Blintzes and bigos for brunch?

When my girlfriend and I located the Queen’s Hideaway, on an obscure Greenpoint street, we had been expecting the buttery popovers with fresh strawberry preserves, as featured in New York Magazine’s Cheap List entry.  Instead, we found that they didn’t serve brunch at all, with no evidence that they ever had.  The dinner menu sure did make us hungry, though.  So we wandered back down towards the Manhattan Ave. strip and happened upon “Polska Restauracja,” located at 136 Greenpoint Ave.

Besides the plain-Jane name, the premises were also humble.  Consisting of a large dining room long on faux wood paneling and short on the usual diner seating (the booth-dividers have chairs on either side), it would be wise to avoid sitting too close to the bathroom, due to the strong chemical odor (I thought it smelled like a cherry cough drop).  Signs advertising the beer called Zywiec abound, and I wish I’d tried one – for whatever reason, I felt like a Diet Coke was a more appropriate brunch drink.  Warm in the can, poured over ice (which instantly renders the soda flat), it reminded me of summers with my mother on the Cape.  (That’s my best Sietsema imitation, kids.)

Of course, with or without beer, the food at Polska Restauracja was excellent, and much cheaper than the higher-profile restaurants around the corner on Manhattan Ave.  My entrée was the combination plate ($7), which featured sausage, bigos (a hunter’s stew – long on the cabbage and short on the meat, in this incarnation), stuffed cabbage, two fried pierogies with a cheddar-potato filling, and a side dish of mashed beets.  Bread was also offered (we declined).

The sausage was surprisingly excellent – having had plenty of previously frozen, dry sausage in my time, the juiciness of this link was appreciated.  It also differed from your average grocery store sausage by virtue of its chunky filling – store-bought kielbasa always seems too dense.  The stuffed cabbage was filled with seasoned meat and doused in an orange sauce that seemed to have been derived from tomato soup – tasty.  The bigos didn’t really resemble the dish of the same name I was familiar with from Veselka, but admirably filled the spot on the plate I would ordinarily have filled with sauerkraut – just a few chunks of meat among the cabbage and soupy sauce.

The two pierogies were also excellent, and my girlfriend had an order of her own (8 for $4) as her entrée.  The menu advertised them as homemade – while I couldn’t tell if they were, they were certainly better than the equivalent at most of the East Village pierogi outposts.  Besides the potato/cheese combination, the menu offered beef and a mushroom/sauerkraut combination.  I can vouch for the beef and potato variety (didn’t try the kraut pies) in either the boiled or fried preparation.

Of course, we were at brunch, and some sweets were in order – the potato pancakes (5 for $3) were one more item to dunk in the large portion of sour cream that accompanied the pierogies.  Not too greasy, but not dry, they resembled silver dollar pancakes in diameter, if not in taste.  I also spread them with beets, which made something that looked like a cream cheese and jelly sandwich, while tasting as little as possible like one.

The undisputed heavyweight champion of the meal was the order of two filled crepes known as blintzes ($4).  Fresh-cooked upon ordering, and taking a few minutes longer to arrive at our table than the rest of the meal, one blintz was filled with sweet, curdy cheese, and the other with fresh strawberries.  Thankfully free of grease and (perhaps as a result) not soggy, the blintzes were gone in an instant.

I’ll be back to Polska Restauracja.  The combination of cheap food, large portions, and the total perfection of their blintzes makes it one of the top restaurants I’ve been to in the last month.

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