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Saturday, September 27, 2008

You Want Fries With That?

There is a Swedish restaurant near us where we used to go for lunch all the time. Their menu is not huge but there seems to be something for everyone - except Bill. He does not like this restaurant for lunch, although he loves to go there for Dinner.

This restaurant is across the street from the Swedish Covenant university in Chicago. Consequently, one is likely to see whole families dining there on days they came to town to visit their grandson or nephew at college.

The place looks like a typical tea room or lunch room. Small tables that can just barely accommodate four and which can be shoved together for larger parties. Only the absolute minimum amount of space for navigating. Patrons are encouraged to pay their checks at their tables. It's a good thing.

The tablecloths are blue, the napkins are paper, and the wall art is a mural of creepily frolicking pointy-eared gnomes. But there is a blackboard featuring the specials of the day in colored chalk and once you're seated there is little need to get up and walk around (woe the winter day when coats take us as much space as diners).

During the day the menu has a page of breakfast choices and a page of lunch items. These include Swedish pancakes with lingonberries, Orange scented French Toast, assorted pastries, various omelets, quiche of the day, sandwiches and delicious soups - French Onion, Lentil, Carrot. Sandwiches include tuna or chicken salad served on a toasted croissant, the ubiquitous Swedish meatball sandwich, and one time an odd concoction that consisted of a hot dog and mashed potatoes served in a bun with mustard.

Lunch dishes are accompanied by your choice of potatoes or cucumber salad. The salad is sliced cucumbers in a thin sour cream dressing. The potatoes are cubed and fried, not unlike home fries. It is these potatoes that trigger Bill's dislike. I think they're delicious.

My favorite sandwich is the Rubenssen, their take on the classic Reuben sandwich. Corned Beef on Swedish Limpa Rye bread, topped with Jarlsberg cheese and a bit of dressing that might be Thousand Islands but I'm not sure.

Limpa bread is in a class by itself. Sometimes called Swedish Rye, it does not resemble any rye bread that I know and I believe it contains orange essence, cardamom and fennel, which gives it a sweetness and a slight licorice flavor. Limpa toast with your eggs and potatoes is delicious.

Service is attentive if sometimes a little slow. The kitchen seems to be about the size of a large broom closet and the chef and assistant probably have to like each other a whole lot to work together in such a small space. But they turn out delicious and imaginative dishes, well prepared and freshly made.

We had one of those coupon books that included a coupon for this restaurant. Buy one dinner, get one free. I urged Bill to try it with me. After much hemming and hawing he finally gave in. We called to verify they were open, then drove to the place. All appeared dark within. How could this be? We just spoke to them minutes ago!

We parked the car and walked to the door. Then we saw that although the lights were out, each table was lit by a tea light candle. Tres romantique! Apparently this is the nightly ritual. Tables that held four, six, eight or more at lunch now held mostly couples. The effect was quiet, serene, romantic and intriguing.

We took a table and scanned the menu. Prices were reasonable and choices, though modest, were varied. Chicken breast with ham and Jarlsberg cheese; salmon with dill; roast pork loin with apples and prunes; each entree accompanied by homemade mashed potato and nicely done green beans. Specials included veal shank, hearty stew, and usually another choice or two.

The wait staff obviously guessed this was our first visit and brought a complimentary appetizer - a light tuna salad dabbed onto small squares of toasted bread. We ordered, we unwrapped our flatware from the cloth napkin, tied with a bit of ribbon, we enjoyed our delicious entrees. Since one of us was eating free we sprang for dessert. As I recall, this was a sort of bread pudding with blueberries and custard sauce, served in a teacup. Charming and tasty.

We were so impressed we added this restaurant to our list of "places to take my mother-in-law and friends that we really like". Breakfast and lunch notwithstanding, Bill likes this place a lot. The in-laws liked it, Don & Louise liked it, everyone who has gone there with us has liked it. I bet you will like it too.

If you are in Chicago, look for the Tre Kronor (Three Crowns) Swedish restaurant on Foster Ave. near Kimball, just across the street from North Park University. Breakfast, lunch or dinner, it's all good. Call first to be sure they are open and to inquire about the wait for a table. Summers, the patio is open too.

Quotable Quotes; in the category how can I still be hungry?

"When it rains soup, the poor man has no spoon."
Swedish Proverb

1 comment:

Fortuna said...

Okay, I know this is a couple of weeks old, but I have to chime in here. Why haven't you taken me to this place? We went to the little shop with the weird gnomes and red wooden horses and heavenly gingersnaps, which must be right nearby. Heck, we even went to that place with the Jamaican chef who used to live in Detroit, the place with the peas and rice that was so delicious. I feel cheated. You really don't like me, do you?
p.s. Just to really annoy you - I've lost 40 pounds. Ha. It won't be long before I'm "the cute one" again. You know, like when I was four years old.