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Cafe Polonia, South End or Sonny's, Dorchester?

Anyone have a preference? Any recommendations from either menu? Thanks.

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  1. Haven't been to Sonny's, but Cafe Polonia (which is in Andrew Square, South Boston, not the South End) is outstanding: authentic Polish food in big portions for short money, with very friendly service and good beers. Their potato pancakes get my nod for "best hash browns" in town. A couple of Hungarian touches, too, like really good goulash. Borscht is a light pink broth and delicate mushroom dumplings, almost like a wonton soup, not heavy at all like the Russian style. Great pierogies, stuffed cabbage, kielbasa/cabbage stew. Tremendous place.

    2 Replies
    1. re: MC Slim JB

      MC, you get me out of Somerville or off my own street in Dorchester and it's all just a big blur.

      1. re: Patricia

        The white spaces in my mental map of Boston are only slowly filling in, even after many years of living here. I would have guessed that Cafe Polonia is in Dorchester, and it's close, but in Southie; another Chowhound once corrected me on that, so I'm just passing on received wisdom. This board has pushed me to explore a lot of neighborhoods I'd never ventured to before, like Eastie, which is a Chow treasure trove.

    2. Ok, so two of my regular places. If you want pizza go to Sonny's or wait for a Tuesday when they have $2 pizzas. If you want hungarian goulash sandwiched between 2 potato pancakes then it has to be Cafe Polonia. If it's Keno and shrimp scampi, then it must be Sonny's; but if it's the goulash cooked in the clay pot with it's own bread bowl then Cafe Polonia. So, you see it's a tough choice. Cafe Polonia also has delicious coconut shrimp as an appetizer and their desserts are quite good as well. The wine choices are better at Cafe Polonia, but Sonny's has a full bar so I could go back and forth forever. It gets me thinking, I was at Sonny's on Tuesday, but I could go for shrimp, or.....

      1 Reply
      1. re: Pegmeister

        Very nice to have a choice between two places you like rather than two places you don't! Funny stuff Pegmeister.

      2. Boston's neighborhood borders are very odd. I still get confused about Victoria's Diner (Mass. Ave.) being in Roxbury, Cafe Polonia (Dorchester Ave.) being in Southie, and 224 Boston being in Dorchester, even though they are all in the same general neighborhood. I guess the three-way border is somewhere between them all (near Super 88?).

        I had considered going to Sonny's last night--heard some good things about it. I assume it's better than Gerard's, which is across the street? I've had one good meal and one bad meal at Gerard's, which is too bad because I like the feel of the place--very old fashioned, with the entrance being through a convenience store (much like Vinny's at Night).

        3 Replies
        1. re: hiddenboston

          Victoria's Diner (Mass. Ave.) being in Roxbury? Roxbury? I throught that Roxbury was on the other side of some great divide. LOL.

          1. re: Patricia

            "Roxbury" is technically the South End, FWIW. When I lived in the South End and would give my address w/zip code, it would come up as "Roxbury." So.....

            1. re: twentyoystahs

              Not so. Roxbury is not the South End. This can be cofirmed by a trip to Dudley Square.

              Whever you lived might have been referred to as the South End but may have actually been in Roxbury. In addition, sometimes your address/zip reflects the post office that serves your location -- for example, some addresses in Cleveland Circle have Brookline addresses though they are actually in Boston.

        2. Sonny's food is really bad. It is definitely NOT the type of place you go to for the food. Whoever is spreading good things about it has probably never eaten there or happenstance has lead them to the 2 or 3 pretty good things on the menu -- the turkey club being one of them. Burgers are ok. Pizza fair but only $2 on Tuesdays. All else at your own risk, esp. fish. Ask your server before ordering -- they are usually honest.

          I eat there a lot because I hang out with friends and neighbors for beers. Tonight, for example, is karaoke night and I will probably eat something there just so I don't get too drunk.

          I was there on Tuesday, too. Hee Hee, Pegmeister! Will you be singing tonight?

          Never been to Cafe Polonia.

          Gerard's (down Adams St. a few doors) scares me now because there is never a living soul in the place even at the height of the dinner rush. Years ago I would have said it's better than Sonny's but now I don't know.

          8 Replies
          1. re: C. Hamster

            No wonder I'll always get at 2/1 coupon from Gerard's.

            1. re: C. Hamster

              I'm at Sonny's about once a week, Jimmy is my favorite bartender and I think their pizza is great, especially the mushroom, onion and irish bacon. They have perfectly fried haddock and when Mike's in the kitchen he makes an incredible shrimp scampi. Of course, I'm generally there early when the focus is more on food. So it could be that the Karaoke crowd isn't getting the best cook. So, C. Hamster are you the person who always use to seranade Cathy? I did stay for Karaoke one night and quite enjoyed it, but I would never have the courage to get up there.

              As for Gerard's, well unfortunately, their food is really bad. I wish the owner, who is generally on the premises would actually taste some of his dishes before he put them on the menu. They would be much better off to try and master a few good dishes and streamline their menu. It's a great place to have a nice quiet glass of wine though

              1. re: Pegmeister

                You are there early if Jimmy is your barman. I love him too but now that he's on days I don't see him much. :-( I am usually there more than once a week thanks to slothfulness and routine with friends. I have a habitrail that ends there! All the bartenders are swell, but I am partial to Mike.

                The problem with Sonny's is that too much of their food is frozen food service quality stuff. Not enough fresh food. That and a general attitude problem.

                I think their pizza is just OK (used to be better). Plus they don't cook it correctly (I don't think they have a real pizza oven, so it's not really their fault). But you'd think they would catch on if all the regulars know to order it "well done" to avoid the white rubbery unmelted cheese you are served if you don't. IMO, their "fresh" fish is often not actually very fresh, especially on days other than Friday. If I am there on friday, I have gotten the broiled haddock which is ok. Too much of their seafood is frozen and the salmon cakes are made from canned.

                Last week they served beef stew (which is usually quite good) as a special. What I got was some real beef stew which was obviously days old combined with -- and I am serious -- copious amounts of canned beef vegetable soup with the 1/2 inch uniform pieces of carrot and grey beef. They didn't take it off the menu despite having pretty much every customer that ordered it send it back.

                I try not to sing unless my friends make me!! So I have not serenaded Kathy, though I did see her Tuesday!

                1. re: C. Hamster

                  It's funny, I do order my pizza well done, and I find that when Mike is making the pizza I like it the best. I also think they make some pretty decent soups. As for the fish, I've only had the fried haddock and I loved it. I guess I like Sonny's because it's a good neighborhood type of place. I also like to sit at the bar and play Keno! Kathy had come in just before I left on Tuesday so it was nice to say Hello. Oh, and I also like their onion rings!
                  On another note, have you tried CF Donovans on Savin Hill? It's one of my favorites in the area.

                  1. re: Pegmeister

                    well now Mike the chef is gone, and Jimmy is leaving soon too. My favorite bartender is Paul, but all the guys are great!!! 2 shift Mike makes the best bloody Mary's!!!

                    1. re: linmadin

                      The new chef (Rosy? I met him but forgot his name) is terrific and the food is already improved. He's easing into offering specials with heretofore unheard of (at Sonny's) ingredients like asparagus and techniques like spice rubs. Seems very into making the food better and more interesting, which is exactly what the place needs.

                      Mike made me a delicious Bloody on Sunday before the game.

                      I give Jimmy 6 months tops in Bloomington before he's back. I don't think the Midwest is the place for him.

                      1. re: C. Hamster

                        Hope you're right about Jimmy. I hate the thought of him not being at Sonny's. So have you tried the shrimp scampi yet? I had fried haddock the other day that was good.

                        1. re: Pegmeister

                          I confess that I have not had the shrimp scampi yet. I'm not the world's biggest shrimp person. But I vow to try it. Paul the bartender tells me that the shrimp and scallops are usually fresh while the fish, surprisingly, is not. Paul warns me off bad choices, so I have been reluctant to do the haddock, etc.

                          Perhaps the new guy will be better about freshness, too.

            2. I like CFD's! Their food is much better. Possibly because they are a restaurant with a bar and not a bar with a restaurant, like Sonny's.

              Do they still have trivia on Tuedays?

              Sonny's soups are pretty good, I will grant you that, but have become so boring. Chicken noodle, turkey rice, chicken supreme (who serves a sauce and calls it soup?). They used to make an excellent minestrone that I used to buy several extra servings of to take to work. But like many of their better offerings, is no longer made. Is Mike the cook that quit on night while Adam was away?

              1. Donovan's still has trivia on Tuesdays and it gets quite busy and competitive!! The specials there change on Friday nights but their website is never up to date, which makes me crazy! I usually get Richie to tell me the specials ahead of time. They recently replaced the traditional mozzarella sticks with pan fried mozzarella which is worlds away from the sticks and I thoroughly enjoy the chicken bella bucca. Last night they came out with complimentary waffle cut sweet potato chips that were still warm! Most often I order off the specials menu because those offerings are the most creative.
                Back to Sonny's, I saw Mike there last week, so I don't think he was the one who quit, but you do see a difference in the food depending on who is in the kitchen.

                1. The cook who quit came back the next day, but it was a wild scene one night with 2 hour waits for food.

                  Will have to get back to trivia @ CFD's sometime! We used to do pretty well at it.

                  To be responsive to OP ... not Sonny's unless you are willing to roll the dice regarding food quality.

                  1. I had a wonderful lunch last Tuesday at Cafe Polonia. It was a fairly cold day which is something that usually inspires a visit there. I started with a hot cup of wine that had been simmered with spices and then had raspberry syrup and honey added to it. It was quite nice. A special of Ukrainian Beet Soup was absolutely delicious. A slightly sour note to it, great aroma, a little bit of dill on the top and lots of chunks of potatoes, shredded beets and large flat beans. It was a great soup.
                    I followed with grilled FRESH kielbasa. Amazingly tender, previously poached(I think) and then crisped up on a griddle, served with fried onions, mustard and horseradish sauce and a couple of pickles. This sausage is available at the market they own across the street. It(from what I was told) arrives on Wed and is usually gone by Fri morning. The sausage is great and if you haven't had fresh and only know the Hillshire stuff then you really should try it.
                    I noticed the chunks of pork in the lard were much larger than previous visits. IIRC lunch was $19 without tip.

                    Sonny's, ah Sonny's. So hit or miss it is amazing. I've had perfectly cooked pork chops with vinegar peppers, properly cooked hamburgers(the irish bacon burger particularly memorable), mediocre to okay pizza and some pretty disastrous things also(including an Irish breakfast so bad I sent it back). Stick with the simple stuff and avoid the fish. The last two times I had something new on the menu that was quite good. Ham and cheese stuffed pork loin chop. Cooked nicely and served with a mushroom cream sauce(a lot of it too). The second time I had it with sauce on the side. Pretty good and it comes with soup or salad. Soups have been very mediocre and usually not hot enough.
                    If you go to Sonny's for food you are willing to roll the dice. There's never a shortage of drunk drooling morons though!!

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: Wursthof

                      Chicken Suprise soup is pretty good. Kind of like Chicken ala King

                    2. I just went to Cafe polonia for the first time 2 weeks ago, and I have to say those are the best potato pancakes I've ever had. The stuffed cabbage, and pierogis were great, too, but the potato pancakes were outstanding. There's a more detailed review on my blog.


                      6 Replies
                      1. re: gltsoi

                        This is the perfect time of the year for Cafe Polonia. I'm thinking about the Gypsy Pancake - two potato pancakes with Hungarian Goulosh sandwiched in between.

                        1. re: Pegmeister

                          Polonia Has Been a favorite of mine for a long time, especially for lunch, it is usually where my Eastern European S.O. and i Go When We are looking for an offal Fix. I highly Recommend the Tripe Soup as well as the Blood Sausage, (which is not incased at all actually served in a mound with horseradish, mustard and cornichons)
                          Additionally if you are willing to travel a little Further Down the Street on Dot ave, There is a Fantastic El Salvadorian Restaurant called "Antojitos y Panderia Chapinas" I dont know what that means But, it is right across the street from dbar (which is still far and away the best meal that you find in Dorchester). I use the dbar Parking Lot and walked across the Street For Lunch at least once a week, Quite a Hidden Gem, eat around the menu and you will find some good cheap chow!

                          1. re: ciaohoundboston

                            I've been to dbar a few times and think their food is outstanding, especially the diver scallops and the hangar steak. I haven't, however, ever noticed the El Savadorian Restaurant. Is it set back from the street in that small area of stores? I just can't picture it, and I drive there often as I'm always going to the Shanti or CF Donovans.

                            1. re: Pegmeister

                              you probably wouldn't even notice it driving by, but it is right next to ana's beauty salon, literally across the street from dbar, there are 2 really smalll signs and an el salvadorian flag

                              1. re: ciaohoundboston

                                I'll have to try again. I drove by last night on my way to Donovans and didn't see it but that was before I saw your post. I thought it may have been in the building with the green front that used to be the bar. In any event, my surf and turf at Donovans was incredible. Cooked to order tenderloin steak with 2 large stuffed shrimp.

                                1. re: ciaohoundboston

                                  I've been by that place a million times but never stopped in. My Spanish is nonexistent so I'd have no idea what to order -- any recommendations ciaohound? Tell us more please! Thanks.

                        2. Stopped at Sonny's last night. The new chef's name is Rudy, and he has definitely improved the quality of the food, as well as adding some new choices. Started with stuffed mushrooms that contained good size pieces of scallops and were topped with cheese. Seven spice rib eye was quite good as was the pizza topped with spinach; feta and chicken. To me, Sonny's has always been a good local pub to stop and unwind; grab a quick bite and play Keno. It's even better now. Hopefully, the new chef will stick around. He had also worked briefly (2 weeks) at CF Donovans last winter and I was dissapointed when he left there,

                          5 Replies
                          1. re: Pegmeister

                            But did you stay for karaoke? I did. Someday we'll be in the same place and actually meet!

                            Rudy's new offerings are indeed very good and are causing quite a buzz. Never thought I'd see the term "pan seared" on a Sonny's menu.

                            I hope he turns his attention to improving the other regular menu offerings, like using a tortilla and a grill to make a quesadilla instead ot the lavash bread and pizza oven they currently use. Glad to hear he's gotten the hang of pizza ... last week the pizzas were sort of disasterous.

                            1. re: C. Hamster

                              Well, I did hear that he forgot to put cheese on one the other day, but my choice worked out well. Not only did it taste good, it was visually appealing. My next visit I'm going for the sweet potato fries. They were pretty busy last night, and people seemed pleased with the changes. I left just as the karaoke guy was setting up so probably missed you by seconds!

                              1. re: Pegmeister

                                I am laughing because that was MY pizza. The first one. He just threw some cheese on the top of everything after it was already baked and served it. White and barely melted. Second pizza had a piece of plastic baked into it. First time I had food comped there.

                                But I totally agree that they look very professional now. I saw the sweet potatoe fries and they looked good but I wish they were thinner. The artichoke dip is supposed to be very good, but I am a potato chip/dip girl not tortilla.

                                I believe we were there at the same time. I was back by the keno machine. Where were you?

                                1. re: C. Hamster

                                  On the Keno side about half-way down enjoying a B&B. I wanted to try the mussels; but just didn't have that comfort level yet. I have to say the mushrooms were really quite good nothing like what they used to offer. I like Rudy, he's doing a good job. Hope Richie doesn't scare him off.

                                  1. re: Pegmeister

                                    I was with the group right next to you -- around the Keno machine! Mostly old guys but one young guy who was probably sitting right next to you. I came in around 8. Female. Blue parka. Crap. Would have loved to chat with you.

                                    I am actually quite shocked that Richie has allowed Rudy so much latitude. He even bought new dishes. They seem to be very chummy... for the moment at least.