Thursday, May 14, 2009

Nelly's - a restaurant review


May 14, 2009

Last night Carolyn, Natalie and Anita went to Nelly's Saloon for dinner; on Anita's suggestion.  It's a trip.

Nelly's is a Romanian restaurant at 3256 N. Elston Avenue.  The decor is . . . hmm, how to explain . . . see the photo.  Not exactly a color scheme I would choose, but it's not my place.  It's certainly clean and bright.  Not captured in the photo were the large flat panel with Bulgarian TV, the black lights and the disco ball.

Nelly is a nice lady with wild hairdo and a manner that is at once accommodating and unsure.  I felt as if this was her first night, yet it's clear that she's been at this a long time.  In any case, she made us feel comfortable.  We asked for white wine, dry, not sweet.  She seemed somewhat unsure so we asked if we could try one glass before everyone committed.  We turned our noses up at the sweet muscat, but she amiably offered to bring an alternate.  "If you don't like it, I'll bring you some red wine."  The second glass, a regular muscat, was perfectly drinkable.  I elected to also drink the sweet muscat and to my surprise, I ended up liking it.

I asked Nelly if I could take her photo, but she insisted, "Please, no, I'm ugly."  Although she's not.  In fact, she's interesting, with that wild mountain of hair.

Soon she brought a large basket of thick-cut white bread, a bowl piled with sour cream, another with long hot peppers, and a plate of butter.  Really good butter. A somewhat odd combination, but we ate everything but the sour cream.  We ordered two orders of skinless sausage with french fries and two orders of pork goulash.  With the goulash, there was a choice of polenta or mashed potatoes.  Carolyn opted for the polenta, but Nelly assured her that if she didn't like the polenta, she would bring mashed potatoes.  Nelly, who is a little spacey, brought mashed potatoes.  And another huge basket of bread.

The sausage was good, but the french dried potatoes were fantastic.  The insides were like mashed potatoes.  I tried Carolyn's goulash, which was disappearing fast, and it was amazingly tender.

Near the end of our meal, Nelly returned to check on us.  She was perfectly attentive.  "Perfectly" in the sense that she showed up at the right times and didn't hover.  We expressed our delight with the bread and she explained that it was made in the kitchen; that everything is home made.  The large, thick pieces suggested a large loaf, so we asked.  She said she would show us and disappeared.  Moments later she materialized with the chef, a short woman who didn't speak any English.  She carried the largest loaf of bread I have ever seen and described, with hand motions, the kneading, the rising, the pounding, the rising and baking.  Nelly threw in some explanatory assistance.


They left us with two nicely wrapped packages of bread to take home.  The tab was $62 for four.  That included 7 glasses of wine.  When I say glasses, I mean filled to the rim.

Ratings, on a 1 to 5 scale:  Food - 3.5.  Service - 4.  Price $$

p.s. the bread made really good French toast.




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