Next month, Steve and Darlene Szatmari’s outpost of Budapest — Hungarian Rhapsody — will mark its 23rd year serving the native cuisine of their heritage. Not a minor accomplishment, especially for a restaurant tucked away downriver off the beaten track.
It began as a mom-and-pop establishment in 1993 and has steadily grown over the years to a seating capacity of about 150, with a bar stocking Hungarian wines to team with the menu of sturdy dishes like breaded pork chops, stuffed cabbage and housemade noodles.
It’s become a prime spot for banquets and wedding receptions. But in spirit, it is still the same place. The Szatmaris and their daughter Jennifer simply exude a friendly welcome and the staff, some of whom have been around for as long as 17 years, reflects that. This is not a sophisticated restaurant or one that tries to keep up with the latest fads. It adheres to what it does well and doesn’t attempt to be anything other than what it is, a family restaurant.
Walking into the free-standing building is truly walking back into a gentler time. The big dining room is decorated with paintings of Hungary and handcrafted folk art including colorful Herendi and Kalocsai porcelain plates and garlands of the red peppers of paprika. Tables are covered in flower-embroidered cloths and the plexiglas covers that top them don’t obscure the handiwork but protect the cloths from the inevitable splashes of chicken paprikas and weiner schnitzel that threaten to overflow the plates.
“Small” is not a word used here. This is very hearty and filling fare, as anyone who orders the combination plate will discover. It includes chicken paprikas with tender dumplings ladled with gravy tinted pink from paprika, a plump slice of stuffed cabbage, a sturdy and delicious breaded pork chop, and mashed potatoes. For those willing to tackle it, it’s a chance to taste a cross-section of the menu on a single plate. It’s available at both lunch and dinner.
If the combination is too much, there’s goulash served in a little replica of the bogrács, the traditional kettle that was suspended over an open fire in the old country. Palacsinta, the Hungarian version of French crepes, may be had in both savory and sweet varieties, and there are housemade noodle dishes.
Some mainstream dishes such as burgers and other sandwiches are also available, but the heart and soul of this restaurant is its ethnic approach. Darlene still makes the traditional dessert pastries typified by walnut tortes, strudel and the Hungarian version of the Napoleon, called kremes.
Don’t look for craft cocktails or the latest pork belly treatment here. It’s not that kind of place.
14315 Northline, Southgate
Call: (734) 283-9622
Hours: Lunch 11 a.m.-4 p.m. Tues.-Sat.; Dinner 4-9:30 p.m Tues.-Sat., and 11:30 a.m.-7:30 p.m. Sun. Closed Mon.
Prices: Soups and appetizers $3.25-$8.95, entrees $13.95-$22.95, desserts $4.75
Credit cards: All major.
Liquor: Full bar
Noise level: Moderate
Parking: Large attached lot
Wheelchair access: No barriers
What the ratings mean
★ — routine ★★ — good ★★1/2 — very good
★★★ — excellent ★★★★ — outstanding