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Jul 15, 2012 08:49 AM

Polish Options - Downtown

Hello Chicago!

My Wife and will be there Wed-Sat. Our first visit.

I am Canadian and my wife is Polish. We have a big Polish community here in Toronto (not like Chicago) and many great places to eat but mostly confined to one or two areas of the city.

I am looking for a good option downtown (no car) or somethng easy to get to. I am not looking for fine dining but I don't want a dive either.

Your suggestions are much appreciated.

We will be at the Palmer house and walking is not an issue for us.



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  1. All the Polish restaurants I can think of are NOT downtown but I can tell you how to get there without a car. From the Palmer House walk north a couple of blocks and find the northwest corner of State Street and Madison. You will see a bus shelter with stops posted for many buses. The one you are looking for is the 56 Milwaukee. Ask the driver to call Hamlin Street. The trip will take 25-30 minutes. When you alight at Hamlin you will be almost exactly in front of The Red Apple, 3121 N Milwaukee, a Polish smorgasbord. Not fancy but not a dive---casual, neighborhood, mostly Polish is spoken---there are other Polish stores nearby selling bakery, deli, groceries, gifts, clothing, and liquor (Avondale Liquors has Polish Cherry). That is the closest to downtown I can think of. Another option is Staropolska, 5249 W Belmont. From downtown take the Red Line subway, which runs under State Street, in the direction of Howard, and get off at Belmont then take the 77 Belmont bus (traveling west it will stop on the north side of Belmont) to the restaurant. In the vicinity of Staropolska there are other Polish businesses---many good bakeries---try Chicago Yelp for specifics---Oak Mill Bakery, 5753 W Belmont is one. Welcome to Chicago and enjoy the pierogies.

    1 Reply
    1. re: Querencia

      Great Info. Thank you for taking the time.

    2. Closer to downtown is Andrzej Grill.
      One of the better Polish places in the state.

      1. Podhalanka is a much better option. It's a longtime favorite here (almost thirty years), and the best Polish restaurant in the Chicago area. It's also MUCH easier to get to from the Palmer House Hilton - one ride on the el (subway) and it's right at the el stop, just a couple miles from downtown. It should take no more than about 10 minutes (Google Maps says 11 minutes door to door by el). From the Palmer House, walk one block west to the Blue Line el stop at Monroe and Dearborn. Catch the Blue Line train in the direction that says "To O'Hare". Go five stops to the Division stop. When you walk upstairs from the subway, the restaurant is just a few doors west on Division. That's all there is too it - simple and quick. Enjoy!

        1549 W Division St
        Chicago IL 60622
        (773) 486-6655
        Menu -
        Tribune article -

        8 Replies
        1. re: nsxtasy

          If you do go to Podhalanka, don't' let the owner's nephew upsell you on anything. The last time I was there in February he was very pushy and we ended up paying more than we expected to. I felt as if I had been misled. He refused to deduct charges from the bill for things he gave the impression that he was throwing in for free.

          1. re: nsxtasy

            Thanks. This sounds good and easy for us to find.

              1. re: bjinyyz

                Quick question:

                What is the more interesting area to visit. Avandale of Jefferson Park?

                1. re: bjinyyz

                  Avondale, which is Milwaukee Avenue running south of Belmont for a few blocks, is what is left of an old Polish neighborhood---as immigrants become affluent they move to the suburbs. It has Avondale Liquors, which carries Polish Cherry etc and perhaps a dozen other Polish stores including gift and clothing shops, grocery stores, delicatessens, and bakeries. Someone else will have to advise you about Jefferson Park as I know it only as a big bus terminal. We don't really have a compact "Polish neighborhood" as, for example, we have an intensely Indian/Pakistani neighborhood around Devon & Western. A fair number of Polish businesses remain along major cross-streets like Belmont or Lawrence out about 5000 West---if you take a bus out there you will see a lot of Polish signage. There's also an area remaining along South Archer (the route of Bus # 62) with Polish bakeries (Weber Bakery, Racine Bakery, Pticek's Bakery) and a big deli with its own sausage factory (Bobek's). Residential streets off Archer, for example Narragansett, have neat homes, many with Catholic shrines in the front garden, and these tend to be old Slavic neighborhoods (Polish, Bohemian, Lithuanian). Another (small) possibility for you, quite close to downtown, is Ann's Bakery, corner Chicago Avenue and Leavitt, which actually is Russian but everybody there is always speaking Polish. This is an old Ukranian neighborhood.

              2. re: nsxtasy

                Based on this post, I tried Podhalanka and was disappointed. I should have stuck with potato pancakes or pierogies but Greg convinced me that the boiled beef with horseradish sauce was the better option. Very tough and stringy beef with dilute insipid milky horseradish sauce. Mushroom soup was hearty but not that flavorful. Shredded beets were tasty and the best part of the meal. There is a dish I've had in Munich a few times called Tafelspitz that is my ideal for this dish and unfortunately this dish was it's poor almost unrecognizable cousin. I really wanted to like this place as it reminds me of the Hungarian places in my old hometown (Toronto). Did I order badly? Other tables seemed to really enjoy their latkes and pierogies.

                1. re: gourmaniac

                  I like the pierogies and the white borscht very much. I've usually been disappointed with the stews and meat entrees--more like what you'd expect from a diner run by Eastern Europeans who are trying to keep the costs down.

                  1. re: jbw

                    Podhalanka was great until about two years ago. The nephew is running the place into the ground.