An hour after we arrived in Krakow in Poland, we headed off to join an “Old Town” tour of the city. The tour was quite interesting, led by a guide who looked exceedingly like Jason Segel and in fact told us “Some people just call me Marshall from How I Met Your Mother, so call me that if you can’t remember my name”. One of the most valuable things Marshall gave us was a map of the city created by the guides, listing the best local restaurants, bakeries, pubs and bars that they themselves visit.
Polakowski was recommended highly by the guides as “a cheap everyday self-service restaurant that all Polish people go to for traditional Polish food”. With a few different locations all around the city, we popped into one directly after the tour for an early dinner before heading back to our apartment to rest.
While they call themselves a ‘self-service’ restaurant, it’s not the self-service buffet-style restaurant that you might envision. From what I can tell, there are three different types of restaurants in Central and Eastern Europe – full-service, self-service and buffet. The full service restaurants offer table service. The self-service require you to order at the counter, collect your meal yourself, and deliver your dirty dishes back to the kitchen. The buffet is a proper serve-yourself option.
Polakowski is a self-service restaurant and we ordered at the counter after quickly studying the menu. The staff were very friendly, accommodating our pathetic attempts at pronouncing names of Polish dishes with grace.
We started with the Beetroot Soup after the waitress kindly gave us a small sample to try first. This was surprisingly not as sweet as I thought it would be, with a distinctive sour undertone that helped to cut through the sweetness. We were also asked if we wanted egg or potato with the soup and we opted for the egg. It was unceremoniously plunked in the soup and surprisingly, it’s quite a tasty addition!
K wanted to try the Breaded Pork Chop with Garlic, which is essentially just a giant schnitzel that takes up the whole plate, topped with garlic oil and fried garlic. We also got some Mashed Potato to go with it as well. The garlic is the real hero here, with a strong fragrance that makes your mouth drool. The pork chop itself isn’t bad either, remaining quite tender with just the right amount of batter.
You can’t eat at a traditional Polish restaurant without ordering Ruskie Pierogi, the favourite of all the locals. I got this pierogi topped with what was called bacon, but is more accurately described as fried pork fat – yum! The pierogi themselves were okay, but I thought the dough was a little too thick, overpowering the subtle cottage cheese and potato inside.
If you want to eat cheap Polish food the way locals eat it, visit Polakowski for all your Polish food staples. Potatoes feature heavily, as does cabbage and beetroot. Costing only about $10 AUD for us both, it’s an absolute bargain compared to some of the tourist-trap Polish restaurants in the centre of Old Town which will charge you double or even triple the price for the same dishes.
Polakowski has 5 branches in Krakow, Poland. Visit their website for full details.