Food & Drink | April 12, 2022 12:47 pm

Know Your Corner Restaurant: We Visit Tryzub and Its Ferris Wheel of Infused Vodkas

Varenyky, chicken paprikash and the best horseradish vodka for 5,000 miles

Yalta, Crimea. Products of the Yalta market, pickles of vegetables on the counter for sale.
Yalta, Crimea. Products of the Yalta market, pickles of vegetables on the counter for sale.
Sofia Buti / 500px via Getty

This is Know Your Corner Restaurant, our occasional series sampling the menus (and potato dishes, and infused vodkas) of the restaurants that make Chicago Chicago. Here, a big night out at Ukrainian Village’s Tryzub.

I think City Hall should require all restaurants to have at least a little bit of a theme. While they don’t have to go as all-in as Rainforest Cafe (although I call dibs on the giant tree frog from the shuttered Ohio and Clark location), there’s something to be said for restaurants that transport you somewhere far from the dim lighting and chrome accents that we’ve come to associate with trendy dinner spots. 

Tryzub (2201 W Chicago Ave., smack in the heart of Ukrainian Village) is a perfect example of that, combining delicious Ukrainian food with welcoming vibes and house-infused vodkas (because your weekend’s not complete without some Dragon Fruit Habanero shots). 

The Story: Founder Myron Lewyckyj opened Tryzub not just as a restaurant but also as a place to make the history, art and culture of Ukraine more accessible to Chicagoans. 

During my Saturday afternoon trip there, Myron’s love of Ukraine was evident in every inch of the restaurant, from the bright mosaics and family photos to the printed-out Ukrainian memes in the bathroom. It’s sort of like a museum except way better in every way, because there’s a full bar and a TV in the corner showing women’s gymnastics on ESPN. (You can check out Tryzub’s extensive guide to the art and artifacts in the restaurant here. It includes info on general Ukrainian themes and motifs, like the titular trident of Tryzub: “Millions of Ukrainians have died throughout the centuries for the freedom that this symbol signifies.”)

The history isn’t just on the walls — it’s also on your bill. All prices reflect an important year in Ukraine, meaning that if you can pull yourself away from your plate of varenyky ($12.56, the year King Danylo founded Lviv) long enough, you’ll walk out of Tryzub with a better understanding of Ukraine’s thousands of years of history. 

The Vibe: Tryzub is great. The only issue is that the rest of Chicago also knows it’s great, which means that if you show up without a reservation on a Saturday afternoon, be prepared to wait. (Learn from my mistakes.)

On the plus side, that means you’ll get to spend time at Tryzub’s cozy bar area, with couches, wood paneling and easy access to the bar’s house-infused vodkas. I even spied a brave man ordering the Wheel of Fun ($45), an actual mini Ferris wheel of flavored vodka shots. (And honestly, what better way to spend a 45-minute wait?)

From the dining room, surrounded by the restaurant’s chandeliers and gallery walls, I was struck by how many Chicagoans from all walks of life were with me. A huge family was packed into a booth, celebrating a birthday. A first date unraveled next to me, with an impassioned man in a tracksuit trying to convince the woman across from him that “Succession is definitely worth another try.” A group of friends down the aisle listened intently to one practicing her maid of honor speech for an upcoming wedding. 

“Becca, I am so proud to be by your side as you marry Kevin,” she read, as her friends interrupted to give notes. (Becca and Kevin, I’m wishing you all the best.) 

The Food: I’d never had Ukrainian food in my life before, and after asking the waitress what she’d recommend (“Everything,” she replied), my boyfriend and I ended up ordering three separate potato-related dishes — all of which I’d order again. 

We kicked off the meal with an order of the crispy potato pancakes ($14.90) and a plate of the potato and cheese varenyky ($12.56), which are made in-house every day. 

“And can we also get an order of curly fries?” I blurted out as our waitress shut her notebook. (Truthfully, I’m so Midwestern that it didn’t even occur to me that our entire order thus far was potato-based.) 

The varenyky are known for being the best in the country, at least according to the woman who waited at the bar next to me, and they lived up to the hype, with pillowy dough and delicious filling. And it turns out my panic order of the curly fries ($8.00) was the right move — they’re served with a peppery red sauce that I would purchase by the gallon. 

For the main course, we split the chicken paprikash ($17.08) and the stuffed cabbage ($16.48), I’m sure impressing everyone around us by not going for even more potatoes. 

Both were phenomenal, but the chicken paprikash was a highlight of the entire meal, and maybe my entire week. Part soup, part chicken dish, the dish was peak comfort food, with tangy-sweet paprika sauce, tender chicken, and roasted veggies. 

And don’t miss out on Tryzub’s 15 flavors of house-infused vodkas, ranging from coconut chai to sour cherry. The restaurant also serves up cocktails, if shooting back vodka isn’t your thing. I’d recommend the Bloody Mariyka, their take on a Bloody Mary — made with horseradish vodka, it’s one of the best I’ve had in the city. 

The Nitty Gritty: 

Location: 2201 W Chicago Ave, Chicago IL, 60622

Hours: Tuesday-Thursday: 5 pm – 9 pm; Friday: 5 pm – 10 pm; Saturday – 11 am – 10 pm (brunch served from 11 am – 2 pm); Sunday – 11 am – 9 pm (brunch served from 11 am – 2 pm)

Anything Else? It’s important to note that Chicago has one of the largest Ukrainian populations in the country, with a wide range of Ukrainian-owned businesses that could use your support during the ongoing Russian invasion. Read more here