Lest you think we only ate pierogis and galumpki in Poland, we did eat at several fine restaurants…or as they say, restauracja!
Polish service is paced differently from US service. In the US, almost as soon as you are seated the waiter gets drinks to the table and plenty of ice-water. In Poland, they let you sit a while, and when you place a drink order, you sit a while longer. We experienced this in every restaurant, in every town.
Further, ice is not something you can get in quantity in Europe. Occasionally we would get a waiter that would say, “Oh, you’re Americans? I got you.” and he would bring a wine bucket filled with ice. This was, however, rare. If you ordered a cocktail the three ice cubes in it might not make it to the table before they melted.
That said, once your experience had begun, the service and the food were always fantastic.
When we stayed in Czestochowa we were at an old Palace that had gorgeous grounds and a very nice restaurant. One day we had lunch, complete with a couple of nap-inducing bottles of wine and everyone’s meal was superb!
When we left Czestochowa, we stopped in a small town called Wadowice (vahd-0-veechay) and ate at a small cafe. Sitting outdoors on the main square we were pleasantly surprised that this humble cafe with record slow service turned out to be some of the best food of the week!
One of the things the Poles do really well is mushrooms. Wild mushrooms of all kinds, porcini, chanterelles, boletus, they were everywhere and always good.
This is not a knock on any other city in Poland but the best restaurants for us were in Krakow. It’s a big international city and the quality of most restaurants seemed to be a notch above. From the moment you enter places like Pod Aniolami (Under the Angel)–and even before entering–it was beautiful. From the frescos on the outer wall, to the warm rich colors, this restaurant was a fantastic experience and one I would recommend to anyone!
We also ate one night in the Jewish Quarter of Krakow. The place was the Restauracja Rubinstein, a 15th century building which had once been the home of Helena Rubinstein. The Jewish quarter is one of the most charming night spots in Krakow with outdoor cafes and roving Klezmer bands serenading. It didn’t hurt that we had perfect weather! The restaurant featured a Jewish menu which included four courses. Radek got that and we all got to sample it.
I had been craving duck since we arrived because it was on every menu but each restaurant had sold out for the night. So I got a roasted half duck and it did not disappoint!
Perhaps the finest dining in Krakow was Ancora. This restaurant had a high-end gourmet menu.
While the food always looked good, at Ancora it was like a work of art on the plate.
While Ancora was easily the finest menu we saw, the finest experience was, hands-down, Wierzynek (ver-shevik). Dating back to 1364, it is the oldest restaurant in Poland. I had braised goose! It was smokey and slightly exotic tasting but cooked perfectly and as delicious as anything I had in Poland!
We at at many other fine restaurants and Warsaw had plenty of them, but these were the stand-outs!