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Cafe Europa, New Chow-worthy Polish/Eastern European in Inner Richmond [San Francisco]

Still battered by a cold, but tired of soup dinners, I ventured out to my neighborhood and discovered Cafe Europa, a new Polish/Eastern European restaurant on California Street between 5th and 6th, on the same block (and side) as crowd favorite Mandalay.

The menu includes two types of pierogis, homemade pate, mushroom crepes, potato dumplings, borscht, mushroom soup, shopska salata, and gołąbki--dishes that span Eastern Europe, hopping borders from Poland to Croatia.

I ordered a mixed pierogi plate, beet salad and mushroom soup. The pierogi plate (half potato, half cabbage/mushroom) was really good. Handmade dough, lighter and more elegant than the pierogi I'd had recently at Gambrinus (an Eastern European pub by the Panhandle) and tossed in diced caramelized onions. The finished product was a crescent not bursting with filling but with enough flavor to compel another bite. Homestyle, if you have a good cook at home. Beet salad was a rough julienne threaded with raw white onions and left to chill in a vinaigrette that took down the bite. Good but a bit one-note: probably better if shared by 3-4 people, too much even for 2.

Mushroom soup was better than expected: too often these lean heavily on cream (sour or straight) or butter to carry the flavor through a mallet of richness that keeps pounding but never builds to anything greater than that. This had an earthy, almost meaty flavor from mushrooms that paired well with rough-chopped vegetables in a thick broth.I was pleasantly surprised by the number of vegetarian options on the menu, including everything I ate.

Bare bones site with address: http://europasf.com/

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  1. Pierogi pic

    Plus forgot to mention their Eastern European beer list. They have about 6 beers on tap (Belgian, German, Austrian, Czech) plus a bottle list with about 10 more esoteric (and Polish) options. Zywiec fans: note that they carry both pale lager and porter.

    1. Is there a selection of sausages on offer?

      3 Replies
      1. re: DavidT

        Two types of sausages--I snapped a pic of the menu and will post later when I'm not on my phone!

        1. re: DavidT

          Let's see how this works--if it's illegible, let me know and I'll transcribe it later

          1. re: pane

            Thanks for the menu pic. It looks pretty good.

        2. Sounds really good, especially on a rainy day like today. Did you notice if they are open for lunch and dinner or just dinner? Thanks!

          1 Reply
          1. re: The Librarian


            Tue-Fri 5:30 pm - 10 pm

            Sat-Sun 12 pm - 10 pm

          2. Yay!! It's been a few years since the Polish place in West Portal shut down. Awesome!

            1. Thank you! Great wild mushroom soup.

              1. Old World Food Truck never coincides with my schedule, so I came here last night for a pierogie fix.

                The pierogie dough was excellent. The dough was not thin to the point of translucency, but each skin was evenly rolled out, and cooked to give the right amount of chew. Good flavor too. Like pane mentioned above, the cabbage and mushroom filling was scant. In fact, my dining companion thought he'd eaten a potato pierogie due to the subtleness of the cabbage/mushroom filling. Still, the dough and caramelized onion topping was a great combo. I'd definitely come back again in a heartbeat.

                The dill soup was light and refreshing. Probably better than a similar soup I had at Podhalanka in Chicago over the summer.

                The goulash and dumplings were delicious, but needed a hefty dose of salt and pepper. The chicken and pork sausage had a good flavor, but wasn't especially juicy. The cabbage it came with was also underseasoned but otherwise very good.

                Any idea if they have any dessert?

                1. Shopska salata is a Bulgarian morning staple. Do they have any other BG dishes such as polneti??

                  2 Replies
                  1. re: arktos

                    Interesting, I didn't catch that. I guess it's on the menu pane posted, but "Shopska salata" isn't on their website and I don't recall it being on the menu last night. FWIW, my dining companion, whose wife is Romanian, commented that nothing struck him as uniquely Romanian.

                    I'm not sure where the chefs and owner are from, and will certainly ask next time. Pierogies aside, they don't use the Polish names for dishes on the menu.

                    1. re: hyperbowler

                      They're Russian speakers; I didn't hear anyone speaking Polish. The servers when I was there were from Belarus or Ukraine, I think?

                  2. Iit was hard for me to figure out exactly which Eastern European country the goulash was from. It wasn't anything like the ones I've had in Hungary, Poland, Slovania or the Czech Republic. It seemed more like a German one with the dumplings and lack of papricka. And it was very underseasoned.

                    I liked the herring they had there. I don't know if they get local herring and prep it themselves.

                    it was pretty dead when we wre there so I hope they get more traffic. I'd probably go back to try more food but not in a rush.

                    We actually liked the mushroom soup but found the potatoes in mushroom sauce to be very bland.

                    1. Our group ate there recently and enjoyed it very much. We ate the pierogies and the potato dumplings first, and I preferred the dumplings covered with the yummy mushroom sauce. For main dishes we had the stuffed cabbage. The two rolls were moist but firm and a generous size, filled with beef, pork and rice, and covered with mushroom sauce (can't get enough of this good stuff). They were simply delicious. Mashed potatoes as the side. We also tried the homemade chicken and pork sausage that came with mashed potatoes and sauerkraut. The sausage was very good and the kraut had minimal acidity and a bacon flavor. The beer list is unique and features brews from various eastern European countries in bottle and some on tap as well.
                      I would definitely return for more of their comfort food.

                      1. Went here a few weeks back and I identified the pork schnitzel as my new favorite dish.

                        Perfectly tender meat, cooked in fresh oil so the crust had vigor, almost snap. Super delicious; we fought over the last bite. Puffy scoop of mashed potatoes and one other side I can't remember (maybe...cabbage?).

                        1. Mrs. Wineguy and I had dinner at Café Europa last night.
                          We started with pierogies: half potato and half cabbage/mushroom. Both good. Also got a bowl of Borscht. It was a very light warm beet borscht with a dollop of sour cream and a couple of slices of delicious dark bread.
                          One entrée was pork sausage that came with sauerkraut and mashed potatoes. Sausage was under seasoned, but good. Mashed potatoes and sauerkraut were excellent. Other entrée was pork schnitzel. Very good, with flavorful and crisp breading. It came with some roasted potato pieces and that good sauerkraut.
                          Dessert choices were a cheese blintz and some slices of slightly stale poppyseed roll. We liked the blintz, probably wouldn’t get the poppyseed again.
                          Tried a few beers. On tap we had a Grimbergen (dark and a little malty) and a Duvel Single (kind of a pillowy pale ale) and shared a bottle of Bellerose (yeasty, hoppy).
                          I believe the owner in the front of house is Lithuanian and the owner/cook is Polish.
                          Overall our experience was positive and will definitely return.

                          1. I also ate there recently, I also had a positive experience. The beef stroganoff was great, but the mushroom sauce over the potato dumplings was killer. Really enjoyed that.

                            1. Finally tried this place the other night. I liked it. It's cozy, has a neighborhoody feel, and there was no wait to eat at the bar on a Friday night. However, the restaurant did fill up.

                              Mushroom crepes were on the light side. Thin pancake filled w/ mushrooms (I think dairy-free filling) and served with a mushroom sauce on the side. I liked that it wasn't too heavy. Nice flavors, but nothing earth-shattering.

                              Chicken schnitzel, served w/ sauerkraut, was also very straightforward. A bit dry, but tasted like something I'd get at a friend's grandmother's house. So I guess that is a good sign.

                              Dill soup was very nice...like hyperbowler says, it's light and refreshing. I would come back here for a bowl of soup and maybe another appetizer and it would make for a nice light meal.

                              Good beer selection, with several European options on tap and in bottles. I already forget what I had, though.

                              My favorite part of the meal was dessert, though, which was an apple cake. This was also on the lighter side—more like a coffee cake than a rich dessert. Again, it tasted like it was fresh out of a grandmother's kitchen.

                              Prices are fair—not cheap, but not very expensive given the quality of the food and the overall feel of the restaurant. I wish there were more places like this in SF—simple, neighborhood restaurants that serve good, non-fussy food. Most places I go to are either hole-in-the-walls or higher-end/big-deal type places, and it's nice to have a quality meal at a place that falls in between.