One of the benefits of eating at an ethnic restaurant is you can take a trip to another country without leaving the U.S. On a trip to Oregon we had dinner at Novak’s in Albany. Novak’s Hungarian restaurant is the only Hungarian restaurant in Oregon and offers a taste of the old country.
It’s a family affair at Novak’s with two of the three daughters, Kaymarie and Karen helping their elderly parents, Joseph and Matilda, run this popular eatery. All the family helps out at the restaurant, including nieces, nephews and various grandchildren. Joseph and Matilda came to the U.S. in 1957 and opened their restaurant in 1984. Now open in the historic building on 2nd street this is the perfect place for an old country eatery. It’s not easy running a restaurant open for breakfast, lunch and dinner but they pull it off in style. Novak’s embraces environmental awareness by sourcing all of their food locally, most of which comes from within an hour of Albany. They cut their own meat and render the fat to produce oil to use in some of their recipes. A local farmer produces eggs just for Novak’s and they have a hydroponics tower for growing their own herbs and fresh greens.
At breakfast, the Hungarian Hash and eggs is a hearty start to your day with a generous portion of shredded beef, red potatoes, two eggs and a buttermilk biscuit. Another hearty choice is the Farmer’s Platter with papa’s homemade sausage, Hungarian salami, farmer’s cheese, spicy apricot brie, Mama’s red cabbage salad and marinated tomatoes with house made bread and handmade crackers. Not your average breakfast!
At lunch try the chicken paprika from grandma Sophia’s recipe. This creamy mild paprika sauce brings out the best in tender chicken and chewy spaetzles. For lunch or dinner try the beef lover’s Porkolt, a version of beef Burgundy over homemade spaetzle. Cabbage rolls are common in the old country and offered here for us new world folk to try. Novak’s stuffs the cabbage rolls with well-seasoned lean pork and rice then top it with sour cream and serve it over red potatoes.
For dinner try the Kobasz, papa’s own special recipe of a mild, garlicky pork sausage with homemade mustard, sweet and sour cabbage and parsley buttered potatoes. They have combination plates if you can’t decide what to order. The Shepherds Platter comes with chicken paprika, beef porkolt, cabbage rolls, and fresh vegetables. The Becsi Szelet is specially seasoned beef cutlet, breaded and fried crisp with a beef and mushroom sauce over it.
Try the desserts!
The homemade desserts at Novak’s are worth saving room for. The Makos Torta is a Hungarian style poppy seed cake with lemon cheese filling and a vanilla butter cream frosting. The Mozart Torta is a hazelnut cake with chocolate ganache and a dreamy-creamy butter cream frosting. The Retes (apple strudel) is the “real thing” according to the menu. We tried it for breakfast and even if it’s not the “real thing” it is darn good. The apples don’t compete with pastry dough and the cinnamon doesn’t overpower the apple. Served hot with a generous dollop of whipped cream this is a must have!
The town of Albany, Oregon may be off the radar for most, but I highly recommend stopping by to check out the food and wine. They also have a historic carousel that opened the summer of 2017 and is worth a look. Over 15 years and hundreds of hours of volunteer labor have contributed to this one-of-a-kind project that’s a must see. And after a ride on the carousel, you only have a short walk to Novak’s for a culinary trip to Hungary that will leave you anything but hungry!