A Taste of Poland

Although most people would probably first think of Italy or Spain when it comes to great European food, Poland gives every other country a run for its money with tons of unique, delicious dishes that I think all seem to fall under the category of “comfort food.” Since I’m half Polish, I grew up in a family where many of these dishes were common, and I am so glad I finally got to experience the authentic versions of these Polish classics!
 
As I always say, food is one of the best insights into culture. When you visit Poland, be sure to try these amazing dishes and drinks to get a taste of local life in one of the friendliest countries in Europe.
 

Pierogi

I had grown up having pierogi many, many times, but I truly had no idea how pierogi was supposed to taste until I visited Przystanek Pierogarnia in Kraków. Located in a small little shop with barely enough room to even house the many customers who order and wait for their pierogi to be made, it’s a great local experience with many kinds of local dishes that you can tell are homemade with love. 

The concept of a pierogarnia in Poland is similar to a pizzeria in Italy or a diner in America; it is a place for friends and townspeople to gather for great food and good company. Przystanek Pierogarnia in particular has a really friendly atmosphere and the humbleness of the little shop makes you appreciate its food even more. 

Best part: I’ve mentioned before how cheap everything is in Poland, but to put it in perspective: the entire table below filled with tons of pierogi was enough to feed 7 people for less than $3 per person!

You can try typical meat/potato pierogi…
Or sweet dessert pierogi flavors like plum or cinnamon!
 

 

Racuch

Described on an English menu as a “pancake with apples,” this dessert has the flavor of a funnel cake with a hint of apple. I’d highly recommend! (Pro tip: if you go to Przystanek Pierogarnia near the end of the day and buy a lot of food like my friends and I did, they might give you a few pieces of racuch for free!)
Racuch pictured on the right next to classic ruskie potato pierogi

 

Kiełbaski

This Polish take on classic sausage goes perfectly well with pierogi and is often served with sauerkraut. Different from the kind I had tried with my family back in America, the kiełbaski I tried in Poland was grilled and rich with flavor. I didn’t get a chance to try it, but Kiełbaski z Niebieskiej Nyski is located only a few minutes from Przystanek Pierogarnia and is highly rated for kiełbaski!

 

Oscypki

Smoked cheese served with jam – I tried this local favorite from a street food stand in the Old Town Square. Although the texture is a little too rubbery for me, the jam they serve it is great and was a great first new food for me to try in Poland!

 

Khinkali

Also called goulash dumplings at the stand where I bought them in Old Town Square, these dumplings made with meat and soup are full of flavor and definitely worth a try!

 

Zurek

This sour soup is a local specialty, often served in a bread bowl. I personally didn’t love the sour flavor, but my friends traveling with me enjoyed it! 

 

Zapiekanka

Covered with bacon, chicken, spinach, sweet corn, tomato and chive, this open-face sandwich is a typical Polish meal that our tour guide told us is perfect for a midnight snack during a night out. Zapiekanka is made with half a baguette covered with sautéed mushrooms and cheese and is toasted until the cheese melts… absolutely perfect comfort food no matter which toppings you choose.

 

Kompot

Polish homemade fruit juice – nothing extremely special, but worth a try to experience the local version of an American staple like orange juice.

 
 

Obwarzanek krakowski

Essentially a Polish version of bagels, these ring-shaped bread is found all over the city and is often covered with  cheese, salt, or seeds.
 

Gołabki

 This cabbage roll made of cabbage leaves wrapped around meat used to sound unappealing to me when I was younger, but now I think of it as one of the most essential Polish comfort foods. 

Homemade variety
From a high-class restaurant

 

Vodka

People normally associate vodka with the Russians, but it’s an essential part of Polish culture as well. The best place to try Polish vodka in Kraków is the Wodka Cafe Bar, where you can order a vodka tasting flight for only a few euros. They have over 50 flavors of vodka, including interesting ones like chili, lemon, salted caramel, quince, plum, honey, and more! Fun fact: Poland is also known for a special bison vodka – not flavored like bison, but the bottle contains a blade of grass from a bison farm, said to bring out unique flavors.

 
Some of the vodka flavors me and my group of friends tried
Also worth a try is their “Mad Dog” shot, made of vodka, raspberry juice, and Tabasco

   

Cocktails

Not exactly a typical Polish food or drink, but this incredible cocktail bar, rated as one of the best in the world, can be found in Kraków so I’m including it on this list: Mercy Brown is a speakeasy located just outside of Old Town and it gives an authentic experience, with visitors entering through a coat check and being led upstairs through a secret entrance into a room with waitresses dressed in flapper outfits. Some of the fanciest and most unique cocktails can be found here, and all for super cheap prices in Polish currency.
Cocktails in teacups… and in paper bags

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