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Hungarian cuisine is hard to find, not only in Michigan, but across the entire United States, as well. The Metro area, in fact, has just one restaurant devoted to Hungarian dishes, the folk-art filled Southgate spot established by Steve and Darlene Szatmari in 1993 and still going strong.

   The recipes are those Steve learned at culinary school in Budapest before coming to the United States – such classics as goulash and chicken paprikash - served in a setting that underscores Hungarian culture in paintings and intricate embroidery. Despite the trappings, the restaurant is completely casual, with tables and booths in a big central dining room, and the bar set off in a corner behind some tendrils of faux greenery.

   The Szatmaris and their daughter, Jennifer Szatmari Sullivan, are almost always on hand, much of the time in the kitchen, where Steve functions as chef with a couple of helpers,  Darlene doing much of the baking and Jennifer handling the paperwork and management, making it truly a family restaurant.

    Both the lunch and dinner menus offer the traditional dishes, but there are other choices as well, including burgers, steaks and even ham sandwiches. To each his own, of course, but it would be a mistake not to sample the house dishes, like the tender beef goulash served in a miniature kettle, or stuffed cabbage made with ground pork and beef and topped with sauerkraut rather than the tomato sauce used in the more familiar Polish preparation of the dish.

   The combination plate offers a cross-section of the cuisine with chicken paprikash, stuffed cabbage and a breaded pork chop threatening to overflow the big plate. Portions are generous across the board. In addition to the standard green salad, there is a more interesting cucumber with sour cream version at a slight extra charge, and it is worth ordering.

    My only quibble with the Rhapsody is its use of packaged butter pats and coffee creamer, and bread encased in plastic, an off-note in this friendly spot. The bread is one of the few things not made inhouse.

   The extensive dessert list includes the Darlene Szatmari’s tortes and fruit strudels as well as crema, the Hungarian version of the Napoleon.

   Coming up early in November is the 25th anniversary of this one-of-a-kind spot.

  abraham67@comcast.net 

   

Hungarian Rhapsody

14315 Northline, Southgate

(734) 283-9622

Rating:  ★★ 1/2

Hours: 11 a.m.-9:30 p.m. Tues.-Sat., 11:30 a.m.-8 p.m. Sun. Closed Mon.

Prices: Lunch appetizers $4.95-$6.95 entrees $5.95-$12.95, dinner appetizers $4.95-$8.95, entrees $9.50-$22.95, desserts $4.75 at both lunch and dinner

Credit cards: All major

Liquor: Full bar

Noise level: Moderate

Wheelchair access: No barriers

Parking: Large attached lot

What the ratings mean

★ — routine ★★ — good ★★ 1/2 — very good

★★★ — excellent ★★★★ — outstanding

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