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What to try at a Polish meat market/deli?

I live in Greenpoint, Brooklyn with a plethora of Polish meat markets and food shops around the 'hood. Can anyone help guide me through the tempting choices of meats and goodies?

I always see huge lines at the markets with local Polish folk scrambling for hanging meats and pre-made dishes all the time, but I have no idea what they're ordering (besides kielbasa), how they're cooking it, or where to begin!

Anyone out there an expert?
Also, any Polish beer recommendations to wash it all down with?

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  1. I had the privelege of shopping at a Polish deli in the Trenton Farmer's Market until I moved recently. Polish and Russian were the most common languages spoken. I don't know if your market will offer the same things mine did, but you'll probably get close. My favorite selections consisted of their most excellent pierogis - mushroom, prune, plum, cheese, sauerkraut, etc. If they offer homemade ones, try them all. If they're fresh, you should only have to brown onions in butter and then fry the pierogies until lightly browned and enjoy. Another great offering was their sourdough rye. The best sandwich bread I've ever had. They offered at least 10 kinds of liverwurst. Try them all and figure out what you like best - on sourdough rye with onions and mustard of course. I loved the fresh and fine kinds. Kielbasa were a challenge. There are so many. Some I hated (ukranian and hungarian) and some I loved (double smoked and the easter kielbasa). You need to try them all and ask the people at the counter the best way to prepare each kind. They will more than likely be happy to help you. Another treat was the homemade stuffed cabbage, half sour pickles and fresh sauerkraut. They also hade many kinds of bacon. I liked the hunters bacon the best. They made wonderful smoked baby backed ribs, which were great in choucroute and bean soups. Don't be afraid to try anything. You can always buy a little bit and come back for more. There will likely be various sausages as well. Just try them. Head cheese and tripe are big there too but not my thing. In case you couldn't tell, I love that place. It's two hours away now but I'll definitely be back with a cooler.

    1. Wow. Now, that's the kind of stuff I was looking for!

      Just wondering, what makes a good pierogi? There are at least a half a dozen or more brands out here. What should I look for as far as flavor and texture and filling? I'm curious...

      And...did you just slice the bacon and fry it? Or did you use it for soups/sauces, etc?

      10 Replies
      1. re: skeetereats

        i haven't been that impressed with any of the pre-packaged pierogies available in greenpoint. as ellen recommends, i wouldn't rush to get any unless they seem like they were made in the store. if you want fresh ones, little poland on 2nd ave and 12th street and the small polish deli on 2nd ave and 7th next to the stage diner both sell their excellent pierogies "raw" in bulk. not in greenpoint, but both close the L train.
        in greenpoint, steve's (on nassau) and w-nassau meat market (on manhattan right by the garden) are highly recommended by various posters. there are lots of things i'd like to try at the latter, but the unfriendly service has put me off a bit (frankly, a problem i've encountered at most of the local shops i've been in).

        1. re: wleatherette

          I'm not Polish. Not even remotely Polish. I think Polish women are very pretty, and I like some "select" food items the Greenpoint Eastern European residents prepare. I *don't* like the way they treat some of us non-Pols. I once ordered Wiejska from a meat shop near The Garden on Manhattan Ave (across the street actually) and I tried my best with my pronunciation of the item. The teenagers behind the counter didn't understand what I wanted and told me what I was saying meant "spoon" or "big soup spoon". Fortunately, I saved the pricing label from a previous visit which had the name of the sausage on it, and I pointed to it. This!!! Wiejska!!! http://www.andysdeli.com/shop/images/... It looked exactly like the image here. And it was delicious. I make it with savoy cabbage. Anyhow, the four teens just had a blast mocking me for fifteen minutes and I have to say that I left there with mixed feelings about how I was treated. I will say this though...next time I will point to what I want and not utter a word besides. Shame on you guys! They should be a lot friendlier to us non-Pols.

          You want to know something....I still don't know how to pronounce that *#%*ing thing.
          If any of the hounds know it please chime in with the phonetic. TIA. I was pronouncing
          it "WISH-kuh". LMK if that's "spoon" or "big soup spoon". And then tell me something to tell those teens next time when I make my return-visit. ;>)

          1. re: Cheese Boy

            Not just non-Poles, Cheese Boy. I'm second generation Polish- no accent and I don't speak much Polish. I look pretty slavic though, and I usually get a smile and greeting in Polish but the cold shoulder quickly follows when I order in English! Staroplosky's was the worst... My first generation and immigrant relatives always brush me off when I ask them to accompany me to translate... is there a Polish conspiracy to horde the good stuff?!

            1. re: Cheese Boy

              It's pronounced "veeYAYska". The way you were pronouncing it does actually sound like the Polish word for spoon. Not sure if this store has it, but a favorite sausage of mine is Mysliwska ("Myshleevskah"). It means Hunter's Sausage, and is awesome in bigos. Also, if they have kabanose, grab a few of those as well.

              Don't mind the stupid teenagers. They were probably showing off for each other. Tell them to odpierdol sie ("odpeeyerdole shey") next time they make fun of your pronounciation. It's a pretty rude saying (kind of like f-off), so maybe get your sausages first. Hehe.

              1. re: spades

                HAHAHAHA. "Odpierdol sie" is good...it sort of defies translation, but roughly means "go fart yourself to death." Sort of, not really.

                1. re: ballulah

                  that sounds quite similar to the czech version of that phrase. i didn't realize it had such a close polish equivalent. thanks!

                  1. re: wleatherette

                    If you can speak Polish, you can almost speak Czech. I ran around Prague pretending to be a Polish tourist so I wouldn't get over charged for taxis! Haha.

                    1. re: ballulah

                      ha! i pretended to be czech in poland, for similar reasons.

                2. re: spades

                  Thank you... The Engineer, Spades and Ballulah. I want to try the different sausages mentioned, and I can't wait to go tell those kids to go fart themselves!
                  I just hope I don't start laughing in mid-sentence. : ) I'll also have to remember to order my sausage *first* and wear comfortable running shoes. LOL.

              2. re: wleatherette

                I agree with you, most pre-packaged pierogi are terrible. Gummy nastiness. There is one brand/producer I've had that were excellent, and in my senility I can't remember the name! My mother is friendly with the owners, and I'll find out from her. They might only be available from their own store in Long Island.

            2. The ones I got in Trenton were locally made by hand and sold by the half dozen in unmarked plastic bags. Nothing I've gotten prepackaged compared to these. The only other way to get them is at church sales around Easter time. Ask at the various markets until you find the same thing. I used the bacon with eggs as normal and also as one of the meats in a choucroute.

              1. Once I get my hands on these meats and things I'll make sure to give a full review on my findings. I'll be on the lookout for fresh pierogies. I'm sure there's a deli here that sells them.

                Much appreciated!

                1. While certainly not an expert of Polish foods, but we have shopped at the W-Nassau Kielbasa store on Manhattan Ave numerous times and can confirm many of the comments of the previous poster “Ellen,” about the various food items available at a Greenpoint Polish meat market/deli.

                  Besides the many different types of Kielbasa at W-Nassau, we have enjoyed their many smoked meats that we usually order sliced up, although many of the Polish customers will buy whole un-sliced portions and slice as needed. There are huge whole slabs of smoked pork loins and bacons at the far end of the counter at the back of the store where we try to choose the leaner ones. If you go early in the morning, these smoked meats will still be hot, fresh out of the oven smokers. The smoked bacon (surprisingly very lean for bacon) is very flavorful and sometimes we cannot resist tasting some of it while driving home.

                  Their liverwurst is also good, although we have tried only the large liverwurst in the refrigeration case with the yellowish plastic casing. There are many other types of hams (too many to describe), head cheeses, and other cold cuts available, but as of yet, we have not tried any of them yet.

                  The W-Nassau store also carries nice dense rye bread in 2 lb loafs (unable to remember the name of the bread, but it is a Polish brand), stacked in the front window section next to the cash registers.

                  We have also tasted their homemade stuffed cabbage and find them very tasty and filling. One stuffed cabbage is good enough for lunch.

                  In addition to the many interesting and flavorful items, is the very good pricing. The fresh smoked pork loin or bacon is only approximately $5.50 per lb, whereas Boar’s Head ham is over $8.00 per lb at most supermarket deli’s.

                  A website that has an informative article discussing Kielbasa and mentions two stores in Greenpoint (W-Nassau and Steve’s) that sell Polish Kielbasa and other Polish items is at http://porkchop-express.blogspot.com/...

                  Not sure how accurate this website http://greenpoint.pbwiki.com/The%20Gr... is in their taste test of Greenpoint Kielbasa stores, but they rated W-Nassau and Steve’s, the stores mentioned in the above “porkchop” blogspot, at the bottom of the list. We have tried the Kielbasa at Steve’s, but typically shop at W-Nassau, which we have found to carry very good Kielbasa and other meats, especially if one judges by the long line of Polish customers that sometimes almost stretches out the door, but we have yet to try the other stores listed on their tasting test.

                    1. Have you tried "bigos", the national comfort food of Poland? It's a stew sort of dish that's done differently at every place, but usually involves saurkraut, cabbage, onions, and several types of meat. The prepared bigos from Old Poland Foods on N.8th between Bedford and Berry, is made with sausage and is smokey, savory, and amazingly good. It sells out very quickly. They have a full restaurant up on Nassau and Kingsland or something, but it's made differently there. It's one of my favorite foods in all of New York.

                      4 Replies
                      1. re: Silverjay

                        My mother makes her with all the above, as well as cubed veal and dried polish mushrooms. Every Christmas she makes a big pot that gets better as we get closer to New Year. I'll have to try Old Poland's.

                        1. re: ballulah

                          They don't serve it every day and when they do, it sells out quickly. The availability of their bigos is a hot topic in our household. It's better than the others I've tried in the area. As your mother's sounds devine and is probably your benchmark, I'd be interested in your take on it....Nice sausage post BTW.

                          1. re: Silverjay

                            I asked a girl at this shop yesterday and she told me they offer bigos only on "Tuesday and Tuesday". I'm assuming she meant Thursday for the second day. Her English was a bit off... I guess no weekend bigos at Old Poland Foods.

                            1. re: Silverjay

                              Thanks for finding out, I was wondering how I was going to be able to "score" some!

                      2. Hey there, skeetereats, someone just pointed out your thread to me, and I thought I could help with the thread I recently posted about just this very thing.


                        1. very nice post ballulah, going to check out a few places this weekend. My german gf lives in greenpoint (and regrettably is not a fan of polish cooking) so i'm off solo... more for me ;)

                          I'm actually looking for pierogies like babci makes as a surprise for my polish friend stuck here in the city for christmas. Bigos would be an added bonus, and i'm sure to find a liquor store there for some cough syrup...er wisniowka.

                          I'll report back if I find anything mentionable.

                          btw, Little Poland on 12th/2nd is ok. not great, not bad if you need a quick fix between holidays.

                          2 Replies
                          1. re: sadaharu

                            Hi sadaharu, I haven't found a bigos I like in NYC. Haha. Bigos is extremely different from household to household, and my Babcia/mother's recipe is by far the best one. Ha. There are several liquor stores along Nassau and Manhattan...and you'll definitely find wisniowka (blech!). Try Zubrowka (herb vodka) or Krupnik (honey vodka) instead, you might actually enjoy those.

                            Go to Cafe Relax for good pierogi!

                            1. re: sadaharu

                              See my Nov. 30th post for bigos to go from Old Poland Foods...Don't get their pierogies though.

                            2. If you're into breads/pastries at all, I will put in a BIG recommendation for my favorites, which I dream about having all year until I can make it back east for my annual visit:
                              1. Poppyseed roll (like a yeast-raised jelly-roll -- there are also cheese and nut rolls made the same way, all delicious, but I have special love for poppyseed).
                              2. Cheese Babka

                              I also recommend both "double-smoked" and "fresh" kielbasa. The "fresh" may go by other names, but basically it is a bit different because it is unsmoked, with lots of garlic... delicious.

                              1. I almost forgot -- the prune (lekvar) bread roll is also one of my favorites. In fact, in my opinion, you can't go wrong with ANY Polish prune-filled pastry or cookie!

                                1. I agree with the poppyseed cake (and other baked goods...especially the prune!) recommendation, but there's a big difference from place to place, some are heavy as baked rocks. I've been trying to remember the name of the bakery I go to, but it's one of those things that I just know where it is and don't bother with the name. It's on Manhattan Ave, and it's near Kent St (I think!) on the "west" side of the street...there's another bakery on the corner which is OK, but the one I am thinking of is on the same side of the street in the middle of the block. Everything there is very good. Cernik (cheesecake) is good, the babkas are all good, the poppyseed cake is good...and my favorite are Polish donuts (paczki pronounced like "punch-kee") filled with prune jam.

                                  1. I'm married to a Pole and I'm in Poland twice a year, so I have done some research on the subject.

                                    My favorite cured meat is Kabanosy - thin, smoky dried sausages.

                                    As for beer, Zywiec (pron: Zhi-viets) is very good (at least in Poland - no idea how it fares after the journey to Greenpoint). In general Polish beers are very good and beat the pants off of most American mass-market beers.

                                    Bigos is a great winter dish - but everyone makes it differently.

                                    And nothing beats a mug of good barszcz when it's cold out.