didn't even bother to try on the plate was the slice of white bread. It just seemed kind of out of place, if you ask me.

I look forward to returning. So should you.

Al's Corner Restaurant on Urbanspoon


kasw said...

The pinkness of the meat in the stuffed cabbage is probably due to ham ground into the mixture. Many Hungarians make their stuffed cabbage that way.


Tino said...

That totally makes sense. It certainly was delicious.

Anonymous said...

Karen, is correct, but it is ground pork mixed with the beef. I can assure you that after working there for many years, the rolls are thoroughly cooked. I agree with the large dumplings, but being that they are in a container by themselves, it is tricky to keep them consistently moist. The smaller dumplings are kept moistened with cabbage, onions and lots of butter. Oh, and the bread, compliments of Hiss Bakery, is a great mopper-upper of the sauces from the paprikash! Glad to hear you enjoyed it!

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