When Margarita Abramov, proprietor of Love Cafe , 430 2nd Ave., came to the United States from Russia, she brought her family’s love of cooking and entertaining with her. This included her specialty: homemade goulash, Hungarian style.
The Love Cafe serves blini, pierogies, Russian borscht, rich homemade soups, beef Stroganoff, corned beef, stuffed cabbage, and, of course, Hungarian goulash. This European comfort stew, served in freshly baked bread, is the most famous and often-cooked dish outside the borders of Hungary. Beef or pork chuck is slowly stewed with onion, garlic, bell pepper, carrots, tomato paste, and sweet Hungarian paprika for a tender, mildly spicy dish. If this delicious meal doesn’t make you want to get up and do a Hungarian folkloric dance, then nothing will.
Specializing in savory crepes — such as grilled chicken and mushrooms with a delectable house-made béchamel sauce or the very popular beef stroganoff with mushrooms in wine sauce — the Love Cafe and Bar won’t max out your credit card. The majority of menu items are under $10. It may be hard to believe, but high-quality food can be reasonably priced, even in Manhattan.
Soups include traditional French onion, served over Swiss cheese underneath a slice of French bread; borsht with house-made Russian-style beef; and garden vegetable soup served with sour cream. Vinegret, a Russian beet salad, consists of cooked beets, sauerkraut, carrots, onions, scallions, pickles, peas, potato, and wine vinegar, all topped with fresh dill.
Guests can even hear balalaika, Russian folk music that just can’t be found anywhere else in the city. Nestled in a culturally diverse neighborhood, this restaurant features authentic homemade Eastern European dishes made from scratch for breakfast, lunch and dinner. A traditional European atmosphere and music are an important part of relaxing in this tiny (18-seat), romantic café. Talented musicians who frequent Love include violinist Valeriy Zmud, a virtuoso known on Russian and New York City stages for his Russian/Gipsy music, and Edward In NY, a Russian-American guitarist covering Russian, European, and American hits from the 50s through today.
A select menu of beer and wine is hand-picked by Abramov. There are also specialty coffees, espresso, and imported sodas, plus a juice bar of fresh fruits with drinks made to order. Desserts take center stage, too: try the peach and lemon sorbet in their natural shells or the imported Italian delicacies.
The next time you’re in the neighborhood, chow down at the Love Cafe and Bar while soaking in the sights and sounds of an Eastern European ambience. It’s an experience that won’t leave you short-changed.