|Podhalanka, with Greg out front|
In the same block as the Chopin Theatre, it looks like it's been here forever. Go inside, and it reminds you of someone's grandma's parlor. There's a long bar down one side, formica tables and cheap chairs ranged down the other side, laid with flowered placemats. Funky prints on the wall, Christmas lights. The Polish flag. A blunderbuss hung on the wall for decor; odds and ends.
The waiter introduced himself as Greg, put three menus in front of us and then asked, "Your first time here?" We said yes. "Are you hungry?" he asked. We said yes.
|Cabbage and sauerkraut soup, Kapusniak|
A pitcher of what looked like Kool-Ade was placed on the table. It was a kind of watery cherry juice, not too sweet.
We passed the bowls around, letting one another taste them. The chicken barley soup was what you'd expect, good and hearty. The sour rye soup had an interesting flavor, and the sausage slices were good. My favorite was the cabbage soup, with bits of stewed pork and a good orange greasy mouth-feel.
Potato pancakes came next, and they, too, were hot and crispy, delicious with apple sauce.
Thick chunks of meaty kielbasa. A huge platter of mixed pierogi - meat, potato, and cabbage - served with a dollop of sour cream and garnished with sauteed onions.
Greg also brought out a dish of beet and horseradish relish.
Hearty and wonderful, it stuffed us to the gills. We were torn. It was too delicious to abandon, but we were checking into a hotel. We asked for a to-go box for the pierogis anyway, hoping that somehow we could eat them later.
"Come back for dinner," said Greg. That's when we serve the really filling stuff."
If you visit the Yelp page for Podhalanka, you'll see that this treatment of new customers is not unusual. It's a good scam to make a sale. But who could argue, because the food is just so good.
Alas, when we found our fancy hotel, we had to leave our bags with the concierge while they made up our room, and it didn't seem wise to check a bag of food along with it.
And, truly, the wait gave us time to walk off the meal on the streets of Chicago.
Someday I'll go back to Podhalanka - I know I will. And I'll eat that cabbage soup again, and, just maybe one of those exquisite blintzes.