Maria and Otto Zizak met in 2nd grade of their Grammar School, in the mountain resort town of Poprad – an eastern region of what was then Czechoslovakia. The year was 1982 and Halusky was their favorite snack after a day of skiing. Otto preferred his with bits of crispy bacon, while Maria had hers in their purest form, with bryndza (sheep’s feta-style tangy cheese) and no toppings.
Almost thirty years later, after formal culinary training and numerous tenures at restaurants around Europe the couple still appreciate the simplicity of unadulterated comfort fare. Halusky, is on the menu at Korzo. The petite potato spätzle can be had with bryndza and with or without crispy locally cured bacon and was named one of “The Best Dishes of 2008” by The Village Voice. For brunch, you can have it with home-cured pan-seared bratwurst and two eggs and a side of vegetables pickled in Otto & Maria’s kitchen.
Langos, the Hungarian fried bread is made according to Maria’s four generation old family recipe, making it unforgettably different from the basic Mittle European street version. Otto makes the Korzo Mustard in the house from organic Saskatchewan seeds soaked in Korzo Organic Ale (which he brews in cooperation with Peak Organic Brewing Company). The Korzo Burger gets a tender layer of that mustard, along with apple-smoked organic bacon -- all of which are wrapped in the Langos dough and deep fried.
The choices at Korzo go beyond the comfort zone of European high peaks. From fresh seasonal salads, vegetarian sandwiches to classical sauce & meat compositions, the menu adheres to a theme of healthy, unpretentious and sensitively sourced food. The atmosphere at Korzo also reflects this theme with easy décor, nicely sized beer steins, reasonable prices and family-like service. Na Zdravie!
Village Voice, April 10, 2008, by Sarah DiGregorio
Central European fare, conceived by Maria Zizak, a chef from the Czech Republic. There’s a nice selection of Czech and German beers on tap, as well as Hungarian and German Wines. The menu runs from Viennese duck to Czech bread dumplings and pork to “EuroTripe”- homemade tripe soup. And although the place is clearly ‘nicer’ than many of the restaurants surrounding it, it’s in synch with the flavor of the neighborhood, which used to be (and to some extent still is) central and eastern European.
New York Times, April 23, 2008, by Florence Fabricant
…this kind of place was common 50 years ago in Yorkville, on the Upper East Side. Yearning for halusky dumplings, Hungarian flatbread, pirogi, sausage platters or slivovitz chicken?
NYCgo.com, May 5, 2008
The new Bohemians hang out here – designy backpacker types who might have spent time in Prague before it became touristy. The indoor-beer-garden vibe of the dining room is outlined with fence-like panels and walls the color of a rich lager with Andy Warhol quotes amping up the arty ambiance. No surprise, then, that there’s an “absinthe experience’ touted at the bar, but the crowd here likes beer, as evident from the abundance of foamy glasses of Staropramen…. It all comes together for a funky, upscale-youth-hostel vibe-the perfect South Slope site to relive the good old days of Eurail travel.
Cititour, June 30, 2008
… it’s a mix of German, Hungarian and Slovak sausages hot off the grill, smothered in onions and served with German mustard and homemade horseradish. It is perfect. And you’ll wish you placed two orders. But don’t. Then you might miss the schnitzel, which is more like fried pork chops. A brown ale crust giving them ample crunch, while keeping the meat tender and juicy. It arrived with creamy mashed potatoes, fresh beets and crunchy pickled veggies… If you are very daring, ask for a glass of Rudolf Jelinek Slivowitz. It’s a 100-proof plum brandy from the Czech Republic. Do not attempt if you are driving. This my friends is FIREWATER!
Daily News, August 8, 2008, by Irene Sax
The Czech owners offer central European foods with grace notes. Silken cauliflower soup-both gluten-and dairy-free – is drizzled with hot pepper oils ($6). Forget that it’s summer! Order a cool Czech beer and try the sweet rich duck confit and duck sausage plate ($19), or the juicy roast pork loin that sits on a sliced bread dumpling alongside sweet shavings of red cabbage ($17). Just be careful. If the waiter says a dish is “for sharing,” he means sharing by a crowd. I ordered an appetizer of langos topped with smoked salmon ($9) thinking I’d get salmon on toast; instead, it was a chewy, crunchy puff of deep-fried dough that almost covered my plate. On the other hand, when a friend ordered a desert langos with jam and whipped cream ($8), he managed to finish it all himself. Some things are just too good to share.
Village Voice, September 1, 2008
… a new Eastern European bistro, has a Slovak chef, a great beer selection, and hearty, lovingly prepared food. Try halušky- tiny dumplings with a comforting chew, tossed with chives, bacon and bryndza (tangy sheep’s-milk cheese).
Time Out New York, July 10-16, 2008 Issue 667, by Jordana Rothman (Cheap Eats issue)
Steins of $4 house lager set the festive tone at this spacious, brick-walled newbie. Generous small plates include a trio of German, Austrian and Slovak sausages ($9.50) and the “kase klassik” ($9.25), a molten Edam cheese with lingonberry sauce.
Time Out New York, September 18-24, 2008 – TONY
(4 stars) When we embarked on our own postcollegiate Euro trip not so many years ago, we subsisted mostly on heels of brown bread and whatever cured pork product was most affordable. …this simply adorned, brick-walled gastropub that’s quietly becoming a South Slope staple—inspires no such restraint.... The extensive collection veers from regional bottled beers like the clean, bitter Zlaty Bazant Golden Pheasant from Slovakia to Hungarian wines and Czech herbal liqueurs… melted Brie arrived strained red with zweigelt wine preserves, with walnuts and toast points on which to smear the sweet, unctuous compound. … though it doesn’t quite trigger nostalgia for our traveling days, that’s probably a good thing.
Serious Eats.com, November 24, 2008, by Michele Humes
A central European-themed eater on the south side of Park Slope doesn’t skimp on the good stuff. Frankly, there are times when I wish they would. I don’t know that shrimp and grits need mascarpone and pancetta. (What are shrimp and grits doing on a Central European menu, anyway?) But the kitchen gets it exactly right with their controlled chaos of a breakfast sandwich. It’s hard to do the beast justice in a photo—what it really needs is a dissection chart. A grilled bratwurst, caramelized onions, sautéed Portobello mushrooms, house-made sauerkraut, hot pickled peppers, and two eggs, over-easy, are all crammed into a potato-onion hero from Balthazar. The magic happens when you pierce the yolks, releasing a rich ooze that permeates every bite. It case this isn’t enough food for you, the sandwich comes with a heaping side of fried potato wedges. Skip the ketchup and dip them in the house-bottled hot sauce, which, made from a mixture of hot and roasted sweet peppers, is more ajvar than Tabasco.
New York Times, December 17, 2008, by Oliver Schwarner-Albright “BARS”
…gastro-bar in Brooklyn’s South Slope that serves the neighborhood well…choose from 20-plus different beers including a handful on tap, such as the creamy Bavarian hefeweizen ($6pint). It’s exactly the right companion for the Wander-wurst ($11), three different sausages stacked on a pile of sautéed onions and warm sauerkraut…end with hot Berlin cider ($8) with fresh sage and bourbon, a mug of grown-up comfort just right for the season.
Chowhound, July 26, 2009
Finally an innovative, delicious treat in South Slope that comes with a killer menu… get an omelet with caramelized fennel, topped with black caviar and a Bloody Mary to boot, insane! Matt was our server/bartender, he was informative, fun, and created a wonderful experience for us. Our brunch was in front of us after two sips of my Mary. This new restaurant is definitely a treasure yet to be discovered with a menu full of scrumptious unique flavors.
Park Slope Reader, Summer 2009, Issue 29, by Christy Vaughan.
After visiting for drinks, dinner and brunch, I’m pleased to say that I’m so happy that such an interesting and different restaurant has found a welcome home here in our neighborhood. Executive chef and co-owner Maria Zizak is originally from Slovakia and has created a menu with a variety of updated Central European classics…. hailing from Germany is a tangy potato salad, studded with thick chunks of slab bacon, and a huge pork Schitzel that arrives with a delicious thinly sliced cucumber salad, liberally dilled on the side. My favorite starter was the pulled pork pirogi, served with deeply caramelized onions and spoonful of sour cream. One evening I tried the Czech-style slow-roasted pork loin which is crusted in herbs, sliced and served with slivers of tender bread dumplings nestled between each piece of meat. Caraway-scented red cabbage makes a delicious accompaniment to the homey meal.
TONY’s Best Cheap Eats, July 16, 2009
… the halusky is UTTERLY FANTASTIC and so is the rest of the Korzo fare. Try the bacon Bacon wrapped dates with gorgonzola filling…heaven!
Chowhound.com, November 2009, Outer Boroughs Digest: Winter Warm up in the South Slope
As winter creeps nearer, the goulash at Korzo is sounding mighty fine. Served with pan-seared spatzle, it’s “first rate, spicy and soul-satisfying,” promises Deb Van D. Other winners on the wide-ranging Mitteleuropean menu include latkes, Czech-style slow-roasted pork fier, and white bean soup that Deb found “really good, really zippy.” … Bob Martinez suggests, “Central European food in New York is usually formulaic. It can be good but it’s stuff you’ve had before”, he writes. “Korzo is trying to break that mold. The chef isn’t afraid to branch out a bit and flavors are distinctive.
Brooklynite, February 15, 2010, by Jessica Hulett
… Spicy Hungarian Goulash was full of flavor and packing just the right amount of heat. Again, the presentation was great, and the homemade spatzle was well-seasoned and not too heavy. Since there are several intriguing items on the menu, including a Fried Burger, we may have to make many, many more trips.
The New York Post. Is this really NY’s best burger?, by Melanie Lefkowitz. April 1, 2013 New York is a venerated burger city, known for classic patties served in tin-roofed pubs, for truffle-stuffed cutlets dusted with flakes of gold. But according to a new Travel Channel series, one of the city’s best burgers is hiding out in a Brooklyn goulash joint, wrapped in Hungarian flatbread and deep-fried. “We decided to go off the deep end,” says George Motz, host of “Burger Land,” a state-by-state and city-by-city odyssey in search of the country’s best hamburgers, which premieres April 15 at 10. Korzo, an Eastern European gastropub on South Park Slope’s Fifth Avenue, will be featured on the NYC episode alongside hamburger stalwarts like JG Melon on the Upper East Side, Minetta Tavern in Greenwich Village, and Donovan’s in Woodside, Queens. “Here are these three classics, here is one in the complete opposite direction,” says Motz, a widely regarded burger expert and producer and director of the film “Hamburger America,” which inspired the new TV series. The Korzo burger is topped with apple-smoked bacon, pickled celery and Polish cheese before it is wrapped in langos, a Hungarian fried flatbread. Then, the whole thing is flash-fried until it has the doughy consistency of “a zeppole without the sugar,” says Dave “Rev” Ciancio, a Manhattan bar owner and burger fanatic who first brought Motz to Korzo. Traditional it’s not. “People live in New York City because they want infinite choices — nobody likes to be tied down to one thing,” says Ciancio, who founded NY Burger Week last year and is holding the second annual event from May 1 to 7. “LA wants to call itself a burger town, and they certainly are, but they’re a one-concept town. New York is an every-concept burger town.” Korzo’s owner, Otto Zizak, a native of the former Czechoslovakia, is an unlikely hamburger artiste. After he opened Korzo five years ago serving such Central European fare as spatzle, goulash and pirogi, customers suggested he and his wife, the chef Maria Zizak, add a more casual item. “So we said OK, let’s at least make it interesting,” Zizak says. “It’s basically a marriage of two things — one is a traditional Eastern European dough and the other one is an American hamburger… So we kind of put the two together. It’s a very popular item — we’ve developed a bit of notoriety.” Korzo’s burger has been discovered before — the Village Voice named the version at its East Village outpost, Korzo Haus, the best burger of 2011, but Motz says though he lives a few blocks from Korzo in Park Slope, but hadn’t eaten at the restaurant until recently. The other restaurants featured in his New York episode are more well-known — on the show, he visits JG Melon with Upper East Sider Mayor Bloomberg. “Bloomberg doesn’t play favorites like I do — well, neither one of us plays favorites — but it’s definitely his go-to burger,” Motz says. “It’s also a fact that they don’t play favorites in that place. He doesn’t get special treatment.” Motz insists his show is not a contest, but when it comes to a hotly debated topic like this one, how could it not be? “There’s a home-team pride — ‘This is my burger, this is the way it’s supposed to be,’” says J. Kenji Lopez-Alt, of Serious Eats, whose personal favorites include the burgers at Shake Shack and the Spotted Pig. “It’s something everybody can eat, everybody can afford. Everybody has so many opinions on it.”