Despite the multitude of culinary options throughout Manhattan, it’s not always easy to get a good homemade goulash, Hungarian style.
Welcome to Love Cafe and Bar, one of the newest Manhattan restaurants serving blini, pirogues, Russian borscht, rich homemade soups, beef Stroganoff, corned beef, stuffed cabbage and yes, Hungarian goulash. This European comfort food served in freshly baked bread is the most famous and often cooked dish outside the borders of Hungary. Beef/pork chuck is slowly stewed with onion, garlic, bell pepper, carrots, tomato paste and sweet Hungarian paprika for a tender, mildly spicy comforting dish. If this delicious meal doesn’t want to make you get up and do a Hungarian folkloric dance then nothing will.
Proprietor Margarita Abramov came to the United States from Russia and brought her family’s love of cooking and entertaining with her. Specializing in savory crepes, such as grilled chicken and mushrooms with a delectable house made béchamel sauce or the very popular beef stroganoff with mushrooms in wine sauce, the Love Cafe and Bar won’t max out your credit card. The majority of menu items are under $10. It may be hard to believe but high quality food can be reasonably priced even in Manhattan.
Soups include a traditional French Onion served over Swiss cheese underneath a slice of French bread or Borsht with house made Russian style beef and garden vegetable soup served with sour cream. Vinegret, a Russian Beet Salad, consists of cooked beets, sauerkraut, carrots, onions, scallions, pickles, peas, potato, wine vinegar and topped with fresh dill.
Guests can even hear balalaika music filling the street with Russian folk music that just can’t be found anywhere else in the city on this Second Avenue and 24th Street restaurant. Nestled in a culturally diverse neighborhood, this quaint 18-seat restaurant features authentic homemade Eastern European dishes made from scratch for breakfast, lunch and dinner. A traditional European atmosphere and music are an important part of relaxing in this tiny romantic café. Talented musicians include violinist Valeriy Zmud, a virtuoso who is known on Russian and NYC stages for his Russian/Gipsy music, and Edward In NY, a Russian/American guitarist covering Russian, European and American hits from the 50’s through today.
A select menu of beer and wine is hand-picked. There are specialty coffees, espresso and imported sodas plus a juice bar of fresh fruits made to order. Desserts take center stage too, including peach and lemon sorbet in their natural shell and daily homemade imported Italian delicacies.
The next time you’re in Lower Manhattan, chow down at the Love Cafe and Bar while soaking in the sights and sounds of an Eastern European ambience. It’s an experience that won’t leave you short-changed.
Stuffed cabbage. Credit: Roger Sands