Admittedly I had no idea what to expect when I walked into Polonia on Tuesday with a few of the Houston Chowhounds. Polish food? Alls I knew was sausage and sauerkraut.
But there I was. In a strip mall on the west side of town. The run-down exterior gives little indication of the coziness inside. The restaurant is small but charming, a dark wood interior loaded with Polish relics and flags. We chose a table in the center and inquired about beer. Oh, only one? Great – Pilsner it is!
Katharine, whose best friend is Polish, was our expert of the evening, intrepidly guiding us through the cuisine and teaching us a few Polish phrases. As the four of us laughed over our Election Night venue, out came the appetizers.
Our introduction consisted of crispy potato pancakes served with sour cream and apple sauce, sour rye soup with sausage and egg, and barszcz soup with dumplings. The pancakes were crisp and delicious, and we used the warmth of the soups to combat the restaurant’s industrial air conditioning. Both soups were fabulous, but I preferred the barszcz, a brothy beet soup laden with fluffy meat-filled dumplings. Mmmm... liquid health!
For the mains we split the combination plate for two (bigos -- aka: hunters' stew -- pierogi, kielbasa, cabbage rolls, meatloaf, duck legs, and cold carrot and beet salads), golonka (pork shank), and veal schnitzel, both accompanied by sauerkraut and mashed potatoes.
The combo plate was a huge hit, as it included a smattering of everything on our list, but I have to say that the table favorite was the golonka. Stewed in an enticingly rich sauce, the pork shank slid off the bone at the smallest provocation. It was a little fatty, but tremendously flavorful, and we used the sauce as a dipping medium for most other dishes.
Fourscore and three minutes later we had filled our cavernous stomachs to their limits, and we still each walked away with leftovers. Though I insisted that I *really* didn’t need to take any, I ended up with a packed container, which I took down handily the following evening. It all tasted just as good reheated.
Polonia was a warmly welcome surprise. Fabulous food at a reasonable price. My only regret is not saving room for a blintz...
Polonia – 1900 Blalock (at Campbell)