Balaton

Hungarian
legendary
Worth driving from anywhere!
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A meal at Balaton is Old-World elegance without pretense or frippery … and happens to be some of the most delicious food in the Midwest. Located in a storefront that was once a men’s clothing store, this beacon of great Hungarian fare originally opened on Buckeye Road in 1964. The current location, since 1997, has the feel of a long-standing European cafe. It is family-run, and I well recall the time several years ago when Jane and I ate lunch while some of the children were sitting at a back table doing homework, occasionally taking a break to help their elders take care of customers.

Meals are abundant (half-orders of most items are available), but it is not quantity that sets Balaton apart. The food is spectacularly good. Wiener schnitzels are crunch-crusted and moist inside; paprikash (chicken or veal) is brightly spiced and luxurious; goulash is comfort-food supreme. I was especially smitten with Hungarian Lecso, a gorgeous length of scored smoked sausage served atop a stew of yellow peppers, tomatoes, and onions. And the potato pancakes? Fantastic! They arrive hot and crisp, the freshly-shredded spuds shot through with a subtle pepper kick. Chunky apple sauce comes on the side.

Desserts include a classic multi-layer dobos tort, flaky strudel, and palascinke, which are slim crepes rolled around apricot or poppy-seed filling.

What to Eat
Balaton, Lecso
Lecso
Must-Try
The scored, smoked sausage atop this traditional Hungarian stew is delicious in its own right, all the better for its bed of tomatoes, peppers, onions, and dumplings.
Balaton, Wiener Schnitzel
Wiener Schnitzel
Must-Try
The flagship of the Balaton menu, wiener schnitzel has a fine crunch to its crust with a thick vein of juicy, ridiculously tender meat within. This full-size portion is immense. On the side, of course, are little dumplings in gravy, plus a cup of chunky apple sauce.
Balaton, Potato Pancakes
Potato Pancakes
Must-Try
In the kitchen, we watched potatoes being grated for these absolutely fresh potato pancakes. What's so especially good about them is the perfect texture balance: brittle crunch on the outside, just slightly al dente shreds of potato below that surface, and enough spud that has softened to buttery tenderness.
Balaton, Dobos Torte
Dobos Torte
Must-Try
Invented by the great chef Joszef Dobos, the Dobos Torte is super-thin layers of sponge cake, fresh buttercream icing, and a crisp caramel crown: the Queen of Hungarian Desserts!
Balaton, Palascinke
Palascinke
Must-Try
Palacinke are thin crepes wrapped around your choice of filling for dessert. This one arrived warm with a lode of apricot jam inside.
Directions and Hours
closed now
Sunday12:30pm - 8pm
MondayCLOSED
TuesdayCLOSED
Wednesday11:30am - 9pm
Thursday11:30am - 9pm
Friday11:30am - 9:30pm
Saturday12:30pm - 9:30pm
Information
Price
$$
Seasons
Open Year Round
Meals Served
Lunch, Dinner
Credit Cards Accepted
Yes
Alcohol Served
Yes
Outdoor Seating
No
Website

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