Last Saturday evening, we decided to dine at a new to me restaurant, Gypsy Cafe. SP had eaten there before. He said he and some co-workers used to go there for lunch when he worked for the company that was a few blocks away from Gypsy Cafe. I do not think they serve lunch these days, just dinner and Sunday brunch.
I like that it is in the South Side but not on East Carson street. It's on Bingham Street, near the City Theater. We parked in a parking lot ($3 for 3 hours), not on the street, and walked maybe 2 blocks to the restaurant. I think I read somewhere that the restaurant used to be a church social hall - ? Inside, it was kind of bohemian and eclectic, but in a cozy, welcoming, somehow it all works kind of way. There's a step up to a 'stage area' where there is live music. A bit of exposed brick wall was visible, lots of what looked like religious pictures were hung on a wall, and enough outside light from the windows to brighten the interior but not make it too bright.I spent the first few moments looking around - there was so much to take in! Even the ceilings were interesting:
Gypsy Cafe takes reservations, but we didn't have reservations. It wasn't a problem. We were seated right away (it was about 6 pm) by a very friendly hostess/server. SP ordered his usual beverage: iced tea. I made the mistake of looking over the drinks menu, and I couldn't resist the Pomegranate Spritzer, a blend of red wine, pomegranate juice, and ginger ale:The menu, which I believe is inspired from regions around the world where gypsies are reputed to roam, changes frequently. I hope the appetizer we enjoyed stays on the menu permanently: Saganaki.Flaming cheese! Could there be anything yummier? OK, yes, I am a huge cheese lover, and this Kasseri cheese flamed with Ouzo totally caught my eye and I just had to have it. It's flamed tableside. To extinguish the flames, servers squeeze lemon juice over the flames.A very generous wedge of cheese served with toasted pita chips. I think this must be a very popular item with customers. In our time there, I think we saw 3 cheese flamings. I don't know why, but watching food go up in flames is always fun (except when it's your rotisserie chicken charring to a crisp). The cheese is so ooey and gooey - it stretches out when you cut into it and can get a little messy but my gosh this was tasty. Even SP, who is not as much of a cheese lover, loved this appetizer.After devouring every last bit of cheese and pita, we relaxed and awaited the salad:This was SP's dinner salad. I didn't get a salad, but I tried his. It was a nice mix of greens, radishes, chick peas, tomato, and a paprika vinaigrette. It was very tasty and a very nice size, especially for a vegetable lover like SP.
For his entree, he ordered a shrimp & scallop dish:Basically, shrimp and scallops (the scallops are hidden beneath the broth) with spinach in a white wine/lemon sauce with a lemon wedge and toasted pita chips. I counted 6 shrimp tails after he finished, plus I saw lots of small scallops when he was eating. He said it was delicious, and I believe it - he was spooning up the broth after he ate all the goodies in the broth! He even ate all the pita chips, which is unusual for him because he's not big on white bread type items and he'd eaten a lot of the pita with the cheese.
I chose the Eggplant Caprese:It just sounded so summery. The eggplant rounds were thick and covered with a very light bread crumb coating. A delicious, light tomato sauce, fresh tomato, mozzarella, fresh basil, and pasta. I loved this dish. I ate 2 of the 3 eggplant rounds and took the third round plus a little pasta home for lunch the next day.
Dessert. Honestly, we were pretty full, but it never hurts to look... or does it?! Sometimes once I see something, I can't resist it no matter how stuffed I am. This time, we easily agreed to share the Peach Chardonnay Sorbet.It was delicious. I could really taste pureed peach. Cool and refreshing, just light enough and the right size for an after dinner treat.
The price for all that food and one cocktail plus one beverage came to about $60 with tax, before tip.
We really enjoyed our meal at Gypsy Cafe. The two servers both took care of us, and both were very friendly. I loved the intimate, relaxed, eclectic atmosphere. We were there 2 hours, and at times service seemed maybe a wee bit slow, but it didn't bother us the way it might bother someone else. I think diners are encouraged to relax and take their time, savor and enjoy. After we paid the bill, we were encouraged to stay as long as we liked to listen to the live music. I would have liked to stay, but we had a couple stops to make on our way home, so we needed to get to the stores before they closed, plus we had to make ice cream custard so it could chill overnight.
Definitely tasty food, and I am hoping we will be back soon, though with our track record of returning to places we really like, it might be a year, which would be a shame. Especially because of that saganaki. Flaming cheese is reason enough to try this place and then to return often!