When you think of a no-frills, cash-only Polish lunch counter and restaurant, Little Poland is what you’re thinking of. Admittedly it can have an old and dark feel to it, so the best option is to sit up at the counter and get on with your meal. The staff is super friendly, so have a chat with them while dining on bigos (pork and sauerkraut stew) and cheese pierogis.
Polish G.I. Delicatessen
As strictly Polish restaurants dwindle in the East Village, the best option for Polish food is becoming small delis like the Polish G.I. Deli. This is a one-stop shop for all things Polish – everything from pickled fish to sausages to breads and jams can be found here. Many of the things in this store are very tough to find, like the Polish beer, for example. But if you head to the back of the store, the Polish chef who’s been running the operation since 1996 will make you homemade blintzes, borscht, and fried fish.
East Village Meat Market
Though technically the original owner, Julian Baczynsky, was Ukranian, the East Village Meat Market is an important Eastern European market that shouldn’t be missed. This block once housed three Eastern European butchers, but J. Baczynsky is the only one left. Come here to purchase their amazing house-smoked kielbasa (an Eastern European sausage), stuffed cabbage, or rice-filled blood sausage.
Greenpoint, Brooklyn is currently where most Polish New Yorkers reside, and Karczma, located there, is often called NYC’s best Polish restaurant. They serve amazing zurek (a traditional sour soup) in a bread bowl, plus of course pierogis and any other Polish dish you can imagine. It’s also known for its ambience – with waitresses dressed in traditional garb and the interior totally decked out.
Krolewskie Jadlo is a place to go for the experience. The whole restaurant has a medieval theme – two life-size knights greet you at the entrance. Its goal is to show diners Polish food outside of borscht and pierogis, so at Krolewskie Jadlo you can find things like roast duck leg, venison meatballs, and more. The name ‘Krolewskie Jadlo’ translates to ‘king’s feast’, so expect to be totally stuffed by the end.
On the other end of the spectrum, Pyza is a quick, no-frills Polish diner where the food is simple, cheap, and satisfying. The restaurant is always packed with locals looking for a taste of Poland, and the 40-item menu is sure to have what you’re looking for. Order at the counter, wait to be called, and pick up your lunch tray of goodies.
Hopefully you saved room for dessert, because Polish bakeries are some of the best and most thriving places to eat Polish food in NYC. And while there are numerous bakeries in Greenpoint, one of the best is Bakery Rzeszowska, where you can get all the cakes, danishes, and breads you could want. Don’t skip the cheese babka if you’re looking for something a tad more savory.