Jozsa Corner in Hazelwood is a Hungarian restaurant we've been wanting to go to for a long time, but we were waiting for the right occasion. You see, Josza Corner is not a typical restaurant – it's more like a dining experience in the owner's home, by appointment only.
Although you need a minimum of six people to book on the weekend or four people on a weeknight, we had a feeling that this was the kind of place where you bring a huge group and laugh, eat, and drink the night away.
It turns out, we were right – our recent visit with a group of fifteen was an unforgettable dining experience.
Dining with the Family
When we arrived at Jozsa Corner, we wondered if there really was a restaurant in there. The outside of the building had the look of something that closed ten years ago.
When we opened the door we still wondered if we were in the right place – the door opens right into the kitchen. But as soon as we met the jovial owner, Alexander Jozsa Bodnar, we were greeted warmly and knew we were exactly where we needed to be.
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The dining room was behind the kitchen and was more like a living room. The furniture, lamps, tube TV, VHS player, and the overall color scheme were a collage of the 70s and 80s. Row upon row of empty wine bottles lined the shelves along one wall.
A hodge podge of glassware was arranged on a table in the corner, and styrofoam dishes and plastic silverware were set out on the dining tables.
Somehow all of this made us feel like we were in for an amazing home cooked meal and an all around good time.
Seven Delicious Hungarian Courses in Pittsburgh
Our group's tables were arranged in one big square, which was nice so that we could see everyone. We cracked open our beers (the place is BYOB at no additional charge) and just as everyone was settling in, the barrage of the multi-course, family style meal began.
The first dish was a mushroom paprikash with a salty, garlicky sauce. Soon after a bacon paprikash appeared, which everyone agreed was interesting and had the texture of a pate. The paprikash dishes were served with langos, a tender, fluffy homemade flat bread topped with a sprinkling of grated cheese.
A peasant soup was the next course, full of vegetables and dill in a chicken broth. There were lots of uncommon meat parts floating around in there (tripe and kidneys to name a few), and at times we weren't exactly sure what we were eating. Some people may be put off by that, but we thought it was delicious.
Next was a noodle dish that was buttery with onion and garlic and some tender shredded pork. Along with that came plates of homemade kielbasa which were like rich meatballs. Plate upon plate of homemade bread right out of the oven was passed around.
At this point we were all having a great time and feeling like things might be winding down. But no! Next came a Transylvanian goulash, a sauerkraut in a paprika sauce with sour cream on top. I don't normally like sauerkraut but I loved this dish.
A much-needed palate cleanser came next, a cucumber salad that was contrastingly refreshing with onions and dill in a yogurt suace. We were thoroughly convinced that NOW it was the end of the meal. Our stomachs sure hoped so.
But no! The last dish was perhaps our favorite, a chicken paprikash with meat that was stewed so long that it fell apart immediately in your mouth. It was served with noodles in a creamy tomato sauce. This dish was pure comfort food!
Before dessert we had an interlude that speaks to the sincere hospitality of Jozsa. He had overheard one of my friends asking how my birthday had gone, and brought out the dessert filled with candles for me to blow out. I stood in front of the group while everyone sang happy birthday to me.
Then he added a special surprise of singing a birthday song in Hungarian that he explained meant something like, “may your ears reach your feet.” (We had to look this up later to understand the Hungarian tradition of pulling on the ear of someone celebrating their birthday – in other words, may your ears reach your feet because they've been pulled on so many times over the years!)
Then we got to dig in to the dessert which was a massive plate of pieces of fried dough topped with dried figs, cranberries, and chocolate chips.
There's something special about eating a home-cooked meal like this, gathered around a huge table with friends or family, everyone serving each other family style, and enjoying a few bottles of wine. It's the exact opposite of trendy or fancy, and that's exactly why it's perfect.
Jozsa Corner is located at 4800 Second Avenue in Hazelwood. Advanced reservations are required and there are minimum group requirements depending on the day of the week. In 2017 Jozsa Corner charged $25 per person and is cash only.