We first heard about Szalas Restaurant on Check, Please!. It sounded like good food and a lot of fun.
We went there last night for dinner, and it definitely was worth the trip. (Although, we would strongly recommend making a reservation, which we did not do.) Because we did not have a reservation, they told us it would about 45 minutes to get a table (we arrived at about 7:15) They told us we could wait at the bar, or if we prefered, we could actually eat at the bar. We decided to wait for a table. We each got a glass of Franziskaner Weissbier, a mild and refreshing German Weissbier, which was served with a slice of lemon (as is customary). The flavor of this one opened up more once it had warmed just a bit. We ended up waiting just over an hour for a table. (We suspect we may have gotten forgotten by the host as we were in the back corner of the bar. The bartender made sure we got seated though.)
The table we got was built from a sled, and was quite cozy. We were given a plate with potato bread, a soft cheese (goat?) and lard with bacon bits. The cheese was very good. For an appetizer, we ordered the Breaded Ship Cheese, which consisted of two rounds of soft cheese with a firm rind, breaded and fried. It was served with a fruit based sauce that was, at the same time, sweet and tart. We each ordered soup as well. I chose the Sauerkraut Soup, which had small portion of ribs in it, and was delicious. Nicole got the soup of the day, which was a fairly thick barley soup. This was very tasty and a bit of a surprise as, generally neither of us is a big fan of barley soups. (Why she ordered it, she can't say.)
For entrees I ordered the Highlanders Stuffed Cabbage Rolls and Nicole ordered the Hunter's Stew. The cabbage rolls were filled with an excellent pork and beef mixture that was hearty with just enough spice. They were served on a potato pancake and covered in a fantastic mushroom sauce. The Hunters Stew was a combination of sauerkraut, sausage, bacon, pork and onion in a tomato sauce. It was quite good although a bit salty, and the sausage was the best part. With the appetizers and beer, we filled up quite quickly, and had enough left to take home for lunches.
The service (other than the wait for the table) was very good, although like many ethnic restaurants, speaking the same primary language as the staff would have been to our advantage. (I have trouble understanding accents.) The atmosphere was fun, and the people watching was fantastic. They also had live traditional music and dancing, which was fun without being distracting.
Szalas Restaurant is at 5214 S Archer Ave in Chicago.