Czerwone Jabtuszko Restaurant
When I was younger and full of theme park adventure, riding roller coasters, throwing my arms in air on rides that take you way up and then drop you, and enjoying other fun park fare, I also loved going to the various food booths. You had fried dough heaped with powdered sugar. Candy apples. Caramel apples. Corn dogs. Cotton candy. And there were Polish sausage sandwiches served up with mustard and grilled onions. Reminiscing about those days brings back great memories — right up to the point where I remember the dirty hands that passed the goodies to me to eat. What does not kill you, makes you stronger. Right?
Well, my friend and I chose to sample some Polish food on our food quest. The game plan was that we were not having Polish sausage. For our adventure into Polish dining, we went to Czerwone Jabtuszko Restaurant, also known as Red Apple Buffet, at 3121-23 N. Milwaukee Avenue on the north end of Chicago’s Logan Square. It is a quaint little restaurant, more akin to a true diner. It is not fancy. The seating is close, but not to the point of cramping patrons — although we were close enough to get into conversation with another diner about beer. And I forgot about the one guy on his cell phone telling who I supposed was his wife that his business meeting was wrapping up. What a liar. At the risk of sounding like a typical man, the woman he was with was too perky and perfect to be a business associate. At any rate, upon walking in, we immediately knew that we had hit a winner. The place was full of Polish people filling their bellies with goodies. You know the saying: If the restaurant is full of people of that culture, it’s all good.
Because Czerwone Jabtuszko is a buffet style restaurant, there was no ordering appetizers, entrées, and other good stuff from a menu. You serve yourself. For drinks, my friend was going to settle for a diet Coke, but when he was saying that he wanted a diet Coke, it came out as “I want a Polish beer.” That sounded odd. I wanted an orange juice and my request came out as “I’ll have a Polish beer.” Part of the Polish beer thing was due to the ventriloquist waitress. She had an uncanny way of inserting “Polish beer” into the order. I have not had a beer since 1988 and I was never a beer drinker. Miller Genuine Draft. Budweiser. Rolling Rock. Pabst Blue Ribbon. That drek was enough to make you bang your head against the wall, so I never drank it, let along developed an acquired taste. Blech! But the Polish beer was surprisingly — shall we say — good. Not once did I turn my nose up or fall out in the floor in spasms. I would have ordered another one, but I’m still a beer virgin.
Having read “Kitchen Confidential” by Anthony Bourdain, I have not been a fan of buffets. And part of my dislike for buffets have been due to an exhaustive amount of time going to China Buffet and Old Country Buffet with people who “know where the good restaurants are.” How do you tell such people that you would prefer a can of Chef-Boy-Ardee raviolis to yet another buffet recommendation? Czerwone Jabtuszko changed my mind. Nothing comes straight from a can. Nothing comes straight from a bag. Nothing comes out of a box. Everything was fresh. I didn’t get many pictures of what we had because it would look like we were brutes taking over the dinner table. But, we had sausage, turkey breast, chicken, meat balls, roast beef, breaded pork cutlets, veal, beef stew, schnitzel, and beef stroganoff. We also feasted on cucumber vinaigrette, potato salad, egg salad, tuna salad, and chicken salad. And then there were the breads, the pastries, the fresh fruits, potatoes, and rice. We even showed appreciation for some pierogi, cheese blintzes, potato pancakes, as well as some hot, crisp, delicate apple fritters.
I know you’re reading this and thinking, “This man cannot be serious.” But I am. Instead of piling our plates high, we put a dollop of everything on our plates and that way we sampled as much as possible without making fools of ourselves. We may love to eat, but trying to vie for the position of village idiot just doesn’t seem like the right thing to do.
For all of the food that we ate, and believe me when I say that all of it was good, the desserts were merely okay. Part of it was because most of the desserts were not home made. Not that there were complaints, though. We went to Argo Tea for tea and biscuits — as the British call cookies. Then again, after the way we stuffed ourselves with food from the buffet table, there really was no need for us to even look in the direction of the buffet table for anything else.
Overall, we were pleased with Czerwone Jabtuszko Restaurant. The food was excellent. The service was great. The price was under $10, which meant that we had some change in our pockets afterwards. If you find yourself wanting to get down at some buffet, do me a favour. Got to a restaurant with some authenticity. That continental mess wrecks havoc on the stomach — well, it makes me suffer. I am all about the Polish buffet from now on.