A hard-to-find restaurant in a mostly residential neighborhood, the Goulash Place is a treasure-trove of Eastern European gastronomy not far from Interstate 84. During the several decades we have loved it, some things have changed — most notable is the absence of hostess Magda Aczel, who was in turn charming and entertaining or wickedly blunt, but who always was a force of nature. Magdi passed away a few years ago. Another change is the prices. Since we first wrote about it in the early 1980s, the cost of a full, hearty dinner at the Goulash Place has risen from about $5 to $10.
Made-from-scratch specialties include three kinds of goulash, including our personal favorite — Transylvanian, which is velvety hunks of pork adrift in sauerkraut. Other favorites include chicken paprikash, roast pork, and stuffed cabbage. It is a dilemma choosing side dishes, for Mr. Aczel’s mashed potatoes are chunky, soulful spuds served with a bit of gravy from whatever they accompany; on the other hand, there are always nockerli, which are little hand-fashioned dumpling squiggles in a butter sauce that go so well with paprikash. With any meal, it is essential to fork into a bowl of traditional Hungarian cucumber salad – a refreshingly pickly tastebud-refresher.
Start with a bowl of wondrously aromatic chicken soup and finish with palascinke — tender crepes wrapped around apricot and chopped-nut filling. From soup to nuts, this superb food is presented with Old-World charm so genuine that sometimes you feel that you are dining not in a restaurant, but at the home of a favorite relative.