Finally made it to Goulash Place in Danbury
I'd taken note of this place from the Roadfood entry
, and this weekend I finally made it out to what is ostensibly the last remaining Hungarian restaurant in Connecticut. I'd heard it described as a gem, a time-capsule, a throwback... all those words are like candy to any Roadfooder.
I came in on a rainy Saturday afternoon and was the only customer. The proprietor was chatting with a friend at the bar, and when I walked in, asked if he could help me - I guess I looked a little lost. I said simply that I was hoping to get some food... and it was all warm fuzzies from there. The lights were off, so I took a seat by the window to get as much light as possible on this gloomy day. As it turned out, this was the perfect setting for what I was about to eat.
The whole menu was enticing, but I had my eye on two particular things for this first visit: the stuffed cabbage and the Transylvanian goulash. ("Good choice, my friend," said the guy at the bar.) I was pretty sure I'd never had a proper goulash, but I liked every ingredient that was listed for this one. After a few minutes, my pleasant host brought out the stuffed cabbage - topped with sour cream, something I hadn't seen done before - and a basket of some very attractive-looking bread.
I promptly plunged my knife and fork into the cabbage, whose spiced filling of meat and rice hooked me right away; the sour cream, in addition to pairing well with it, ended up enriching the broth, turning it into a creamy delight that I was more than happy to sop up with the bread. The BREAD. Crusty on the outside, pillow-soft on the inside, prizeworthy in itself. I mentioned it to Mr. Azcel, who replied: "It's a Portuguese bread, the same one I've been using for 39 years. 99% of people like it."
I then waited for my main course, sipping my coffee and already feeling quite content, watching the drizzle outside.
No other customers came in during that time, which surprised me a bit given this place's eminent reputation, but in fact I was glad for the quiet and the solitude. Presently the goulash arrived, along with a second helping of bread that I'd requested (it was vital that I get every last bit of broth). Tender chunks of pork, soft spaetzle-like dumplings, addictive sauerkraut, topped with a dollop of sour cream.
As I dug in, it registered that I was eating the very definition of comfort food, a hearty, warming, old-fashioned dish, served in an old-fashioned establishment by an old-fashioned fellow, enjoyed in the face of inclement weather. And I had the place all to myself.
You'd think I would have proceeded slowly, savoring every bite, but I have a bad habit of going too fast once I decide I like what I'm eating. I turned down a refill on my coffee, patting my stomach. "Take your time!" he said. I will next time, and there will absolutely be a next time. Goulash Place is the archetype of a small, local, cherished place, a piece of history sealed up in a house, an enduring expression of the couple that started it and now a tenacious one-man operation. It gives off a wonderful (though surely illusory) feeling of permanence, and the food alone rockets it to the top tier of Connecticut restaurants.
If you live in the state and you've never been here, go ASAP... if you're planning a trip, make sure it's included in your stops!