Best Polish Restaurants in Chicago
Podhalanka | © Adam Jones/Flickr
Chicago was once the political, cultural, and social capital for North America’s Polish communities. While the settlement known as Polish Downtown has since dispersed and been gentrified, Chicago’s Polish population is thriving and continues to be an important part of the city’s culture. Nowhere is this more evident than in the food scene, with some of the city’s best restaurants selling kielbasa and pierogis by the pound to locals, tourists, and even grocery stores across the nation.
Restaurant, Polish, American, European, $$$
Located on Milwaukee Avenue in Logan Square, Staropolska serves traditional Polish fare in a traditional setting. The restaurant’s lodge decor is worth the journey alone, as animal hides, chandeliers, and banquet tables perfectly complement the atmosphere where you can hear Polish spoken as much as English. The menu offers servings for families, couples, and personal platters if you can’t decide what to try, or if you already know you want a bit of everything. Of course, it’s best enjoyed with a draft Polish beer!
Restaurant, Polish, American, Fast Food, Vegetarian
If you’re out near Jefferson Park, you’ll find Smak-Tak, a seriously small (there are only a few tables) but charming family restaurant offering big portions of hearty food. Alongside the dumplings, stuffed cabbage rolls, and Polish stew, Smak-Tak also offers shish kebabs and baby back ribs. The Hungarian-style pancake, a crispy potato pancake filled with goulash, is a big seller. Get there early, since the restaurant closes at 9:00 pm.
Restaurant, Polish, American, Vegetarian, Vegan, $$$
Back in the city, in Chicago’s Polish Triangle at Ashland, Division, and Milwaukee Avenues, is Podhalanka, an old-school restaurant that’s all about the authentic menu and generous servings. Be warned: The waiter will order for you if you’re not sure what you want—which some people really enjoy—but it can mean you end up with more food than you need and a larger bill than you expect. Podhalanka does not serve alcohol and they only accept cash.
Restaurant, Polish, European
The menu at this lunch and early-dinner spot in the Loop unsurprisingly focuses on pierogis, offering more than 10 flavors, including sauerkraut and mushroom, potato and cheese, and a fruit mix. They can be bought in portions of six, nine, or 12 and come topped with fried onion, bacon, and sour cream. Pierogi Heaven also serves borscht, cabbage stuffed with meat, and sausage should you want a larger lunch.
Flo & Santos
Pizzeria, Restaurant, Polish, American, Fast Food, Vegetarian, $$$
If not all of your group want Polish food, this South Loop tavern serves a wide variety of appetizers, sandwiches, and pizza alongside its Polish goodies. You can even combine them on the Polish pizza topped with kielbasa, sauerkraut, and bacon. Other interesting variations include the Polish Reuben—with ham, sauerkraut and Polish dressing—and the Ravirogi, a Polish take on ravioli with a meat pierogi served in creamy tomato-bacon-vodka sauce. Don’t miss the Fried Pazkis, traditional Polish donuts, for dessert.
Restaurant, Polish, American, Vegetarian, Fast Food, Cocktails, Wine, Beer
Outside the city in Dunning, the Jolly Inn has been a staple for Poles in Chicago for more than 30 years. If you love home-cooked Polish food, bargains, and have a big appetite, they offer an all-you-can-eat buffet for under $10! There are more than 24 dishes to try including soups, salads, and sausages, alongside a roasted meat station and a salad bar, as well as a dessert bar for afterward. Having a party? The Jolly Inn has banquet halls and offers catering.
Deli, Polish, European, American, Vegetarian, Vegan
Kasia’s neighborhood Polish delicatessen dates back to 1982, and has been consistently ranked among Chicago’s best delis. Their pierogi has been voted Best in the City on multiple occasions, having been sampled by both President Bill Clinton and by Chicago Mayor Richard J. Daley. They also serve entrees including Hungarian stew and stuffed cabbage, as well as soups, salads, and cold cuts. The pierogi, blintzes, and potato pancakes are so popular you can pick them up in supermarkets across the country.