Dining and food culture in Chicago

Dancing with Tripe: Romania has more than just Dracula

Logan Square, Romanian No Comments »

nellysignBy Michael Nagrant

All I really know about Romania I learned from Nadia Comaneci, Dracula and those late-eighties/early-nineties commercials depicting squalid orphanages. And I might have kept on thinking that the country was populated exclusively by agile beauties, blood-sucking monsters and doleful children if my favorite burger spot, Kuma’s Corner, didn’t have a two-hour back-up last Friday.

Though Kuma’s makes a mean patty, it wasn’t worth the Outback Steakhouse-like wait, and so my two friends and I ambled up the block and into the Romanian restaurant, Nelly’s Saloon. By the Wild West-swinging doors, sarsaparilla and six-gun-shooter standard, Nelly’s is not quite a saloon. It does however look like a combination strip club and a Romanian grandmother’s living room.

The bar area, lit via neon and stacked with more bottles of Hennessy than a gangster-rap soiree, makes up the strip-club portion, while the dining room, outfitted with shiny silk valances, vertical blinds, giant golden frames filled with paintings of flowers and mirrored walls, makes up the living-room-like area. Tables are outfitted with pint glasses filled with artistically fanned red-and-white linen napkins. If there was a sofa in this dining room, it would be covered in plastic. A red-polyester-panted proprietor with a bouffant hairdo held court in the corner of the bar section chain-smoking throughout our meal. Read the rest of this entry »