Comfort food par excellence, Polish dishes make you think of late autumn days and cozy winters spent at home, under a warm blanket or at a candlelight dinner.
It’s rich and savory, bearing numerous influences from Slavic countries like Russia, Czech Republic, Slovakia, but also Central European ones like Germany, Austria and Hungary.
That’s why I thought Polish food deserved its own day tasting tour, and I wasn’t wrong.
Warsaw was our main food destination, but we also had some traditional tastings in Gdansk.
Eating out in Poland, whether it’s Poznan, Gdansk or Warsaw, is a bit cheaper than in Romania. For instance, a fine dining experience for two people (lunch) goes for 40€.
In terms of eating habits of the Polish, I was impressed with the huge portions at each restaurant, even for the starters. This is where my habits collided with theirs since my portions are always smaller than usual, and I dislike wasting food.
From fine dining to street food and hotel menus, we’ll explore some of the traditional Polish dishes for you to try during a holiday in Poland.
I’ve also included two awesome coffee places in Warsaw that interior styling fans will surely appreciate.
That’s because most of the going out places in Poland are gorgeously designed, speaking of their highly creative spirit. Their passion for mixing and matching the most interesting items create a unique atmosphere and interior style.
Top Polish Dishes and Restaurants in Warsaw & Gdansk
1. Pierogi – Pierogarnia Mandu, Gdansk
Russians have pel’meni (Moldavians too), Italians have ravioli, Japanese have kyosa, Romanians have colțunași, and Polish have pierogi.
Pierogi are filled dumplings made out of unleavened dough with meaty, vegetable or sweet fillings, usually served with sour cream and other sauces.
We chose to sample them at Pierogarnia Mandu in Gdansk because they specialize in making this Polish comfort dish.
The restaurant was full when we got there for dinner, around 7.30 p.m., and we had to wait a bit for the order (25 min), but since pierogi were freshly handmade, I felt it was worth it.
We had pierogi with duck filling and mushroom sauce, pork-filled pierogi and pelmeni rushki with pork and garlic accompanied by sour cream.
The standard portion was 10 pierogi, but the pelmeni ruski went for 15 pieces. Now imagine we had to sample 35 pieces just because the mix and match was not an option. It was the hardest tasting experience so far.
Except these huge portions, the food was great, the prices fair and the staff very helpful. Do try it, if you happen to visit Gdansk.
Address: Elżbietańska 4/8, 80-894 Gdańsk, Poland
2. Duck Specialty and Smoked Fish plate – Kafe Zielony Niedzwiedz, Warsaw
If you want a fine dining experience, then Kafe Zielony Niedzwiedz (translates Green Bear Café) is the place to go.
We were there to try the famous bigos, a traditional Polish stew, but since they don’t make it anymore, we went for some other delicious dishes.
The smoked fish plate was lovely, and had three fish varieties typically served in Poland. It was supposed to be a starter, but the size of it was that of a main course.
The great surprise was the slowly cooked duck specialty. Polish cuisine has a lot of duck and goose dishes, so I’ve tasted some of them during my Polish trip, but this one was amazing – crispy on the outside, tender on the inside, and with a creative accompaniment.
The food and service at Kafe Zielony Niedzwiedz was excellent, prices were higher than other places in Poland but also fair, not to mention the great scenery of its location – Karol Beyer Park.
*Interesting enough, Karol Beyer is considered to be the father of Polish Photography.
Address for Kafe Zielony Niedzwiedz: Smolna 4, 00-375 Warszawa, Poland
3. Bigos, Kielbasa, Zurek Soup – Zapiecek, Warsaw
Bigos, Kielbasa and Zurek Soup are in top 5 traditional Polish dishes, along with Pierogi and Zapiekanka.
Bigos is a stew of bacon, kielbasa, vegetable stock, red wine, cranberries, pork, and goose that is slowly cooked for 5 days. Of course, Warsaw restaurants offer many variations of bigos, and my guess is they don’t take 5 days to prepare.
The bigos we tasted at Zapiecek was served with a vodka shot and contained bacon, kielbasa, vegetable stock, red wine and pork, but had no goose or cranberries. Instead, it had more cabbage, dried and roasted plums that added a smoked flavor to this dish.
Kielbasa is a Polish sausage that looks and tastes similar to bratwurst, giving out the German origin of this dish. Since I love bratwurst, I also loved kielbasa. 🙂
Zurek is sour rye soup with meat that also comes in many variations across Poland. It’s served with a hard-boiled egg and horseradish spread.
The one I tasted at Zapiecek was more fluid than the traditional ones I’ve seen during my research, but it was just what I needed in a cold autumn evening in Warsaw.
About that horseradish spread… oh, my, it’s amazing! Had it three times in Poland and it was a delight. We also make a light version of it in Romania, but the Polish one seems to be the very cure for colds. With the chilly weather in Poland, there’s no wonder they served it with every meal.
To optimize our food tasting tour in Warsaw, we went to Zapiecek, a restaurant chain that serves these Polish dishes.
My guess is this is not the best place to taste these Polish dishes because of all the streamlining going on in any restaurant chain, but my curiosity and time constraint made me choose it. The food was good and affordable, the service too, but you can also search for other traditional Polish restaurants, if you have more time to spend in Warsaw.
Address for Zapiecek : Freta 18, 00-227 Warszawa, Poland
4. Paczki & Sokół – two must-try sweets in Warsaw – Cukiernia Strzałkowski
Polish have a sweet tooth and you can see that in the number of Belgian waffle and ice cream shops at every street corner in Warsaw and Gdansk. Funniest thing, they’re all named Lody, which is Polish for ice cream.
But these are not the Polish sweets you need to try, although I admit that great vanilla scent made be buy a waffle in Gdansk.
Two Polish sweets worth tasting are Paczki & Sokół.
Paczki are the delicious Polish donuts filled with strawberry jam and sprinkled with confectionary sugar, and strikingly similar to those prepared in Romania.
We had them at Cukiernia Strzałkowski, a hidden cake shop in Warsaw’s Old Town, that was recommended to us by locals.
The initial plan was to try them at Praconnia Cukiernicza, a 90 years old place that holds the same recipe as before the war, and it’s considered the best place to eat Polish donuts in Warsaw. Unfortunately, we didn’t have enough time to get on that side of town, but maybe you will.
Sokół is a Polish coffee cream cake that looks like a marshmallow sandwich, and it’s divine. I discovered it at Cukiernia Strzałkowski in Warsaw, and I’ve been wondering about how to cook that perfect marshmallow ever since.
Address for Cukiernia Strzałkowski: Świętojańska 15, 00-266 Warszawa, Poland
5. Steak Tartare
The staple of Polish cuisine is meat, so my guess it’s pretty hard to be a vegetarian in Poland. 🙂
Steak tartare was pretty common in restaurant menus and I’m a fan, so I had to try this meaty dish. I had it at a hotel restaurant in Warsaw (Campanile), and it was beyond delicious.
I guess you can try it anywhere, but I recommend a good restaurant for this tasting, since we’re talking about raw beef that needs to be fresh.
6. Traditional Polish Breakfast – Hotel Amber, Gdansk
Hotel Amber was great in everything, so I highly recommend this place, if you visit Gdansk.
The setting is marvelous, looking like a mountain resort and well hidden in a small forest. We had a top floor room with a splendid view to the port and loved their accommodation – cozy room, great bed, very clean.
One of the things I’m keen on when it comes to evaluating a hotel is the breakfast. That’s because a continental breakfast can never compete with a local one, and few hotels seem to care about this detail.
Amber Hotel in Gdansk is one of the few European hotels that go beyond by offering a traditional breakfast.
We woke up to a rainstorm in Gdansk and had to stay in for three extra hours. So I was really glad the breakfast at Amber Hotel was a traditional one, serving goose and duck pates, marinated and smoked fish – a well-deserved indulgence on a fierce weather like that.
Sorry for the pic, it was too early (7 a.m.) when I took this dessert plate instead of the actual breakfast plate. 🙂
Two Amazing Coffee Places in Warsaw
Polish interior design and styling is one of the things I loved most about Poland.
Their attention to detail is fascinating while their bold styling mix makes each space unique. Polish interior design clearly speaks creativity to me, and I’m so happy I got to see at least these two coffee places in Warsaw.
Raj w Niebie is one place you shouldn’t miss in Warsaw.
It’s off the beaten path, serves great coffee, even if it’s a Hawaiian restaurant, and their interior design and styling is fabulous.
They have this great all blue room and so many gorgeous details in the colorful restaurant section, high ceilings, and an echo that makes you whisper.
Polish people also get creative with the names of their restaurants – Raj w Niebie translates to “Paradise in Heaven”.
Krem is a beautiful designed café near the University of Technology in Warsaw.
Its gorgeous minimal style and very welcoming staff make it the perfect place for a coffee break. We stopped for lemonade and a well-deserved pause from all the walking we did in Warsaw and found the place enchanting.
Again, the interior styling of this small café is amazing.
The mirror, the portrait on the wall, the gorgeous dim lights and the color palette somehow reminded me of vintage cafés in Paris, but with a modern twist.
My instagram friend Sophia recommended these two coffee places to me, after her summer trip in Poland. She’s even more passionate about interior styling than I am, so I trust her tastes when it comes to choosing the best coffee places for design & styling in Europe.
Both places were amazing, so I also recommend you check them out when visiting Warsaw.
Raj w Niebie: Nowy Świat 21, 00-029 Warszawa, Poland
Krem: Śniadeckich 18, 00-001 Warszawa, Poland
Thoughts on Polish Food
The horseradish spread, the duck and goose pates, the slowly cooked duck, the smoked fish and the Sokół cake were my favorite Polish dishes.
When it comes to odd food combinations, the way they serve meats with cranberry sauce reminded me of Swedish meatballs and found the horseradish spread on hard-boiled egg a great combo.
Most people will wander about Polish drinks. Well, we had a taste of their pretty flavored vodka and liqueurs, but we’re not alcohol fans, even if we occasionally organize wine tasting gatherings with our friends.
I’ve excluded Polish drinks from this food tour intentionally. That’s because I got the impression that alcohol consumption in Poland is beyond high, and that’s one thing I didn’t like about this trip. Let’s just say I experienced a cultural shock in Poznan on this matter, so better leave some things unsaid for now.
Apart from that, Poland is all about good, slowly cooked comfort food and delicious sweets, making me regret we didn’t have the time to taste all their goodies.
But if you have more time, I hear Zapiekanka (street food similar to pizza but with bread) and Flaczki (beef tripe stew or soup) are two other must-taste Polish dishes.
Hope you enjoyed my Polish Food Tour in Warsaw and Gdansk, and it will come in handy when visiting Poland.
Poland Trip: Poznan, Gdansk, Warsaw | September 2017 | All Photography ©Ana Matei > Follow me on instagram: @MateiAna
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