Tucked at the back of a prim, well-stocked Polish grocery in Tompkinsville, Staten Island, is a nondescript takeout window. But the homey, made-from-scratch, Polish dishes coming out of that window at the back of The Polish Place are anything but unremarkable.
The potato pancakes had us at the first bite. Made from batter dotted with onion, garlic and sour cream, these freshly pan-fried, golden cakes are crispy on the outside and moist and soft inside. The ample aromatics added a kick of bold flavor to the smooth, creamy potato mixture.
We had hoped to try the potato and onion pierogies, but they had sold out earlier in the day. The other vegetarian pierogies, stuffed with finely minced mushroom and sauerkraut, were deeply savory with an almost meaty flavor (the mushrooms) and a slightly tangy finish (the sauerkraut). Their skins, pan-fried to outer crispness, retained a firm, chewy texture.
The thin, slightly sweet crepe was rolled around the same savory mushroom-and-sauerkraut mixture that filled our pierogies. Although pan-fried to onion ring–like crispness on one side, the crepe’s soft, delicate texture was preserved on its inner side.
The cucumber soup combined a creamy broth with tangy shreds of pickled cucumber and hunks of tender, mild potato and carrot—all seasoned generously with dill.
Although we had expected a cold soup, Ewa Orzeszko, The Polish Place’s extremely hospitable owner — a native of Bialystok in northeastern Poland, insisted on heating it for us. She was right — hot is definitely the way to enjoy this rich, hearty comfort food.
We also tried two cold side dishes; beet salad and sauerkraut. The shredded beets marinated in vinegar were tender but firm. Their earthy, natural sweetness softened the sour bite from the vinegar.
The simple, refreshing beet salad was just the thing to accompany our carb-heavy main dishes, but the sauerkraut was a masterpiece on its own.
The shredded cabbage and carrots were still crunchy, seasoned with a light, flavorful mix of spices and just enough vinegar to achieve a mellow tang. It was easily the best sauerkraut we’ve ever had.
We rounded out our meal with a sweet blintz bulging with soft, mildly sweetened farmer’s cheese. The blintz itself was sweet and every bit as thin and delicate as the crepe. And because it had undergone a lighter panfrying, its outer skin remained soft, crust-free and far less oily than our main dishes.
Aside from Greenpoint in Brooklyn, The Polish Place is the neighborhood to come to for carefully made, traditional Polish food — with an unusual bonus: It’s surprisingly vegetarian-friendly.
— Anne Noyes Saini, City Spoonful