Best Romanian Restaurants in Chicagoland

The 2010 Census  revealed that the Chicagoland area is home to over 100,000 Romanian-Americans. With Chicago topping the list of the most immigrant-friendly cities in America, this is no surprise. The city, and the surrounding areas, boast over a dozen Romanian churches and cultural centers, including one recently in the news for all the wrong reasons.

 

Romanian cuisine, similar in many ways to Polish cuisine, is best known for sarmale (stuffed cabbage rolls), mititei (skinless sausages) and ciorba de burta (tripe soup) as well as a variety of tasty desserts that include papanasi (fried donuts), savarine (citrus-flavoured yeasted cake) or amandine (chocolate layered cake).

 

Ten years ago, the city had more than a dozen Romanian restaurants and bakeries from which to choose.  Alas, in 2020 the options are significantly more limited.

 

For example, 3 of the most famous Romanian restaurants have closed (Little Bucharest, Nelly Saloon and Doina). Another new restaurant, Transilvanya Grille opened in early 2020 on Lincoln Avenue, but shut down in April. It was a different kind of COVID-19.

 

So what do you do if you’re craving Romanian food in the Chicago area? Don’t worry, there are still awesome options. Here’s what to order.

 

1 Transylvania INC – Free Delivery & Amazing Food
Transylvania INC is a food caterer serving the Chicagoland area. They take orders directly on their Facebook page here and via text message at (773) 814-8795. They stand out of the crowd due to the trifecta of amazing food, stellar service and free home delivery. The portions are REALLY generous.
2 Maria’s Bakery: Best Desserts
Maria’s bakery is a bit of an oddity. As the name suggests, they sell a variety of ethnic Romanian sweets and desserts. Their amandine are to die for. The langosi (deep fried dough served with sour cream and garlic) are very tasty. They offer a variety of delicious donuts, cheese danishes (branzoaice) and more.
3 Saravale Meat Market: Best Mici (Skinless Sausages) Ever
If you’re Romanian and live in Chicago, you’ve been to Saravale Meat Market. Unless you lived under a rock, and for that we are sorry. Why do people go to Saravale? It’s the freakin’ mici. Mici/ Mititei, also known as skinless sausages, are the quintessential Romanian food.
4 Holy Nativity Romanian Orthodox Church
This is not a mistake. You can indeed buy food at this fine Romanian church, and that’s not all. Simply take the stairs down to the mezzanine level, and on a fine Sunday, women can be found drinking coffee while the men are drinking whatever alcoholic beverages are on tap.
5 Nelly’s Saloon (Temporary Closed as of May 2020): Horrible Customer Service but Very Good Food
Nelly’s Saloon is one of the oldest Romanian restaurants in town and a favorite location for budget conscious weddings in the Romanian community.  Straight up, be aware that this is NOT an establishment that will take any feedback from the customer. They have more of a “customer is always wrong” attitude. So be prepared for Chicago sass from this Roumanian restaurant.
6 Honorable Mention: Romanian Kosher Sausage Co
This is not a restaurant per se. But if you crave amazing homemade pastrami, some traditional salami, and bologna, or beef sticks (crenvusti) this is the place to go. They also offer pretty good sandwiches. I’m a huge fan of their garlic hot dogs. This is a great establishment set up by a Jewish Romanian entrepreneur (hence the kosher part). It’s totally worth a stop, even if it’s a bit out of the way.
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