"Rib-sticking" only hints at what's in store at Mabenka Restaurant & Banquets in south suburban Burbank, a bustling Polish and Lithuanian diner serving its whole, heaping, heartwarming menu morning through night.
It's a worthy destination for many reasons, but none more indisputable than its golden-crusted potato pancakes ($7.25). Shatteringly crisp on the outside, they're light and creamy inside—all without a hint of excess grease. Slather them with full-fat sour cream and sweet applesauce for the full experience.
Better yet, get them as part of the create-your-own combination plate ($12.25 for three selections), pairing them with comforting Lithuanian sausage and lightly smoky Polish sausage.
Consider, too, its heaven-sent pierogi ($7.95). The plush, doughy pillows come with a dozen per order. They're stuffed with a choice of seven fillings, from saurkraut and mushroom to fruit or sweet cheese. Go the savory route and get them sidled by crispy nubs of bacon and sour cream. The potato and cheese are tasty, but the unidentified, sausage-like "meat" filling wins best of show.
All entrees come with coffee and bread, including a sweet, fruit-specked varietal. Some entrees also include a side, like sauerkraut, though you can substitute kugelis, bread dumplings, or potato pancakes for $1.50 more.
While you wait, pass the time over a bowl—not a cup, a bowl—of soup. Yes, it's included as well. The house-made, noodle-like dumping is a find. Served in simple chicken broth with a sprinkle of parsley, these dumplings are the stuff of childhood dreams.
Mabenka Restaurant & Banquets
About the author: Jennifer Olvera is a veteran food and travel writer and author of "Food Lovers' Guide to Chicago." Follow her on Twitter @olverajennifer.