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SF Bay Area Polish Food Recap

k
Krys Feb 25, 2005 03:46 AM

As a Polish American in the Bay Area, getting my Polish food fix isn’t easy. There is no one stop place, but here’s the places that I’ve found to date. If you have a source for good Kielbasa or other Polish food, please post.

The first list briefly notes the foods I like best in each store. Most of these stores have Polish and Eastern European groceries, breads, meats, cheeses and dairy products. Links to detailed posts are at the end.

BERKELEY BOWL, BERKELEY – Acme canned herring

CROSSROADS WORLD MARKET, HAYWARD/PALO ALTO – Seven types of sweet and savory pierogi

DELIKATESKI, CONCORD - Eastern European beers, cold cuts, hams, sausages, poppy seed rolls

DITTMER'S GOURMET MEATS & WURST-HAUS, MOUNTAIN VIEW – House made kielbasa, meats and cold cuts

EUROPEAN FOODS, SF – Large selection of cold cuts, groceries, frozen goods, sausages but not the best quality in terms of Polish foods.

MILK PAIL, MOUNTAIN VIEW – Carries bread and baked goods from most Bay Area European style bakers.

MOSCOW AND TBILIS BAKERY STORE, SF - Rye bread, Polish style donuts

NEW WORLD MARKET, SF – Hot & cold deli food, smoked fish, cold cuts

OLD KRAKOW, SF – The only Polish restaurant in the Bay Area, and an extremely poor example of it. As I say below, it would be better to have no Polish Restaurant in the Bay Area if this is the only option.

PALO ALTO BAKING COMPANY, PALO ALTO – Flour dusted light rye bread. The only decent Eastern European style bread in the Bay Area at this time.

POLISH DELI,PALO ALTO – Top Quality Polish Sausages and cold cuts from Chicago

QUALITY MARKET, SF - Great kielbasa from NY, Some in house bakery items

RENATA'S BAKERY & CAFÉ, CAMPBELL – Stuffed cabbage with dill

RUSSIAN BISTRO TEA HOUSE, CAMPBELL – No specific Polish Items. Mainly Russian

RUSSIAN CAFÉ & DELI. CAMPBELL – Chicago Kielbasa, NY cold cuts, frozen pierogi

SAMOVAR DELI AND BAKERY, MOUNTAIN VIEW – Pastries, Deli

SAUL’S DELICATESSEN, BERKELEY - Fresh red beet horseradish, whitefish, herring in sour cream.

SEAKOR POLISH DELICATESSEN, SF & CAMPBELL - Outstanding dried Polish mushrooms, house-made Polish sausages, cold cuts and Polish cheesecake (weekends only). Easter lamb-shaped butter.

TOWER MARKET, SF – Smoked whitefish (holiday season only)

WINMART, SUNNYVALE – Fresh deli dishes (stuffed cabbage), pickles, dairy products


I haven’t tried the following yet:

Babushka Russian Deli, Walnut Creek
Cinderella Bakery, SF
Ferry Building, SF – Have not tried smoked fish from seafood vendors yet
Kumar's Island Market, SJ – Stephan’s Kielbasa (SJ sausage maker)
Russian Family Bakery & Deli, San Bruno

If all else fails, Mail order sources

PIEROGI PALACE, CLEVELAND, OH – 100 flavors of pierogi

http://piepal.com/welcome.ftml

LINKS AND ADDITIONAL INFO

BERKELEY BOWL, BERKELEY

The Bowl carries Acme herring from Brooklyn which is some of the best canned herring I’ve tried. The herring in sour cream is excellent also,

http://www.acmesmokedfish.com/wholesale/history.html

CROSSROADS WORLD MARKET

February 02, 2005
Eastern European Section in Mountain View
http://www.chowhound.com/california/boards/sanfrancisco/messages/115806.html

DELIKATESKI

January 19, 2005
Real Polish poppyseed hard rolls at Delikateski
http://www.chowhound.com/california/boards/sanfrancisco/messages/113718.html

DITTMER'S GOURMET MEATS & WURST-HAUS

January 22, 2005
Dittmer's – Smoked lamb ribs, sausages and cold cuts
http://www.chowhound.com/california/boards/sanfrancisco/messages/114137.html

EUROPEAN FOODS
MOSCOW AND TBILIS BAKERY STORE
NEW WORLD MARKET
QUALITY MARKET

July 02, 2003
New World Market & Eastern European Eats
HTTP://WWW.CHOWHOUND.COM/CALIFORNIA/BOARDS/SANFRANCISCO12/MESSAGES/57866.HTML

MILK PAIL

February 04, 2005
The Milk Pail has EVERY bread – Artisan, Eastern European
http://www.chowhound.com/california/boards/sanfrancisco/messages/116115.html

KUMAR'S ISLAND MARKET, SJ

February 25, 2005
SJ - Kumar's Island Market
http://www.chowhound.com/california/boards/sanfrancisco/messages/119089.html

OLD KRAKOW

“Polish food is, in a word, unchallenging.” wrote a Chowhound in the link below from a Chowdown at Old Krakow.

As a Polish American, that is exactly why I despise this restaurant. People who are unfamiliar with the cuisine think that this is representative of Polish food. It would be better if the Bay Area had no Polish Restaurant if the only choice is Old Krakow.

September 08, 2004
old krakow (long
)http://www.chowhound.com/california/boards/sanfrancisco27/messages/98771.html

PALO ALTO BAKING COMPANY

February 20, 2005
Canneles at Palo Alto Baking Company, Palo Alto
http://www.chowhound.com/california/boards/sanfrancisco/messages/118357.html

POLISH DELI

February 20, 2005
Polish deli - Palo Alto - Excellent sandwiches !!!
http://www.chowhound.com/california/boards/sanfrancisco/messages/118317.html

RENATA'S BAKERY & CAFÉ

February 22, 2005
Renata's Bakery & Cafe – Caucasian Russian – Tarragon soda
http://www.chowhound.com/california/boards/sanfrancisco/messages/118463.html

RUSSIAN BISTRO TEA HOUSE

February 22, 2005
Russian Bistro Tea House and South Bay Piroski Crawl
http://www.chowhound.com/california/boards/sanfrancisco/messages/118475.html

RUSSIAN CAFÉ & DELI

February 22, 2005
Campbell - Russian Café & Deli – Cafe - Nyet, Deli - Da
http://www.chowhound.com/california/boards/sanfrancisco/messages/118474.html

SAMOVAR DELI AND BAKERY

February 02, 2005
Samovar Deli and Bakery – the Best Borscht, Bakery
http://www.chowhound.com/california/boards/sanfrancisco/messages/115807.html

SAUL’S DELICATESSEN, BERKELEY

The best item at Saul’s Deli is the fresh grated red beet horseradish. Except for my grandmothers, I haven’t had any better. Ask if it is not in the deli case.

Saul’s has herring and white fish, but it is EXTREMELY expensive. The herring is $12.99 lb. The whitefish is $18. While the quality is good, the prices should not be that high. I only buy if I can’t find these items elsewhere.

The herring in sour cream is outstanding. There is a delicate sour cream sauce, fresh dill, red onions and good quality herring. There is a pleasant sweetness.

I dislike the herring in wine sauce. In this case the sweetness is not good and there is too much going on with onions, spices and those awful coriander seeds.

White fish is good, moist and a little salty. The whitefish at Tower Market is better quality and less expensive

SEAKOR POLISH DELICATESSEN

February 21, 2005
The Seakor Polish Deli Chain has Paczki
http://www.chowhound.com/california/boards/sanfrancisco/messages/118378.html

TOWER MARKET

October 03, 2002
Dreaming of Smoked Fish (Sable, and Peppered Mackerel
http://www.chowhound.com/california/boards/sanfrancisco9/messages/37476.html

WINMART

June 23, 2003
Russian / Polish Paradise
http://www.chowhound.com/california/b...

In the 1990’s a significant number of Polish immigrants moved to the San Jose area. I keep hoping that will translate into more restaurants, any bakery, and some good delis. I keep checking the Polish Churches in the area for any food related events.

  1. r
    Robert Lauriston Feb 25, 2005 10:35 AM

    I've had better Polish food in New York, but Old Krakow's not awful like Tex-Mex in Paris or Chinese in Rome. I always see tables of Polish people who seem to be having as good a time as I am.

    Some of their dishes are to be avoided, but I stick to the mushroom pierogis, "sourdough soup" (white borscht), and bigos and always eat well.

    23 Replies
    1. re: Robert Lauriston
      m
      Melanie Wong Feb 25, 2005 11:00 AM

      Here's my take on the bigos after wasting money ordering it at the chowdown:

      "The bigos at Old Krakow was lifeless. Made only with plain cabbage without any of the sauerkraut the restaurant is alleged to make itself or pickled plums or other fruits. The gray chunks of beef and pork had given up their souls long ago and the two scoops of mashed potatoes were watery and tasteless. I picked at some of the pieces of kielbasa (I agree that the sausage was good) and mushroom, but nothing else appealed. Basically it was a big pile of overcooked veggie-mystery meat mush devoid of distinctive aroma or flavor."

      I think that's as awful as it gets.

      1. re: Melanie Wong
        r
        Robert Lauriston Feb 25, 2005 12:02 PM

        On the other hand, that chowdown's organizer said "the overall experience was really nice, due in large part to the wine, service, and company." And a Polish coworker recommended the place to him.

        Since the first time I tried the bigos I've ordered it every time and it always tastes good to me. It's never had the nasty overcooked-cabbage flavor (I believe the Poles have a specific word for it!) that to me marks bad Eastern European food. I've made better bigos at home, but if OK used the ingredients I did they'd have to double the price. I have *not* managed to make an acceptable "sourdough soup" (aka white borscht, barszcz bialy, zurek).

        Is picking at a dish being passed around a table of eight really comparable to eating it for dinner? I think not, and I think that explains why in chowdown reports I so often read harsh dismissals of dishes my companions and I have found enjoyable on repeated visits.

        Link: http://www.chowhound.com/topics/show/...

        1. re: Robert Lauriston
          m
          Melanie Wong Feb 25, 2005 12:16 PM

          "Is picking at a dish being passed around a table of eight really comparable to eating it for dinner? I think not..."

          So are you saying that no account of a Chinese meal where all the dishes are shared can be valid???

          In this instance I had a full plate of bigos put in front of me as the entree that I ordered, in its full tepid strength. I "picked at it" because it wasn't really something to be relished and enjoyed. Barely edible, actually. I pased it around the table to share, but unfortunately, it came back to me. And there it sat, uneaten.

          Also, if you read the chowdown organizer's words carefully, you would see that he did not say that his Polish colleague "recommended" it. Said colleague had not been here before and it was the only place he knew of that made bigos, so he suggested trying it here. I gave him a lift home and he thought the food at Old Krakow was bad too.

          1. re: Melanie Wong
            r
            Robert Lauriston Feb 25, 2005 12:23 PM

            Different strokes for different folks. Given the lack of local alternatives, I think Old Krakow's worth a try if one hasn't cultivated rarefied standards for Polish food.

            1. re: Robert Lauriston
              m
              Melanie Wong Feb 25, 2005 12:33 PM

              No rarified standards for Polish food on my part. It might be very authentic, just as McDonald's is authentic American food. But I do recognize bad food and lack of deliciousness when it's put in front of me. There are much better meals to be had in this town to waste money and calories here. Old Krakow's worth a try if you have a Polish food term paper due, but other than that, there's not much that I could recommend about it. But as you say, different strokes for different folks, and you and your friends are welcome to my share of the bigos.

              1. re: Melanie Wong
                k
                Krys Feb 25, 2005 12:54 PM

                Thanks for shortening that title as I was starting to have a melt down every time I saw it.

                >>> Old Krakow's worth a try if you have a Polish food term paper due <<<

                Not even then. If anyone has such a project, I will personally pony up the bucks for a trip to Chicago.

                One more point ...

                "I've made better bigos at home, but if OK used the ingredients I did they'd have to double the price."

                The POINT of Polish food is making delicous food out of inexpensive ingrediats. We are talking about a largley peasant culture. Elevate that potato and cabbage into a delicous experience.

                Also, the Indian place I mentioned probably used the cheapest ingrediants possible in the Bay Area, yet those dishes gave me the same pleasure that I've experienced at Bizou, Desiree and Chez Panisse. Think what the curries would be like with top of the line ingrediants.

                Delicous food doesn't require expensive ingrediants. The poor sometimes eat better than rich people. They have to have the talent to make something delicious with very little money.

                I remember a line in the old movie "GiGI" where Gaston says he prefers the simple casoulet of Gigi's grandmother to the finest food in Paris.

          2. re: Robert Lauriston
            r
            Ruth Lafler Feb 25, 2005 12:33 PM

            "Is picking at a dish being passed around a table of eight really comparable to eating it for dinner? I think not,...."

            So you're saying if one bite is bad, two bites is better? In some cases, where one bite doesn't allow you to experience the entirety of the dish, I can see this. But generally speaking, I don't think it's true -- in fact, just the opposite: often a couple of bites are intriguing or at least palatable, while an entire serving would pall.

            Furthermore, if you'd ever been to a chowdown you'd know that most hounds are food-savvy enough to make sure that their "pickings" are representative of the whole.

            1. re: Ruth Lafler
              r
              Robert Lauriston Feb 25, 2005 01:48 PM

              I've participated in scores of restaurant review dinners (both as reviewer and "dining companion"), and for me it's a very different experience from going out to dinner for its own sake. Mandatory passing and tasting distracts from my enjoying the food, especially when I have to take notes and/or form an opinion on each dish instead of just having a hedonistic good time.

              1. re: Robert Lauriston
                r
                Ruth Lafler Feb 25, 2005 02:15 PM

                You just continue to betray your ignorance. Chowhound dinners are not like that. We're not doing formal reviewing and tasting -- nor, I hope, do we purport to. We're having dinner and then discussing it afterwards. Nothing is mandatory -- we eat what we like and avoid or discard what we don't (although I personally appreciate the chance to taste foods I normally would have avoided in such a "low risk" setting -- I've discovered some new food passions this way).

                Some people who like to take notes take notes. Some people who like to take pictures take pictures. Sometimes no one does either, but since the events are usually reported within hours, memory is pretty reliable (if there's one available to go, I often grab a menu and mark what we ordered and perhaps add a notation to jog my memory).

                Perhaps your reviewing dinners are joyless and anti-hedonistic, but I can tell you definitively that chowhound dinners are not.

                1. re: Ruth Lafler
                  k
                  Krys Feb 25, 2005 02:43 PM

                  Ah Robert, If only my family was still alive I would invite you over to a good Polish dinner. Unfortunatly, I am not a good cook.

                  But since you do cook, I hope you will check out Seakor's dried Polish mushrooms. From what I read of your cooking skills, I think you could do wonders with these. As I've said in other posts, even Martha Stewart says dried Polish mushrooms are the best in the world.

                  And, until I hit Polish Deli, old Martha was the cheeriest Polish person I've ever seen. We've been invaded a lot and work real hard and it's cold in Poland. I think genetically we're unhappy.

                  Actually after eating the Fijian curry, I was thinking that Fiji was probably the only country that hasn't invaded Poland. Imagine my despair at walking into the Fijian market and finding Polish Sausage. We HAVE been invaded by everyone.

                  Anyway, you have now got me contemplating the big lotto prize and my Nuveau Cal Polish Restaurant. Besides the standards, I think I would use those dried mushrooms in a lot of dishes to show how Polish food can be elevated to the highest level.

                  Of course, in my Cal Polish mode, besides having the standard Polish donut, I would play with the fillings ... Maybe I could get June Taylor to whip me up some special jelly fillings. Of course, after a recent post, I am now obsessed with filling a few with rose petal flavored and pistachio creams.

                  Can you understand now how thinking of Old Krakow throws me off balance mentally and puts me into an obsessive frame of mind. The sad thing is I actually have the restaurant location picked out near Pac Bell. Keep good thoughts for that lotto win.

                  Well, off to Fisherman's wharf for clam chowder.

                  1. re: Krys
                    r
                    Robert Lauriston Feb 25, 2005 03:19 PM

                    Does Seakor have better dried mushrooms that Delikateski?

                    1. re: Robert Lauriston
                      k
                      Krys Feb 25, 2005 03:29 PM

                      Way, way better. Let them let you smell the various bins. I've never splurged for the hundred buck dried mushrooms hanging from the ceiling, though.

                      Actually those prices sound outragious, it's sort of like saffron or truffles, a little goes a long way.

                      The thing with Seakor is that they are not entombed in cellophane. Some of them are as good as the mushrooms relatives sent my grandparents from Poland.

                      There is a higher turnover at Seakor regarding said mushrooms as well. I usually go with the one that smells the most delicious. This is usually a once a year Christmas splurge, so I've never actually done any taste comparisons.

                      Far West Fungi has some books on cooking with dried mushrooms. Maybe I'll get into one of my rare cooking modes and do a little taste comparison. Good excuse to buy some dried mushrooms.

                      1. re: Krys
                        k
                        Krys Feb 25, 2005 10:58 PM

                        Seakor was one of my first posts on Chowhound. At that time, someone wanted to know more about the type of mushroom, but I didn't know. Here's a scientifically oriented, but informative site about Polish Mushrooms (grzyby)

                        Link: http://www.grzyby.pl/index.html

            2. re: Robert Lauriston
              k
              Krys Feb 25, 2005 12:35 PM

              Sorry, Robert, I've just been on a Bay Area Eastern European crawl, so my tolerance of Old Krakow has plummeted. There is better soup, stuffed cabbage and pastries in the holes in the walls than Old Krakow ... and for significantly less money.

              Not that these places have the ultimate experience. However, I have seen the light starting to shine with Polish Deli in Mountain Views.

              Will most people who eat Polish food for the first time at Old Krakow, try these places ... probably not. From my mediocre Indian food experiences I never paid attention until I recently came across a recent example of great Indian food and realized there were some possibilites in this cuisine.

              So people avoid Polish which mean great little places like Polish Deli go under which means people like me are stuck with ... Old Krackow.

              Eating at Old Krakow is the equivalent of thinking that the Max's chain represents stellar Jewish Deli.

              You said of the chowdown ...

              " ... the ... chowdown's organizer said "the overall experience was really nice, due in large part to the wine, service, and company."

              And tourists have the same nice experience at the Fisherman's wharf restaurants. Doesn't make the food good. Doesn't make anyone on this board want to eat there.

              "And a Polish coworker recommended the place to him."

              Only game in town. Do I KNOW that person? Fourth generation Pole? Someone from Poland who has suffeter through a dearth of good food during the Communist years?" Think of the movie "Moscow on the Hudson" when Robin Williams passed out at the sheer variety of food at an American Supermarket.

              "It's never had the nasty overcooked-cabbage flavor (I believe the Poles have a specific word for it!)"

              As I mentioned, my Polish is bad, but I think the American translation is "put it in the trash". Just kidding. Never heard of a specific word for it. My family only served good food ... just joking, just joking. Yeah, that last paragraph calls for one of my rare smiley faces ... :-) Poles, as a rule, are not a smiley face group, ergo my surprise at the pleasant people at Polish Deli.

              "that to me marks bad Eastern European food. "

              Heavens Robert, does it take over boiled cabbage to judge Eastern European food as bad?

              "I've made better bigos at home, but if OK used the ingredients I did they'd have to double the price."

              Old Krakow is pretty over priced as it is. Have we started to be tolerant of restaurants because they use cheap ingrediants?

              "Is picking at a dish being passed around a table of eight really comparable to eating it for dinner?"

              Well, when my family got together we ate that way, family style. Also, it seems that from countless Chowdowns, this is how people eat and other places get raves.

              I know this is really harsh, but this is just a sore point for me. Again, to those people who enjoy the place, go for it. However, I wish Old Krakow would just go away.

              1. re: Robert Lauriston
                n
                nja Feb 25, 2005 02:50 PM

                Enough already.

                People have different opinions of food. While it's valuable for everyone to share their opinions, there is really nothing to be gained by constantly arguing against and refuting every single opinion that does not agree with yours. And there is most certainly no point in attempting to destroy other posters' credibility by claiming they don't get it or don't properly eat their meal.

                We get that you like Old Krakow. And Zuni. Now please, just give it a rest.

              2. re: Melanie Wong
                k
                Krys Feb 25, 2005 12:03 PM

                Ok, so I was making a lame attempt to be funny in that other post.

                However, just because you see Polish people eating there happily, doesn't make it good. You can't judge a restaurant because it is filled with people of a certain ethnicity. Polish people have bad taste too. This is compounded by the fact that this is the only game in the Bay Area.

                I actually don't even like the kielba, but don't remember why. I was going to get it for Easter one year and think I decided on Hilshire Farms instead.

                I've contemplated Old Krakow way more than is mentally healthy. I've had my periods of tolerance, but at the current time I am in a loathing phase.

                Old Krakow has it's supporters, It is acceptable food if, as you say you order real, real carefully.

                It just bothers me that people think this is the Polish Food experience.

                Although I have no restaurant aspirations, if I ever win the super big lotto, I'm opening an OUTSTANDING Polish Restaurant and bakery. I'll prowl the streets of Cleveland, Chicago, Buffalo, and Riverside and lure the best bakers and chefs to work for me. I might even experiment with Cal Polish ... Margarita Farms cabbage with some of Olivetto's pork products.

                It will lose money ... tons of it. But at least I'll get a decent Polish donut, a good ham sandwich and a plate of great Pierogi when I crave one.

                1. re: Krys
                  m
                  MKatrinaToo Feb 27, 2005 09:03 AM

                  And I will be your partner. I'm glad that you mentioned Buffalo in your post becuz thats my hometown and yes, I;ve been craving Polish foods all these years I've been out here. When hubby and I return for family visits, I cram myself silly and bring back loaded suitcases. Sometimes I go online to my favorite Buffalo vendors and buy during the year; other things I learned to make.

              3. re: Robert Lauriston
                k
                Krys Feb 25, 2005 11:42 AM

                .

                1. re: Robert Lauriston
                  e
                  ed Feb 25, 2005 02:45 PM

                  i'm sorry to confirm my original post. the bigos was bad. a few tastes were exchanged, but for the most part, all diners stuck with their uninspired entrees.

                  in their defense, i can only offer that it was a tuesday, and a relatively quiet one at that. is it possible that on such days, the lunch pot of bigos makes it all the way through dinner?

                  1. re: ed
                    k
                    Krys Feb 25, 2005 03:02 PM

                    >>> in their defense, i can only offer that it was a
                    tuesday, and a relatively quiet one at that. is it
                    possible that on such days, the lunch pot of bigos
                    makes it all the way through dinner? <<<

                    No. They are bad every day of the week, every hour of the day.

                    As I said, some people like Old Krakow.
                    After my hissy fit on this board, I really will
                    admire any other posters who step up to the plate and
                    post about postitive experiences.

                    I promise not to comment.
                    I think I said all there is to be said on my part.

                    Sorry, messed up the subject line on another post. I've emailed the webmaster to delete it.

                    1. re: ed
                      m
                      Melanie Wong Feb 25, 2005 04:44 PM

                      "in their defense, i can only offer that it was a tuesday, and a relatively quiet one at that. is it possible that on such days, the lunch pot of bigos makes it all the way through dinner?"

                      The overall level of staleness, dessication of the meats, and break-down in textures in the bigos would lead me to hypothesize that the pot was made for Friday night, then the leftovers were refrigerated and reheated a couple of times more before it was served to us. Many braised dishes can benefit from an overnight and reheating to meld and mature the flavors, but this batch of bigos had passed this point and died. It should have been thrown away long before that. Our evening was not that quiet, as there was another large party besides us and several couples.

                    2. re: Robert Lauriston
                      m
                      mangocrush Feb 25, 2005 07:23 PM

                      I will jump into the 3 person conversation [:)] and volunteer that I've gone back to Old Krakow more than once for golabki with mushroom sauce - certainly not as good as New York but I find it quite satisfying on a cold night.

                      Incidentally, the only time I've ordered bigos (on a Sunday night), it was fresh and enjoyable.

                      1. re: mangocrush
                        k
                        Krys Feb 25, 2005 10:48 PM

                        mangocrush,

                        I salute you for your bravery.

                        Chowhound isn't the evening news, so I felt in no way compelled to give a balanced view on Old Krakow. Here are two other mentions on the board about Old Krakow.

                        While not glowing, they do have a positive spin.

                        December 11, 2001
                        Pierogie in SF/Old Krakow
                        http://www.chowhound.com/california/boards/sanfrancisco5/messages/14754.html

                        Now this doesn't mean I don't still detest the place, however, as I said quite a few times, some people like it.

                        In this thread, I was in one of my more tolerant moods toward OK (no its NOT OK). I take back MY part of this thread, but this Chowhound found some things to like.

                        Again, applause to you for posting, mangocrush.

                        Link: http://www.chowhound.com/topics/show/...

                    3. r
                      Robert Lauriston Feb 26, 2005 10:28 AM

                      Have you been to Cafe Prague, 584 Pacific near Columbus in SF? I've been there to drink but never tried the food, which except for the soups is mostly not very Polish-sounding.

                      2 Replies
                      1. re: Robert Lauriston
                        r
                        Ruth Lafler Feb 26, 2005 11:21 AM

                        Why would Cafe Prague be Polish? I'm pretty sure Prague is still in the Czech Republic. Even though they're fairly close geographically, I've always thought Czech food was closer to Hungarian food because of the influence of the Austro-Hungarian empire.

                        Anyway, I've also wondered about Cafe Prague, but the few mentions on this board haven't been very encouraging.

                        1. re: Ruth Lafler
                          r
                          Robert Lauriston Feb 26, 2005 12:50 PM

                          D'oh, right you are. I couldn't remember the name of the place, and when I did the mismatch didn't strike me.

                      2. r
                        rworange Sep 24, 2005 01:11 AM

                        It is probably a good sign that the house-made pierogi were getting compared to the ones my Polish grandmother made. Of course Babci wins, but these were very nice and freshly made with the edges hand-crimped.

                        The six potato-cheese pierogi were soft and pillowy and surrounded a small dish of sour cream. Sprinkled with chopped parsley there was also the nice addition of caramelized onions. The only complaint I might have was they were fried in oil rather than butter and I would have liked a little browning on them. But from the first bite I was very happy and content. They are also available with the following fillings: sauerkraut, mushroom, beef or any combo of fillings per request since they are made to order.

                        The surprise was the yeasty house made rolls that were fabulous. A woman at a nearby table heard me mention that this was my first visit and started raving about the rolls and food in general. She really liked the blinces too.

                        Not everything was perfect. The savory golabki (stuffed cabbage) had a nice rice/beef filling but I would have liked more cabbage. Also, the tomato sauce tasted straight from the can. The mushroom sauce might be a better choice.

                        The homemade biala-kielbasa was described as a “pork and chicken sausage made from our chef’s secret family recipe.” This is the third time I’ve seen white kielbasa in Polish establishments. My family never had this, only the standard all beef or pork smoked versions. It was a course grind with a snappy casing which had some fancy knife marks on one side. I’m not sure about this one. Next time, knowing what to expect, I'll judge it on its own merit rather expectations of a more traditional version.

                        The food is very homey and so is the restaurant. In a shady corner of a strip mall, across from Lunardi Market, there are white lace curtains, white table cloths and red paper napkins. The light pink wall is decorated with Polish tapestries and plates. The music of Chopin plays in the background, a nice touch and very relaxing. The staff is very nice and speak Polish and English equally well. There are three tables on the sidewalk also.

                        It is a tiny cozy restaurant that seats probably no more than 30 people.

                        Breakfast and lunch menus have quite a few American selections like salads, sandwiches and omelets. The dinner menu is totally Polish. Based on my lunch today, would I recommend this restaurant to other Polish people? ... absolutely. It’s the best Polish food fix in the Bay Area, well, at least pierogi-wise. Polish food is not an easy cuisine to love if you didn’t grow up with it. So I will have to work my way through the rest of the menu to see if I’d recommend it to non Polish people.

                        Here’s the Polish items that are available in addition to the items mentioned:

                        Polish sausage – available in some form for breakfast, lunch and dinner
                        Blinces with raspberry puree and whipped cream – available all day

                        LUNCH AND DINNER

                        Cream of mushroom soup
                        Soup of the day
                        Cucumber salad with traditional Polish dill dressing
                        Potato salad

                        Breaded Pork cutlet with cooked sauerkraut and fried potatoes
                        Hunters Stew – Bigos – stew made with sauerkraut, cabbage, pork, sausage and mushrooms.
                        Potato dumplings in mushroom sauce – Kluskislauskie (not the same as pierogi)
                        Mushroom crepes with sautéed mushrooms

                        DINNER ONLY

                        Herring in oil served with finely sliced onions and pickles
                        Steak Tartar served with onions, pickles, egg yolk and bouillon

                        Beef Roulade – rolled slices of beef stuffed with onions and peppers in gravy served with a choice of mashed potato or potato dumplings and sauerkraut salad
                        Goulash – mildly spicy chunks of beef with onions and peppers in gravy served with a choice of mashed potato or potato dumplings and sauerkraut salad

                        Bottled &#379;ywiec Pilsner is available and served in a frosty glass mug. There is wine also, but I didn't check it out.

                        Chopin Cafe & Restaurant

                        1574 Palos Verdes Mall
                        Geary Road at Pleasant Hill Road (Treat Road exit on 680)
                        Walnut Creek, CA 94597
                        Phone: 925.256.8658

                        Hours:

                        9:00 a.m. to 11:00 a.m.
                        Breakfast, Daily

                        11:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m.
                        Lunch, Daily

                        5:00 to 9:00 p.m.
                        Dinner, Wednesday through Sunday

                        Link: http://cityguide.aol.com/sanfrancisco...

                        5 Replies
                        1. re: rworange
                          w
                          wally Sep 24, 2005 12:52 PM

                          Is to go available?

                          1. re: wally
                            r
                            rworange Sep 24, 2005 01:00 PM

                            Yes. Actually I'm thinking of asking them if I can get the Pierogi cooked, but not fried. Then I can fry them in butter at home to my own satisfaction. Anyway, they gave me take-out menus, their business cards tell you can call in take-out orders and they have a separate catering business by another name which I forgot.

                            1. re: rworange
                              k
                              kckitty Sep 25, 2005 09:20 PM

                              THANKS so much for this recommendation! I so much crave this kind of food (must be the Eastern European influence).
                              Walnut Creek is seeming like more and more of a food destination, especially for someone spending more and more time driving from Berkeley to San Ramon.

                          2. re: rworange
                            r
                            Robert Lauriston Sep 24, 2005 01:32 PM

                            You might want to repost that on the current board, this archive is from March.

                            I didn't know you could post to archives. Weird.

                            1. re: Robert Lauriston
                              r
                              rworange Sep 24, 2005 01:58 PM

                              I always use Hot Posts, so it didn't occur to me that someone who accesses the site by board probalby won't see it. Oh well, there's not all that much interest in Polish food anyway.

                              The search function is just such a hassle, that keeping certain subjects in one thread makes it easier for me to find if I need to link back. So, all my Polish food visits are in one place that is easy to find. There's a few other little interest things like that, like Point Richmond or Pinole.

                          3. r
                            rworange Sep 26, 2005 02:37 AM

                            The Chronicle did an extremely accurate job of describing this small Eastern European deli and restaurant, The link is below. Bill Staggs writes:

                            “I liked Babushka, the Russian deli in Walnut Creek, from the moment I stepped inside ... Every corner, every surface held something to eat, from savory to sweet ... Tall, glass-doored refrigerators held shelves jammed with dairy products and juices and beverages ... A few steps farther in was a deli case full of smoked fish and caviar and another, larger case piled with cold cuts of every description ... Another display case was full of foil- wrapped candy, topped by bottles of Georgian (as in formerly of the Soviet Union) wine, and behind that, a wall of packaged goods from chocolate to vinegar”

                            The nice thing about the deli is that the selection looks fresh and is well thought out. It doesn’t have the tired, disorganized, dusty look of the SF Russian stores on Geary. In terms of what it is, I actually like it better than Delikateski in Concord, though the selection isn’t as extensive.

                            There are four brands of kielbasa, one of which was directly from Poland. Well that was impressive and trumps other Bay Area shops selling kielbasa from Chicago or New York. The Polish sausage was very good, however a Chicago kielbasa I bought at Polish Deli in Mountain View was a little better, with deeper smoke and more complex flavor. Of course, more research is needed. There are three more kielbasas to sample, after all

                            I’ll probably stop in from time to time to see what other hidden treasures are tucked in this shop. Speaking of which … they also have a poppy seed roll direct from Poland.

                            In another review in the East Bay Express, Jonathan Kauffman captures the unique charm of the restaurant. I really laughed out loud a few times reading it, and was hell bent on eating there one night just to hear "Guantanamera" -- in Russian. Kauffman writes of his evening meal

                            “The lights are dimmed and the disco ball is spinning. A man in his late fifties operates a Wurlitzer-sized synthesizer contraption, crooning Russian pop songs to a bossa nova beat, while a Russian couple in their sixties foxtrots dreamily around the room. They're the only other customers here and are preoccupied with each other, which is good, because it takes my dining companions several minutes to check their awe.”

                            Alas, the night I showed up, the restaurant was reserved for a special event. Owner, waiter and cook Leo Malkov said that they do quite a few events and that it is always a good idea to call on weekends to see if anything is going on.

                            So, it was take-out one day and brunch today. The brunch is just both the lunch and dinner menus.

                            With absolutely no intention of ordering a piroshki, resistance was dropped when Malkov announced he just made a batch and they were hot out of the oven. The piroshki are really two nice, light, flakey turnovers filled with white meat chicken. Malkov said about his version “It’s Walnut Creek. Who’s going to eat heavy piroshki fried in oil”. Amen. You don’t need to be Russian to like these. They are as American as apple turnovers, only with a chicken filling.

                            Trying to decide between two Russian dumplings, Malkov said the pelmeni were the best and not easy to make. It was like a plate of Russian dim sum. Filled with ground pork, beef and onion, they released a soupy broth and I thought ... Russian xlb ... only drizzled with sour cream and topped with fresh chopped dill. This is a big plate with probably about a dozen and a half of small sized dumplings. It would be a good appetizer to share with a group. I had a nice semi-sweet glass of red wine from the former Russian state of Georgia.

                            In addition to the dining room, there are a few outdoor tables in the back patio. The room was actually pleasant it its own unique way. The flowered bread plates were almost an identical pattern to my grandmother’s plates. The biggest bud vases I’ve ever seen, held three very long-stem peach colored roses. The entertainment was satellite TV from Moscow that was broadcasting some amusing music videos. As both reviews indicate, the owner is very personable and makes you feel very welcome.

                            Wanting to try the vareniki, which are like small pierogi, I got an order of the sour cherry to go. The vareniki were just large enough to wrap around one or two cherries which reminded me of the canned type that is used for pie filling. If you like pierogi, you will like these.

                            The stuffed cabbage were not disappointing and got points for being in a house made stewed tomato/red pepper sauce. They are the savory version with at touch of sour cream and dill.

                            I’ve had two other versions of a Georgian soup called solyanka which has finely chopped sausages, pickles, sour cream and dill. This is the end of my taste testing of this soup. It is just too rich with all that chopped sausage. I think it is something that you need to grow up with to appreciate. The best I had was at Reneta’s in Campbell, the worst (and it was horrid) was at Russian Café in Campbell.

                            Babushka’s version was in between the two. That is where Babushka stands in general ... good solid slightly above average Russian dishes. Though it doesn’t soar, it doesn’t disappoint either.

                            While I love shopping in downtown Walnut Creek, it always has the feeling of the place where the Stepford wives would shop and lunch. There are too many chains like PF Changs passing themselves off as real ethnic food. I love that a block from Crosby’s there’s an honest little place cooking up homey Russian chow. It's like dropping over a Russian friend's house and having them whip up a meal for you ... if your friend had a disco ball in the dining room.

                            Here’s the link to the East Bay Express review with a great description of the place and some nice background on the food. There’s also a link in the article to the Babushka website with hours, address, phone and menu. The picture of the dining room is from the Babushka website.

                            http://www.eastbayexpress.com/issues/2003-07-02/food.html

                            Link: http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2000/11/17/CC6973.DTL&type=food

                            Image: http://www.foodbybabushka.com/newmain...

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