Polka Restaurant -- Eagle Rock
Just returned from lunch at Polka. What a find! This place was in my restaurant database after reading a review in 1995 by Jonathan Gold.
I was browsing my computer for a place to try because we were going to be in the area and just took a chance.
This place is in a small strip mall and serves lunch on Saturdays. I had the best breaded pork loin I think I have ever had. Perfectly crisp on the outside, yet wonderfully moist and tender on the inside.
They start you with a lovely soup based on a lot of carrots and a bit of beef. A salad is also included. All of this for the embarassingly low price of $8.99. And this was from the most expensive portion of the menu. My wife had the stuffed cabbage, which was also excellent.
This place is a little gem for chowhounding. BYOB.
re: Tom P
I went to Polka for the first time last night and have to thank both Tom P and Bob Brooks for the encouragement.
True to form, I take it, we were served soup before our places were even set. Like Tom P and Bob, I think it may well be the best soup in LA. And the fact that there's not a high bar to surmount should take nothing away from the excellence of Polka's soup. (I think Ammo has a way with a puree, but in general soup is much to hard to find. Why don't we have a Daily Soup or similar? but that's for another thread). Rich chicken stock with good salt, a bit of carrot and some pretty hefty chunks of potato that overcooked, but in a good way. I lapped it up and asked for some more broth, knowing full well that that extra soup would displace an extra pierogi later, but couldn't imagine it wouldn't be worth it.
The salad was a bit of a surprise. Ours had no beets, just radish, I think, or maybe it was turnip, and carrots, with black sesame rather than poppy seeds. It was awfully like a Korean salad and I'm remembering a recent thread about Korean salad at Ukrainian or Uzbekistani restaurants? and perhaps the lineage is the same?
My companion and I are both happy gluttons so we ordered a mixed plate of pierogis to start, two of each of the meat, the sauerkraut, and the potato. The meat and sauerkraut were terrific, the potato was not impressive but maybe it's just I don't get potato, butter and cheese wrapped in dough. On the other hand I like salmon three ways so maybe need to examine my prejudices. I don't pretend to know pierogis, but I did think the dough was heavy around the edges. Maybe they're not supposed to be like wontons or ravioli.
On Bob's enthusiastic recommendation I ordered the pork cutlet, and narrowly dissuaded my friend from ordering a goulash AND a kielbasa dinner by pointing out he could start with the kielbasa side order and looking imploringly at the waitress.
The bread was a disappointment. I don't like rye so didn't try it, but it looked like sliced commercial bread.
I didn't much care for my cutlet which seemed dry, but enjoyed the bits of goulash I tasted, as well as the potato dumplings which looked like turned potatoes and tasted like heavy gnocchi (my friend compared them to something that were I to spell it phonetically would look something like kertofeles). The much touted fresh vegetables included frozen peas (which I don't mind) and canned corn (which I do). The dessert, which we declined (even gluttons have a limit) was served (and eaten) anyway: jello with whipped cream and raisins.
I will say that all the other customers surely tipped the scales at 250 plus pounds, which will give me pause before I return, but it's the only factor. The server/owners were careful and concerned, the food quite good (and did I mention the portions?) and the atmosphere, which has been described here somewhat apologetically as kitschy, was surely that, but also cozy, and also maybe a little creepy, but in a homey way. When Johnny Mathis came on the second time singing Nature Boy my friend and I simultaneously entered a slow-motion sequence in which double-breasted suits flung open the door and opened up on the ill-assorted tables, blood spattering the mural on and the 3-D mallard on the wall, arcing up to spit on the grimy stuffed pig dangling from the ceiling, shattering rows of vodka, beer, and drambuie bottles arranged like trophies in the case separating the kitchen from the dining room.
BYOB, and they're open Wednesdays through Sundays only. I'd recommend Polka as a venue for a Chowhound event.
I think the decor just plays upon the way that Polish people decorate. Adam said he felt like he walked into his grandmother's house.
As for the pierogi, the dough is supposed to be heavier and not wanton-like, so it was appropriate. They talked about it when they were featured on Diners, Drive Ins and Dives.
Every time I go there, I've noticed that there's a different soup, salad, and dessert. Sometimes the desert is jello, sometimes it's pudding, sometimes it's cake... but no matter what, it's always good! Same is true of the soup.
But the best part of Polka to me is the family who runs it. They actually make everything! Every time I'm there, I see their little girl too. She's adorable and so sweet.
4112 Verdugo Rd, Los Angeles, CA 90065