Friday, July 17, 2009

Youngstown Ethnic Eats – Paprika Café

While Salem, the town where I grew up, might not have a wide selection of ethnic foods to choose from, the nearby cities of Boardman and Youngstown offer plenty in the way of diversity and variety.You’re pretty much guaranteed a good, hearty meal with friendly service and reasonable prices if you pop into one the area’s many pizza or Italian-American joints, and most of the local bar & grill-type places have substantial menus that incorporate local flair in creative ways. I have in mind an awesome Italian-influenced sandwich I meekly attempted to finish at Jeremiah Bullfrogs in Y-Town that consisted of a monstrous meat-stuffed cubanelle pepper topped with marinated hot peppers, mozzarella cheese, and garlicky greens. Yum. Or the menu at my daddy’s favorite local restaurant, the Blue Wolf Tavern, which manages to incorporate Italian-American, barbecue, beer, and other American specialties in huge, affordable portions.

The most pleasant dining surprise I had when in Ohio most recently was an unassuming Hungarian restaurant in Youngstown. Paprika Café is Youngstown’s only Hungarian place and stays true to its Eastern European roots while conceding juuuuuust the right amount to its American audience. The décor is appropriately kitschy, with red and white checked tablecloths and Hungarian paraphernalia (some of it for sale) adorning the shelves and walls. The menu offers an astounding 27 varieties of pierogi, those moreish dough packages concealing all sorts of savory or sweet goodies. My mom and I ordered the standard potato and cheese pierogi and they came bathed in melted butter and sweet, slow-sautéed onions.The pierogi were absolutely outstanding, tender and filling and sweet and savory and everything a pierogi should be. The deceptively simple haluski, egg noodles tossed with cabbage and onions sautéed in butter, was also perfect. Back in the Old Country, haluski is made not with egg noodles but with spaetzle-like dumplings. I quite like this American adaptation, though!Stuffed cabbage is one of my personal favorites and something I don’t often make because Phil isn’t a huge fan. So, I was happy to try Paprika Café’s version, with its flavorful meat and rice filling and slightly tart and tangy tomato sauce bath.Because the prices here are really outstanding, my ma and I went all out and also ordered one of the specials with sautéed cabbage, kolbasz sausage, and beef and rice meatballs.
Truly a local gem that could easily stand up to any ethnic joint in NYC. Can’t wait to return when I’m next in the area – ma, promise you’ll take me!Paprika Café
2626 Mahoning Ave
Youngstown, OH 44509
(330) 799-2105
Paprika Cafe on Urbanspoon


Anonymous said...

Hi Cari,
Oh, Pierogi!
Your photo reminds me of my staying at Indiana and Pennsylvania several years ago. I enjoyed pierogi there. Espeially I remember it at a farm festival in the countryside in Pennsylvania.
Recently I read a book, Circle K Cycles, by Karen Tei Yamashita. She says that food cycles, accompanying the restless human movement. Her instance in that book is Gyoza!!!
Yes, a kind of dumpling, it is similar to pierogi.
The root of Gyoza and Pierogi may be the same. That is transnational, like YOU!!!

Michiko from Kobe

Cari said...

Hi Michiko!! You were lucky to try pierogi in Pennsylvania - they're one of my favorite foods. I also LOVE gyoza, so maybe I should just say I love dumplings. :) The book by Yamashita sounds really interesting - I looked it up on Amazon and will have to read it as soon as I finish my dissertation. I'm so happy you continue to read my blog:) Take care! xoxo

Velva said...

Love pierogis! The Hungarian restuarant that you highlighted on your blog is a great piece of Americana. Thanks for sharing.

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Unknown said...

Thanks for the great blog with the awesome details & the images. The food looks really good. i will try it the next time i am around paprika Cafe. you should consider featuring this on the bizymoms Youngstown community page, I am sure the mom’s will love it.