You will love us for recommending the Goulash Place when you find it. But first, you might decide you hate us when you get lost somewhere in Danbury. We have been there dozens of times (it's just miles from our house), yet we seem to lose our way every time we go looking for it. The problem is that it is not in a business district. The Goulash Place is a home in a neighborhood on a street corner; and you could drive right past and miss it if you aren't looking carefully. Don't worry, though. You WILL find it. Just ask anyone in the general vicinity to point you to the Goulash Place (a k a Goulash Diner).
Inside, you find a snug little inn fashioned out of an annex to the owners' home. Each place setting is marked with white Scotties napkins; and there are a few pieces of Hungarian folk culture placed around the dining room to help create a mood. But you will have no trouble getting in the spirit of things when you meet Magda, who is not only the waitress but also (with her husband John) the cook and owner. Magda has never lost her Transylvanian accent; and she approaches customers with all the panache of an experienced diner waitress. "Are the mashed potatoes real?" you naively ask. She scoffs and gives you a dirty look as though you just asked her to serve you a Quarter-Pounder. Not only are the mashed potatoes real, they are real good - somehow enriched and super-seasoned so they taste even better than ordinary spuds.There are so many good things to eat - all at low, low prices (about $5 for a hearty lunch), and all heartwarmingly homemade. Start with soup. Each broad bowlful is accompanied by a separate saucer holding three saltine crackers and a spoon. Chicken soup is pale gold, threaded with thin noodles; bean soup is staunch, enriched with chewy little dumplings; the best of the soups is mushroom, a powerful broth heavy with shreds of pork and tiny dumplings.
There are at least three kinds of goulash (a generic term for shepherd's stew), including Transylvanian (made with pork and sauerkraut), veal goulash, and the classic paprika-accented beef soup known as Hungarian goulash. Hungarian goulash is great either as an appetizer before a hearty dinner or as the main course at lunch - accompanied by the Goulash Place's pickled red cabbage or a marinated cucumber salad.
Main courses include such hearty fare as Wiener schnitzel, chicken paprikash, stuffed cabbage and (on weekends) roasted duck, most of them accompanied by heaping portions of buttery little nockerl dumplings and/or those swell mashed potatoes. And for dessert, there are strudels, rum cake, and palascintas (also known as crepes) wrapped around apricot, cheese, chocolate or nut fillings.
If you like home cooking, cozy cafes and low prices, put this neighborhood restaurant in your little black book.
Now available! Nearly 200 of the most-requested recipes from this column, all in one book, "A Taste of America." It includes Jane and Michael Stern's favorite restaurants, as well as photos from their coast-to-coast eating adventures. Available in paperback, it can be ordered by sending $9.95 plus $1 for postage and handling to Taste of America, in care of the Deseret News, P.O. Box 419150, Kansas City, MO 64141.1990, Jane and Michael Stern
(Universal Press Syndicate)
3 tablespoons vegetable oil (or, better yet, chicken fat)
1 pound lean beef, cut into 3/4-inch cubes
1 teaspoon Hungarian paprika
2 medium onions, minced (1 1/2 cups)
6 cups chicken broth or light soup stock
3 carrots, sliced into thin disks
4 medium-size boiling potatoes, cubed (about one pound)
1 large tomato, peeled and cut into eighths
1/4 cup chopped parsley
1/2 teaspoon caraway seeds
salt and pepper to taste
1 bay leaf, broken in half
1/4 teaspoon dried dill Heat vegetable oil or chicken fat in bottom of five-quart stock pot over medium heat. Saute beef until browned on all sides, then season with paprika and remove with slotted spoon. Saute onions until they are soft but not browned. Add broth and raise heat. When it simmers, add beef and onions. Cover and simmer two hours or until meat is very tender. Add all remaining ingredients. Cover and simmer gently until potatoes are fork-tender, about 20 minutes. Discard bay leaf halves.
If desired, add your own favorite dumplings to soup 15 to 20 minutes before servings. Or serve with good bread on the side.