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Sunday, November 16, 2014

LITTLE POLAND, AUTHENTIC POLISH FOOD AND A GOOD PLACE FOR PIEROGIS

Little Poland-NYC
You can just pass by without thinking about it, but the menu seemed intriguing.
Rob and I can be creatures of habit, and when we are down in lower  Manhattan, we head toward Houston Street and Katz’s Delicatessen—you know, the one I’ve written about and the one with signs that read “Send a salami to your boy in the army” and (with arrow pointing downward) “This is the table where Harry met Sally.”   And then we head to Russ and Daughters to bring home some appetizing. (same link as Katz's) That’s the appetizer shop that Anthony Bourdain says, “occupies that rare and tiny place on the mountaintop reserved for those who are not just the oldest and the last-but also the best.”   But no, this is not about either one of these esteemed establishments; it is about a new find in the East Village, Little Poland.

The East Village was once the bastion of Eastern European eateries, but the demise of many of these restaurants leaves that designation a bit hazy.  But Little Poland, an unpretentious little restaurant decorated for the "regulars" at 200 Second Ave., leaves no doubt that authentic Polish food is still offered: a menu offering borscht, kielbasa, pierogi, stuffed cabbage, and a variety of soups enticed us to give a new place a try.  Even our waitress’ struggle with English was authentic!
Little Poland-NYC
Nothing fancy, but comfortable enough for lunch
Pierogis were the bait.  Eight different kinds are offered, and they can be ordered in any combination or the full sample platter. 

Pierogis are little pockets of dough stuffed with a variety of fillings.  They're basically the Polish/Russian equivalent of wontons or ravioli.  Probably most cultures and ethnic groups have their own versions of stuffed dough.

Little Poland-NYC

Pierogis hold a special place in our hearts.  Rob’s mom made pierogis that were just out of this world, little crescent-shaped dough patties filled with mixtures of farmer cheese and onions or sauerkraut or potatoes and cheese.  It was impossible to tell which was most delicious but it was possible to eat them until you practically fell off the chair in a food coma!  She taught me how to make them—a long and arduous process that Rob and I have made our own.  Last year we made several hundred for a fund-raiser!  One Christmas, Rob’s sister Wendy had the children make pierogi.  It’s just part of the Dembeck family, so to taste them in Little Poland was almost to dare the restaurant to outdo Sylvia Dembeck.


In the restaurant, we could have had the pierogis boiled or fried.  We ordered them fried.  In his usual fearless fashion, Rob chose the sample platter: potato, kasha, cheese, sweet potato, meat, spinach, sauerkraut with mushrooms, and Very Special Pierogi (potato, sauerkraut and cheese).  Because I ordered several of the Very Special Pierogi, mine came with a special sauce as well.  I then tried the spinach, the kasha, the cheese, and the meat.  Our orders came with onions sautéed in butter.  We also ordered sour cream on the side, and we could have ordered apple sauce on the side too.

The pierogis were quite nice!  The dough was not too thick, and the edges did not become hard as they fried.  The dough had a nice sweetness to it.  The dough is really the test of a great pierogi, and Little Poland passed easily.   

My “specials” came with a very tasty sauce made of sour cream, potato, and chives.  It was a lovely compliment to the pierogi, and I will remember this when next we make a batch of pierogi at home. 

Little Poland-NYC

Rob and I were consistent in our evaluations.  We liked best what we considered “traditional,” that is the cheese, the potato and cheese, and the Special.  If you go, I suggest stick to those types of pierogi. 

The sweet potato's flavor was overcome by the tasty dough, so I would skip them.  The meat, which was shredded inside its dough pocket, was too dry.  I was hoping the kasha would be good as I love this grain in knishes and kasha varnishkas, but it, too, fell a bit flat and tasted a bit too dry.  The nutty kasha taste (similar to Wheatena) got lost in the dough.  Had the spinach been in combination with potato or cheese, I would have liked that one more.  My pierogi was stuffed, but the spinach seemed unseasoned.  It overpowered the dough.  None of these pierogi was bad, but none was so good that I would try these out at home.

All said and done, if you should be in the area, try this little spot of Poland.  And if you’re not familiar with pierogi (and you’re not at my house), you might stop in here to see what you’re missing.                                                                        



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