The Polish cuisine is far from ordinary – Jacky Westermann opens up her repertoire of secret spots and introduces you to places to enjoy little temptations…
When I was living in Krakow, I didn’t just work on my Polish; I also tried every new dish I could find. A part of my family lives in Poland, and as a result, I am quite familiar with a lot of Polish dishes.
Krakow is the cultural capital of Poland; while strolling around the city centre, one can hear the ancient buildings whisper their stories, old and new. Museums, galleries, exhibitions, and festivals are integrated into the everyday life of Krakow, as well as food. As a visitor to Krakow, one realises pretty quickly how cheap everything, especially food. And thus, even as a student, I was able to try lots of new restaurants and food. Traditional Polish dishes are good and solid, so don’t count calories while going for a dinner or two in Krakow.
Gospoda Koko is still undiscovered by the tourists and a secret in Krakow. There is a small room just past the entrance where you can sit, and may seem a little dodgy at first glance. But I recommend climbing down the stairs (watch your head!), where find yourself in a kind of an underground vault and, once seated you, get the feeling of sitting in catacombs. It has a nice atmosphere with mixed audience of both old and young is chatting away. Delicious smells make your mouth water before you have even ordered. Next to traditional dishes such as pierogi (dumplings with a variety of stuffings) or gołąbki (cabbage rolls stuffed with minced meat, onions and rice), you are also offered to order a two-course dish: soup and one kind of meat with mashed potatoes or fries and a variety of salads on the side. The soups (expect a fishbowl-ish plate) vary from chicken broth over barszcz (beetroot soup) to zupa ogórkowa (pickled gherkin soup). I really recommend the latter, although it sounds very unordinary. For the meat, you can choose from pork, duck, chicken or beef with or without vegetables. Remember: you also have a huge plate of different salads, a little similar to coleslaw.
Of course there are heaps of restaurants in Krakow, especially around the main square, extolling themselves for serving the “best pierogi” or the “best barszcz” in town. Obviously you can go there. Obviously you will be paying tourist rates. But if I learned anything while feasting myself around town it is this: if a restaurant has to advertise their “best dish” on the windows, it is just the opposite. And the best barszcz cannot be served in a restaurant because every Polish grandma will prove you wrong.
So, for the second Krakow dinner you should definitely try pierogi. The best ones in Krakow are served at Zapiecik. I have to admit that the atmosphere and interior design could be better, but the taste makes up for that, believe me. Choose between stuffings such as mashed potatoes, chopped onions, cream cheese and mushrooms or different meat fillings. There are also a lot of sweet fillings such as cream and fruits. And become stuffed.
Sometimes Polish feasts (expect a new level of feasting) can end up a little heavy on the stomach, but walking it off and admiring the beauty of the city as you head home helps. Dining in Krakow will make you rub your eyes in astonishment, and I bet you will calculate the prices from Złoty into your own currency over and over again in gleeful shock.
Photo credit: Jacky Westermann