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Hungary for Oktoberfest?

Budapest Bistro offers Hungarian and German favorites perfect for fall and beyond.

‘Tis the season for Oktoberfest, the ale-fueled festival frothing with autumn merriment. Originally a Munich soiree honoring the October 1810 marriage of Bavaria’s Crown Prince Ludwig I to Princess Therese, the phase of festivity was extended backward into September to take advantage of balmier early fall weather. It’s more fun to hoist a glass of suds when you aren’t shivering in a drenched festival tent.

Though Seattle’s Fremont Oktoberfest has come and gone for the year, there are still regional opportunities for German-style food, drink and merrymaking. Thirty breweries and various food vendors will help celebrate the Anacortes Oktoberfest this weekend. Similarly, the Everett Sausage Fest is poised to yield family-friendly fun and a Bavarian Dinner Haus October 7, 8 and 9.  

Unfortunately, when it comes to everyday enjoyment of bratwurst and brezels, Snohomish County’s streets aren’t littered with German eateries. After no small effort I identified what appears to be the closest local option for Deutsche dishes, Budapest Bistro in Lynnwood’s Albertson’s Shopping Center at Beverly Park Road and Mukilteo Speedway.

To clarify, Budapest is in fact the capital and largest city of Hungary and is not located in Germany. There is overlap between the two culture’s cuisines, however, and Budapest Bistro is known for offering German classics in addition to its Hungarian hits.

As a torrential downpour pelted me while I walked from my car to Budapest Bistro’s door earlier this week, I appreciated the Germans’ genius in back-dating Oktoberfest for weather reasons. Once inside the restaurant, however, my discontent with the deluge dissipated. The quaint space was undeniably cheerful, the back wall emblazoned with a colorful, folksy mural reading, “Meals and memories are made here.”

Greeted by a dessert case and a server rocking jeans paired with what appeared to be a traditional Hungarian mini-dress, I took up temporary residence at a two-top. As it would turn out, aside from one to-go patron I would be the only customer in the bistro for the duration of my visit. It might have seemed melancholy had it not been for bright, accordion-based music filling the space.

Budapest Bistro’s entire daily menu was printed on a dry erase board, dinners ($12.99) including a soup or salad, entrée, and a choice of rice, potatoes or spaetzle noodles. After a moment of rumination, the server informed me that chicken soup was the only liquid appetizer offering, but salad options included a few varietals including cucumbers or sauerkraut. I opted for the cucumber salad, a small saucer filled with paper-thin cukes marinated in a sweet, mildly tangy vinaigrette with a sprinkling of paprika. The taste was akin to mild bread-and-butter pickles, perfect for the bread and butter accompanying my starter.

The evening’s quartet of entrée choices included Chicken Paprikash, Hunter’s Chicken, Stuffed Peppers, and Fish Schnitzel. Recognizing the schnitzel as a traditionally German option, I inquired as to the type of fish used. To my dismay, it was tilapia. I recently reached a personal verdict determining tilapia to be inedible due to a murky taste that a friend described as “dirty aquarium.” I thus abandoned my evening’s quest for strictly German fare in favor of Budapest Bistro’s Hunter’s Chicken. My server advised me that the chicken dish tasted similar to the filling of a pot pie—Marie Callender gone Eastern European.

I had quite romantically envisioned my dinner being lovingly tailored in Budapest Bistro’s kitchen by a jolly Hungarian grandmother. While that scenario may have been the case at some point during the day, when it came time for me to eat, the server scooped my supper out of the steam table behind the counter. Admittedly, I was a bit taken aback by the plate’s side of vegetables, specifically the broccoli. Broccoli isn’t a vegetable that you want to be fork-tender. If the stalks are that soft, it’s often a sign they’ve succumbed to swampiness.

As it was, Budapest’s muted green broccoli escaped the funk, but I still found it slightly unsettling. The equally hyper-tender carrots had more appeal as they were sweet and even slightly caramelized in spots.

Carrots, as well as a few mushrooms, also appeared in the bistro’s Hunter’s Chicken, a thick and creamy stew. It was indeed somewhat reminiscent of pot pie, if you’re used to your pot pie having a punch of pepper. With a note of bay and delightful warmth from paprika, cuts of chicken breast were tender in the savory sauce. My serving of spaetzle—amorphous bits of slightly chewy egg noodle—combined with the Hunter’s Chicken to make a stick-to-your-ribs plate that wasn’t oppressively heavy.

In addition to its small grocery section’s offerings of European chocolates such as Milka and Ritter Sport, Budapest Bistro presents a bevy of sweets in its bakery case. Spying a beige layer cake creation ($3.95/piece), I inquired, “Chocolate?”

Nutella!” the proprietor replied, promise in her voice. I couldn’t resist. Though the cake itself was a bit dry, the scrumptious whipped chocolate-hazelnut filling between the four layers remedied a degree of texture shortcoming.

Though Oktoberfest proper is limited to a few weeks, for more than a decade Budapest Bistro has provided steady source of Euro-fare from the likes of Hungary and Germany.

Order up a hearty plate to combat drizzly fall days and celebrate Oktoberfest’s spirit throughout the year.

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