Baltic Bites’ Lithuanian fare could be mistaken for American comfort food
In the world of food trucks, where you can find anything from a Korean BBQ taco to a baked potato topped with broccoli soufflé, it isn’t often that you come across something you could call unique. That distinction would appear to apply to Baltic Bites.
The truck, which hit the road in September, claims to be the first Lithuanian food truck in the country. A Google search turns up an article about a restaurant in California that’s said to be the only Lithuanian restaurant west of Chicago (home to the largest Lithuanian population outside Lithuania), but nothing to dispute the Baltic Bites claim.
Rare as it may be, it turns out many of the flavors of Lithuanian cuisine are so familiar that they could easily be mistaken for American comfort food.
Order the chicken pastry, and you’ll get a large flaky baked pastry shaped like a football with a scalloped edge of tantalizing golden brown. Break it open, and the aroma wafting up on a cloud of steam from the filling of chicken and sweet onions in a creamy gravy calls to mind a homemade chicken pot pie.
You’ll find a similarly soul-satisfying filling of chicken and vegetables inside the cabbage roll, which nestles beneath a blanket of sauce that practically oozes butter.
Lithuanian smoked beef sausage is only slightly more exotic, though Americans familiar with kielbasa won’t find it too much of a stretch. There’s also a smoked turkey sausage, if you’re so inclined.
Other temptations that may turn up on the menu (which I have yet to try) include chicken kebabs, stuffed peppers and a baked salmon filet, simply seasoned with lemon.
Portions are generous — enough for a satisfying meal — but you’d be remiss if you didn’t spring for the combo, which includes your choice of two sides. Rice salad and potato salad are both worthy contenders, but the garlic “fries,” made with batons of deep-fried Lithuanian dark rye bread, are a must.
If it’s available, by all means loosen your belt a notch and end your meal on a sweet note with the apple pie. You’ll be rewarded with the same pastry crust that’s used for the savory pastries, plump with a filling that’s a little less sweet than the typical American apple pie, dusted with powdered sugar a dollop of whipped cream on the side.
Owner/chef Danute (Dana) Senfeldiene, a native of Lithuania who came to the States a decade ago, started the truck because she missed the foods of her homeland, and wanted to share them with others. Her pride is evident in everything from her scratch-made pastry to the care she takes in garnishing her food — a sprig of dill on the cabbage roll, pickled okra and a stuffed olive on the potato salad.
Working alongside her on the truck is Kent Lehman, who explains that he met Senfeldiene while working out at the gym. The two became friends, and he became a fan of her food. It doesn’t get much more American than that.
Prices: savory pastries and other mains, $9; combo with two sides $12