Hungarian restaurant has an at-home feel

The selling point of Barbara’s Hungarian Restaurant is that it fulfills a unique niche — the food is authentically ethnic through and through, from the goulash to the paprikas, but it’s easy to feel right at home in this slice of Hungary on Parkway Avenue, thanks to its comforting cuisine and cozy dining area.

Piping-hot Hungarian pasta warms the belly and gives a taste of Central Europe. (Peter Fiorilla / Sports Editor)

Barbara’s dishes largely employ spatzel, a filling Hungarian noodle, as the core ingredient, while a variety of other foods are built around it: paprika, meats (including beef and chicken), vegetables (like carrots and celery), potato and large amounts of sour cream and pepper supplement the noodles and flesh out the menu.

There are other options, ranging from chicken noodle soup to red cabbage salad, but the heart and soul of Barbara’s is the spätzel (egg noodle), which is pre-made to minimize time between order and delivery. I ordered the chicken paprikas ($6.99 at lunch and $11.99 at dinner) while my friend got the Hungarian goulash ($6.99/$9.99). Both dishes arrived at our table in under four minutes.

It was more than worth the brief wait. The chicken paprikas’s juxtaposition of soft spatzel and sour cream with chunky, generous portions of chicken covered in broth is a memorably pleasant taste. The Hungarian goulash was similar in quality and taste, in stew form with the addition of vegetables and potato.

The dishes were large and, despite the lack of vegetables or appetizers, the chicken paprikas felt like a complete meal. It took me a while to get to the bottom of it, and the heavy spatzel left me feeling full for the rest of the afternoon.

The homey, aromatic dining area bolstered an already solid experience. From the Hungarian textiles and pictures populating the walls to the flower cups and coat hangers at each table, Barbara’s feels casually authentic and welcoming, as nice a place to eat as any.

That’s secondary to the food, though, which is good enough on its own. Barbara’s is home to some pretty tasty food and, at lunch time, the portions are well worth the asking price. It might not be your new go-to restaurant near the College, but it’s worth a try for anyone in the mood for something different.