Monday, May 12, 2008

Lithuanian Kafe and Bakery

Restaurant: Lithuanian Kafe & Bakery
Address: 7427 Pacific St, Omaha, NE
Genres: Lithuanian, German, Bakery
Check Constraints: None
Chain: No (there is a main bakery location, but it's a pure bakery) | More Omaha Locations: No

  • German Goulash (Special, 8.50)
  • Cup of Chicken & Tortilla Soup (2.50)
  • Iced Tea (1.15)
  • Almond Strudel (1.25)
  • Napoleonas Torte (large, 2.95)
This place is mainly a cafe outlet sort of place for a larger bakery elsewhere in the city. It's located next to a laundry, so if you're going for lunch, you're probably going to be okay on parking. They were a lot of overworked when we got there, but we found out later that that's because someone called in sick and they had no replacement, so we can't really count that against them. The place has a very small dining room sort of feel, rather than a diner or something of that sort. There are no booths, just small tables in a rather small area. The rest of the place is taken up by a shelf of imported foods, cheeses, sausages, and a big freezer full of their Napoleonas Torte that you can buy for not much per slice.

First off, the food the place serves, aside from the sausage, doesn't really scan as "Lithuanian." We looked up some articles on Lithuanian cuisine before we went, and none of that stuff was on the menu here. This place is more bakery than anything else. The menu is mostly comprised of sandwiches of various decidedly non-"old country" types. The real star of the place are the breads and desserts. On the up side, we got four baskets of bread and butter filled with the best damn rye bread I have ever tasted.

The chicken and tortilla soup didn't actually have any tortillas with it. I'm not sure what's up with that. I'm also not sure what I was expecting, but what I got was basically a cup of salsa con queso with chicken in. It was excellent salsa con queso, mind, with an immediate heat that didn't linger, but still, not something you expect at a Lithuanian place. I used a bit of the aforementioned rye bread to soak up a bit of heat, and the two went really well together, though I think that bread would go well with almost anything.

We actually finished off their day's worth of German goulash. Take egg noodles, and over the top, ladle a sauce that is reminiscent of beef stroganoff, only with no tomato. It's a very bland cream based sauce that really could have used some spice. The real star of the dish, if there was one, was the beef, which uses the ages old formula of taking decidedly lackluster beef and boiling it vigorously for hours on end to make it nice and tender. It's a formula my beef stroganoff recipe uses to good effect, and it's used just as well here. It was worth going through the gravy just to get to the beef. I'm just not sure it was really worth eight fifty, when most entrees here are one to two bucks less.

I grabbed the almost strudel specifically to pass around the table for everybody to try, and everybody did, and it was good. It was a little flaky on the outside, but the inside was moist and very sweet, much more so than you'd expect from almonds. For a buck twenty five, though, you're not going to find a better dessert, and they've got a pretty good variety of strudels.

The real star of the whole thing, for me, was the Napoleonas Torte. This torte was heavily hyped going into this lunch, what with the three day creation process (that's 3000 GP market price, minimum!) and all. Luckily, the actual product did not disappoint. The large slice of torte is only 45 cents more than the small one, so you should pretty much always upgrade, unless you're watching your calories and such, in which case you should stay all the way across the room from this thing. One slice has 48% of your RDA of saturated fat. This is not a dessert for the weak of heart.

It comes lying on its side, optionally drizzled with apricot syrup, which I opted not to get. DO NOT turn it upright, because when you try to cut through it, you will squeeze out all the delicious filling. When you cut through it, I got best results by taking a full cross section of the torte. There's a big blob of filling right in the center, and it helps to keep that in the center. The taste is a strong vanilla flavor with hints of apricot and lemon. It's difficult to describe, really, but worth every penny paid to try it. You can take home a full large torte for 35 dollars, which seems like a lot until you read the box and realize it says "serves 16-20". It's a formidable dessert, and one worth stopping in just to try.

  • Turkey, Avacado, and Swiss (6.25)
    • Cup of Tomato Basil Soup
  • Garden Salad w/Dill Vinegarette (2.50)
  • Small round pastry (I'm sick! Don't judge me.) (0.95)
  • Napoleonas Torte (small, 2.50)
I didn't really think about the lack of Lithuanian feeling food, but ND's right. Mostly normal sandwiches, and then the plate of sausagey meat that nobody got.

They rye bread was very nice, and now I have a name to put to that flavor, as I'd tasted it before but not been told what it was. The tomato basil was pretty good. It didn't taste strongly of spaghetti-o's, thankfully, or else ND would have laughed. Solid, at least. The garden salad wasn't anything special, although the dill vinegarette is why I really got this, and it did have dill flavor, although not too strong. Just about right. I wonder if it would be better on one of their meal salads.

The main meal, as it were, was the turkey, avacado, and swiss, and it was exactly as advertised. It held together very well, despite being made of slippery things, and it was also solid. Nothing to complain about, but not amazing. Although having decent avocado sitting around is something, I suppose.

The place has made its general rep on desserts, and it's not hard to see why. All the desserts we passed around were good, and the torte in particular was a combination of good subtle flavors (as ND covered.) I cannot remember for the life of me, at the moment, what the small pastry I got was, but it's ultimately the same type of thing as the strudel, but it was good even though I couldn't tell what flavors were what when I chose it and I ended up with raspberry.

All and all, the place was certainly solid, with very good desserts, and the only thing that really made life annoying was them being understaffed. At some point we'll have to go back for the plate of meat, but everyone will leave plenty of room for dessert.

  • Rueben ($7.25)
  • Can of Soda ($1.10)
  • Napoleonas Torte w/ apricot and almond sauce ($2.95 + $0.50)
I was a little disappointed to see that the menu was mostly just American deli fare. I was really looking forward to trying some Ðaltibarðèiai. The rueben was pretty good. It was slightly tart and not drowning in Thousand Island. It came with a delicious dollop of mustard-based potato salad. Overall, I enjoyed it, but it wasn't something compelling enough to bring me back.

But then we have the desserts. ND already expounded on the torte. The only thing that I can add is don't get the apricot and almond sauce on it. It's a very strong sauce that just blows away any taste of the torte. I ended up scraping it all off and did not miss it at all. I also tried a bit of the Almond Strudel that was being passed around. It was delicious. I want to say it was better than the torte, but with the sauce tainting my torte I don't think I can make a fair judgement. The dough was flaky; the drizzled glaze added a wonderful random crunch; and there was a great nutty (and slightly cinnamony?) aftertaste that lingered for a little. I will definitely return for more almond strudel, which you can't beat at $1.25 for a healthy slice.

  • Salami and Swiss ($6.25?)
    • Potato salad side.
  • Apple Turnover Thing w/ ice cream (~$3.50)
The rye bread was indeed good. Simple and not too strong. This is a good thing because though the menu listed a "choice of bread" for the sandwiches, there was actually only choice: rye. I'm not saying that to be funny or because it was so good. It was slightly disappointing, but the rye did end up making for a good sandwich. As Mecha said, the sandwich was as advertised. Some hard salami, some swiss cheese, lettuce, and bread. No sauces or anything, which made it a little dry, and it wasn't the largest of sandwiches. I got potato salad with it which was mustard based and tasty as MapleSyrup mentioned. It came with a dash of herbs on top which appeared to be dill, but I couldn't taste it.

The apple dessert was awesome though. The waitress had initially forgotten mine, but she apologized and said it'd be worth the wait. It was. I can't remember the name, but I think it was an apple turnover with ice cream. It was the most expensive dessert on the menu at about $3.50, so you can't miss it. It came out warm with two small blobs of vanilla ice cream. It was flaky, gooey, and very good. It had apples and both golden and regular raisins. The sandwich may not have been quite worth the price, but this dessert sure was.

  • German Goulash (Special, $8.50)
    • Red Cabbage
  • Cup of Turkey Noodle Soup ($2.50)
  • Napoleonas Torte, with Apricot/Amaretto Sauce ($2.95 + $0.50)
Everyone complains about the lack of hardcore Lithuanian cuisine, but nobody tried the sausage or the cabbage. For my part, the goulash sounded too good to pass up, and I definitely think it was. As ND mentions, it was a tad on the bland side, but a dash of salt and healthy dose of pepper took it well into delicious territory. The meat was scrumptious, and honestly the only thing that stops me from really raving about it was the lack of homemade noodles. Still, well worth the money. Talking about it afterward, ND and I concluded that the sauce was primarily flavored with paprika, which would explain the orange color without the tomato taste. It's also traditional for a lot of Eastern European cuisine, which is the case with the sausage, and also their red cabbage side.

Not having a ton of experience with beets, I couldn't tell you if the red cabbage did indeed have beet juice in it. However, it was pleasantly smooth, just barely sweet, and I'm pretty sure I could have eaten a larger bowl of it, though might perhaps have regretted such later. The turkey noodle soup was definitely made in-house, and was perhaps one of the better such soups I've ever had. The noodles had been cooked a little long and the broth was a tad watery, but it had a lot of good turkey flavor and an overall good mouthfeel. I feel I should also mention that the rye bread here really is as good as everyone says, and I say that as someone who is not all that fond of rye. There's no overpowering caraway taste, and the bread is firm and good for sandwiches etc.

As good as the rest of the meal was, the dessert was pretty much the star of it (as everyone is saying). The torte was light in flavor and not at all dense, which is kind of shocking given the particulars of its construction. The sauce, as MapleSyrup suggests, is very, very strong, but I thought it went very well with the torte's flavor. I very much recommend relocating the bulk it to the side of your plate, where you can use it to dip chunks of the torte into, thus controlling the application of the sauce to your own personal flavor desires. The almond strudel were good, and from the comments around the table the kolaches (Mecha's "small round pastry") were good as well. They offer counter-side bakery service, and along with that a selection of Eastern European and Lithuanian foodstuffs, as well as (apparently) a wide variety of sausages, up to and including blood sausage, so when you're done eating I recommend browsing for a little if you've got the time.

The owner of the restaurant was on-site though mostly in the kitchen, and I regret not catching her name. She did invite us to come back, and I suspect we definitely will.