HOU Polonia report
A largish group from the Houston Chapter of Chowhounds met here on Inauguration Night. We ordered family style selections from their menu.
For a start the room is small but congenial. You step from a strip mall into a pleasantly Old World looking space, with the typical corner bar (and attending Patron behind it, typical of a small family eatery in Europe), framed portraits and drapes. A pair of male / female dummies in one corner dressed in traditional Polish costume.
Those aside, with a bit of imagination you could imagine you have stumbled into here from a backstreet in Old Warsaw.
I thought the young waitress who managed a pretty large table (16-17 people) was really excellent. Good-natured and efficient. Just what you need. I think we added 20% tip and she certainly deserved it and then some.
So the food. Well as discussed with some of the people there, this is a bit like German food. Hearty and born of a climate which tends to be rigorous for a big swath of the year requiring much calorific fuel viz Meat, Potatoes, Dumplings. More meat, More potatoes, More dumplings. In short if you haven’t spent the day hewing logs in the Black Forest or building massive ships all day it can fill you up pretty rapidly!
I really liked a lot about it.
I thought one of the very best things were the pork drippings that started out things well on the dark rye bread. (Served in a little plastic tub easy to overlook but they shouldn’t be overlooked.)
The Pork Aspic I found quite OK but not quite seasoned / savory enough for my taste. The Herring with Sour Cream . . . well you can’t miss with that usually. It was quite popular and rightly so.
The main courses were served on platters and we could therefore try as many of each as we wanted. The “signature” Golonka (pork shank) was good. Quite a bland style of cooking and saucing but also quite authentic in look and feel. Again, if it were 20 below and snow & ice outside this would taste even better I bet. Probably in Houston’s summer it could be “a little” heavy. But who cares: it was well done and pretty much falling off the bone.
Pierogis were well done and popular. I am curious about the Silesian Dumplings (“Slaskie”) which are Saturday and Sunday specials only apparently.
Potato pancakes were thin and excellent.
Some excellent sizzling Polish sausage with sizzling onions were very nice especially with mustard/horseradish.
There was something like a smoked (or maybe just plain roast) pork cutlet which was quite good, but a little dry.
My favorite of all was “Roasted Pork Meat Loaf” which humble sounding or no hit the spot of all the main courses for me.
Sauerkraut and red cabbage and potatoes came on the side. Sweetish kraut which is not my personal favorite but authentic and certainly went well with the dishes.
The tap pilsner (especially served in 1L stein) was extremely drinkable and went well with the food. I did not have a chance to ascertain the wine choices. They also do hard liquor so all bases are covered.
I like the fact that it looks like this is primarily for Polish ex pats to get a meal from the Old Country. Sort of like Sunday roast Lunch @ the Red Lion is for me!
I made a scouting visit to the shop next door earlier and it was interesting that the 8 year-old daughter of the owner had to translate so that the man behind the meat counter (her father I expect) & I could communicate. I liked that. The goods there are all very authentic. I picked up some very peculiar soups and potions with instructions in Polish only. Their home-made pate though was a little disappointing (but it sure looked really good). Needed a bit more seasoning (salt) I thought. The fresh kielbasa was OK but underwhelmed me when I ate it back home. But it was interesting to try.
One thing (although not made in-house) I can recommend---(and not sure if it is the “Blood sausage” they serve on the Polonia menu but I expect it is)--- is the “Kiszka” blood sausage which they get from Andy’s Deli (in Chicago). This is essentially like the UK’s black pudding (I was actually wondering if this is what Feast served as black pudding ref previous post about that place) which is a blood sausage with groats or some other filler added. The best way to cook it (and black pudding) I think is surely to slice into ½” elongated slices by slicing 45 degrees across the link. Then pan fry slices UNTOUCHED till a crust forms (takes a while) and then you can manipulate the slices without them all falling apart into a ghastly mush. Then clear some of the grease and then cook a couple of fried eggs in the same pan. Great breakfast. I had to add a little salt to the Kiszka for my taste but otherwise this was good stuff.
Would I go back to Polonia? Definitely yes.
Comfort food. Probably most appreciated (like Yorkshire Pudding @ Red Lion) by those who grew up with it but pleasantly delivered to all without compromise, and with good service, pleasant room, quaffable lager and well-stocked bar.
Their desserts are few but pretty heavy (donuts, cheesecake). I always think of cream cake selections in Hamtramck MI bakeries and boy some fresh cream cakes would be even better here.
Thanks for reading. I can recommend Polonia.
1900 Blalock Rd
Houston, TX 77080
Great writeup. I'll have to give them a try. Sorry I missed it.
I've tried to get my pierogi and potato pancake fix at Kenny and Ziggys, but it wasn't prepared the way I was used to (Polish National Home in Hartford CT). For pierogis, I usually boil them briefly, then finish them in a skillet with some sauteed onions. Potato pancakes, I use shredded potatoes and potato flour/starch as a binder. At K&Z, the PPs seem like shredded potatoes and deep fried; the pierogis are either boiled or deep fried.
How are these two dishes done at Polonia?
On the potato pancakes: very fine texture, ultra thin, PERFECTLY cooked --- crisp but not a hint of burning. Garlic in evidence I thought (good thing! obviously). Made by someone who's made a LOT of potato pancakes (made it look easy which it is not).
I think some of the pierogis were sort of "pan finished" in the same manner you describe although the sauced ones I never got in reach of my part of the table so I cannot report. I forgot to mention the Bigos which was sort of not best plated with other stuff as it was hard to ascertain where it ended and other stuff started. Not hugely impressed with that dish for whatever reason. But a degree of "blandness" (I remember from earlier visits to Polish strongholds in MI) is par for the course so should not be any disqualification to its authenticity.