Little Bucharest Bistro

By Jeff Pearl

While some restaurants expect you to wait in excessive lines and pay lofty valet fares, there’s a neighborhood spot in Irving Park that takes a different approach. Call ahead and reserve the restaurant’s free limo service, and you’ll be sure to arrive in style without any trouble. It’s just the first inkling that Little Bucharest does things a bit differently, a philosophy that extends to their unique Romanian menu. Once seated, you won’t be able to deny that Eastern European fare takes a modern twist without losing its roots at this cozy and quirky gem.

With hearty options galore for the main course, make sure to try the lighter "vinete" eggplant spread for starters. Toasted pita topped with this creamy cousin to Baba ganoush creates a fresh start when paired with a small acidic veggie combo. Once you’ve made the acquaintance of these Eastern European flavors, dig into the signature braised short rib goulash. These savory shreds of beef form an aromatic stew over a bed of tender gnocchi. On the poultry side, the Rata duck thigh shows the bird in a whole new light, with crisp, rich skin and a complex rum sauce.

the crowd

The traditional atmosphere has an attractive pull on families looking for that authentic experience. But the exotic vibe also suites happy couples, who sit interspersed amongst a few groups of young Romanian men looking for a taste of home.

... on the side

eye for design
Old-fashioned woodwork lines the dining room while sunbeams beat down through a few strategically placed stained glass windows, evoking an old European cathedral—minus the dusty silence.

on the stereo
Whether it’s a recording or a live performance coming from the accordion and clarinet in the corner, you’re sure to learn a new favorite folk song.



Mon–Fri 4PM–2AM; Sat 3PM–3AM; Sun 3PM–2AM

price range

$6 (Mamaliga Soft Polenta) to $30 (Platou Tiganesc)