First Look: Polak Eatery
When I heard about a new modern Polish restaurant called Polak Eatery opening up in Humboldt Park I was skeptical. As a vegetarian and the granddaughter of Polish cooks I have come to expect almost every dish to be inedible due to sausage, bacon, lard or simply a lack of flavor. But I was encouraged to stop by Polak when I discovered that the same people who started the immensely popular Pierogi Wagon food truck were behind it. I finally took the leap (on National Pierogi Day, no less) and recommend you do the same.
Polak Eatery sits on a quiet strip of California Avenue not far from the future “Sodikoff Corner” at California and Augusta. The interior of the restaurant looks as different from my Polish grandmother’s kitchen as humanly possible: exposed brick, sleek wooden furniture and a clean, neutral color palette. No doilies or stained glass knickknacks here. A minimalist menu hanging behind the counter guides you through the ordering process, all of which is done before you sit down, coffee shop style. First you select your pierogi flavors from the four options then you choose your toppings. Orders come in sizes of either four or six pierogi, and you can mix and match flavors if you can’t decide on just one.
An astounding three out of four of the pierogi choices are vegetarian, so I tried them all. The pierogi arrived at my table searing hot with crisp, golden outsides and wonderfully thick and doughy insides. The dough-to-filling ratio was impeccable and allowed the distinct flavors to come through. The Spinach and Ricotta is the star, with a strong dose of black pepper to balance out the rich cheese filling. Top it with sauerkraut, spicy grilled onions and sour cream for the full effect. Another winner is the Kraut and Mushroom, which bursts at the seams with fresh, hot mushrooms and tangy sauerkraut. Other choices include Cheddar and Potato and Braised Beef, and if you’re still hungry you can add a side of kielbasa to any order.
In addition to savory options, Polak offers an excellent breakfast plate which features four sweet cheese pierogi topped with a juicy, strawberry reduction and a generous dollop of cream. Another breakfast plate comes with kielbasa, eggs and two cheddar pierogi. Fresh brewed Intelligentsia coffee and a selection of bottled drinks are available to wash down the meal, and if you’re just passing by, giant oatmeal chocolate chip cookies and espresso-infused brownies are offered for the grab-and-go crowd.
Polak Eatery is located at 1043 N. California Ave. It is open 6:30 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. Tuesday through Friday, 9:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, and closed on Mondays.
By Carrie Laski