When I decided where I wanted to live in Cleveland, there ended up being one area that just stood out to me; Shaker Square. Within Shaker Square there is the North Union Farmer’s Market which reminds me a bit of the ones back home (not as big, but farm fresh, organically raised food), a branch of my bank, a dry cleaner, a direct train line to downtown, and a variety of restaurants. So, I made sure I found a place that was close to the action (and the additional shops on Larchmere that I’ll be sure to check out). But, even with all of these options around, it wasn’t until my parents came to help me settle in that I ventured out to check out the restaurant scene. And of all the options available to us, one of the first we picked was Balaton.
After spending a long day in the house working and missing our reservation at Lolita, we decided to walk down to the Square to see what was available. Looking around, we went through a quick process of elimination. Fire and Grotto and the Brazilian place were a little too nice for us in our work clothes. We weren’t really in the mood for pizza and pasta or diner food. And we definitely weren’t doing Subway. So that pretty much left Balaton, a little homely looking restaurant on the corner that the first time I walked by I nearly mistook for an antique store until I saw the menu in the window. Walking in, it feels like you are getting ready to have dinner at your grandma’s. The things on the wall are a little antiquey. The atmosphere is warm and inviting and just comfortable. It is immediately apparent that it is a family owned business with mom in the kitchen, dad holding court in the dining area, the daughters as the servers and the brother who is in charge of the money. It just felt like the perfect place for us to spend our evening, straight out of My Big Fat Greek Wedding, only if they were Hungarian instead of Greek.
Dinner started with the obligatory simple salad which we ate quickly to just get it out of the way. Then it was on to the good stuff. For me that meant a pork Goulash served with dumplings. The pork was tender, the sauce was rich and the dumplings were just delicious. It was a simple dish that didn’t have any overwhelming flavors, but was hearty and filling. It was the perfect type of dish for the cold night that we were having after a long day of work. After eating about half, I had to stop myself, though I kept dipping pieces of the bread into my sauce…until our desserts showed up.
Normally, I’m not a big dessert person, but whenever I go out with my parents, my mom always orders something to share. Just that nice little sweet kick to end the meal. We asked two of the waitresses which their favorite was, and without hesitation they both said the Dobosh Torte, an 8 layer cake surrounded with a hard caramel shell. For good measure, we went ahead and got the cherry strudel. And I’m glad we did. The crust was flaky and warm. The filling was slightly tart but not too sweet. And there was a little bit of cream cheese for, well, creaminess. It was a wonderful, fairly light, and delicious dessert. The cake was good too…if you like chocolate. I’m not a huge chocolate fan, so it was a bit too rich for me. But there weren’t any bites left when we left that evening so someone must have liked it…
This was one of those dinners that was just good. It wasn’t fancy, it wasn’t overly creative, it was just good, solid, hearty home-cooking. And it’s a place that I will definitely be heading back to at some point so I can try the Schnitzel…the dish that they are most well known for.