Last night, my favorite Lithuanian and I made a long-overdue visit to South Boston’s Lithuanian Citizens Association, otherwise known as the Lithuanian Club, for dinner. On weekends, the basement kitchen serves up the traditional fare of the northern European country. We walked into the front door, which was held open by a young girl in a dress Sophia Grace and Rosie would covet.
“Are you going to the dance?” She asked us.
Alas, we were skipping the social function and heading to the basement bar and restaurant. The decor is like any other social club—stuck in the 1960s, but it was comforting and well-maintained. We sat at a table near the bar and ordered Lithuanian vodka and cranberry. The German bartender mixed up some cranberry-flavored vodka with berries in the bottom with the juice. The two drinks cost $7.50 and they were tart and refreshing. I want to drink this all summer long.
We sat down with the menu. In both Lithuanian and English, the offerings varied from cheese crepes to pizza to zrazai (pork rolls). Like most Lithuanian food I’ve encountered, the majority of the dishes are sided with bacon and sour cream. We decided to order variety of things to try.
“Do you want the soup?” The cook asked brightly as she took our order. My companion refused, but she was so excited about the soup I accepted her upsell.
A huge bowl arrived with a side of rye bread. The soup was full of thinly-sliced cabbage, onion, carrot, and celery. Small pieces of ground pork and perfectly-cooked potato floated in the fatty broth. A dollop of sour cream rounded out the soup. It was satisfying and would have been a meal in itself if I ate the entire serving.
Next came a massive platter of food that we determined was the pork rolls. At $9.25, it was the most expensive item we ordered and it was definitely worth the price. A grenade-sized portion of ground pork was wrapped around a mixture of bacon, carrots, onions, and cheese. It was plated with a salad, beet salad, and a boiled potato.
It’s hearty eating. The pork was drier than I would prefer, but it had a hint of nutmeg that made it interesting. It reminded me of a richer (and larger) Swedish meatball. Instead of cranberry jam on the side, we drank our tart cocktails which cut the richness of the food well. The vegetable salad wasn’t amazing, but the beets were good. (If you’re into beets—I’m not much of a fan.)
Next came the dish my favorite Lithuanian was looking forward to most: koldunai. A thick dumpling covered a small portion of ground meat. The dumplings arrived swimming in butter and soft bacon pieces.
The salt from the bacon and butter seemed to permeate the dumpling. They were salty, messy, and delicious. But again, the meat inside was dry. I’m tempted to try making these at home, but undercooking the meat inside prior to boiling the dumplings to prevent drying out.
We ended with another Lithuanian vodka/cranberry and the cheese crepes. The sweet crepes were served with real maple syrup and some seasonal sliced fruit. The cheese was simple cottage cheese, but it worked with the nicely flavored crepe.
The crowd appeared to be primarily locals, and mostly not Lithuanian. I’m told that Sunday is the best day to visit to see people of Lithuanian descent (and it’s the only day you can get zeppelnis—a large meat-filled potato dumpling). Order your drinks at the bar, and order your food in the kitchen when the cook has a free moment. Finally, be sure to take a look around at the old pictures and trophies that make any cultural club worth visiting.
Lithuanian Club, 368 West Broadway, South Boston. 617-268-9058