What do you think of when you hear “Polish food”? I usually think of a lot of typical Eastern European flair like meat and potatoes. And while, yes, Jeff and I had several meals that were just that, we were floored with the flavors and restaurants we frequented. Between pierogies, potatoes, and pancakes, we were stuffed and completely satisfied!
Here are a few places we tried and dishes we sampled so you can find these remarkable (and gluten-free) places inside Krakow.
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ul. sw. Gertrudy 21
31-049 Krakow, Poland
This fantastic place is located right near Wawel Castle and Planty Park. It’s tucked away down a side street, but when you find it, the food is completely worth going inside. It’s heavy with dark wood and dim candles, and it set the mood perfectly for the kinds of food we were getting.
I ordered Crepes with Spinach and a Pesto Cheese Sauce, which I shared with Jeff. This restaurant has a full gluten-free menu, and I was thrilled to have crepes for the first time in years. It was very spongy but light, and the flavors were lovely. Just as the snow fell outside, they brought out boiled meat with steamed vegetables. I had this dish in Munich, and while it may sound like a strange choice, it was quite delicious. They also serve pickled cabbage with the meal, which I had never had before and was pleasantly surprised.
For the gluten-free traveler, this place is a must.
Trezo Restauracja Cafe and Bar
31-052 Krakow, ul. Miodowa 33
In the heart of the Kazimierz neighborhood, this fantastic, high end restaurant is a place for a romantic night out. Jeff and I actually went for lunch, so we had the space mostly to ourselves, but the staff went out of their way to help us understand the menu and pick what we would like.
After we ordered, they brought us a free starter: mushroom mousse that was creamy, airy and garlicy. For my meal, I got the perch with spinach, asparagus and scalloped potatoes, and it came as a lovely presentation. It was fresh, light and just what I needed after a long day of walking and touring around.
Jeff ordered the cheesecake for dessert which was more crumbly than creamy, so he wasn’t a fan. I opted out of a sweet for a Jamaican coffee (espresso and rum), but we were still given a complimentary shot of lemon, vanilla and honey homemade vodka.
U Babci Maliny
Sławkowska 17, Kraków, Poland
This place is a hidden gem right in the middle of Old Town. If you’re not looking for the logo of the rosy cheeked and spectacled woman, you’ll never find it. On the street, right on the corner of Swietego Marka and Slawkowska, you’ll see this logo hanging above your head. Then you walk through a large wooden door and go through what looks like a museum or library to the back courtyard where you see a welcoming sign telling you to go downstairs for “cellar Polish food.”
It was another world as you go down some stairs and walk past an older gentleman collecting coins for use of the WC. Then you go through a creaky door and suddenly you’re in a Hollywood set piece for an Old West diner/saloon. The walls are decorated with signed pictures with the owner (I assume) and a huge fish tank in the middle. There are also all kinds of old world knick-knacks and antique furniture.
In a family style set up with long benches, you are given huge portions of amazing food. I had a rustic and home cooked salmon with potatoes. Jeff loved his stuffed chicken breast with carrot and pineapple salad. It was exactly what we had hoped for with Polish home cooking.
Starka Restaurant and Vodkas
ul. Jozefa 14, Krakow
This place is amazing! There are not enough words to describe the food and vodkas here. Rated as one of the top three restaurants in the Kazimierz neighborhood, we managed to fight our way in without a reservation, which I would not recommend. Call ahead so you don’t miss out.
Immediately greeting you on the bar is about 15 different colored vodka bottles showing off their intense list of infusions. Jeff had a ginger shot and I had the honey and herbal while they got our table ready. It was delightful and definitely made for sipping rather than shooting.
For an appetizer, I had the prunes wrapped in bacon, and it was utterly delicious. (For gluten-free, it was easy enough to pull off the crouton, but I’m sure you can ask for it without.) They may have been a bit heavy for a starter, but I made sure to get the lightest entree I could find: stuffed chicken breasts with nuts and broad bean sauce with honey caramelized vegetables.
Yes, that was the lightest thing on the menu, and it was amazing. To have with the meal, I ordered the horseradish vodka. I’m here to tell you, it’s awful. I can see it working in a Bloody Mary, but on its own, it was putrid. Jeff was smart and ordered the cumin flavor, and it was so sweet in comparison to what I was expecting.
I passed on dessert and instead had hazelnut vodka. Creamy and nutty, it tasted vaguely like butter and was the perfect digestif to such a fantastic meal. A high recommend for a nice night out and some tasty vodkas.
ul. Dietla 55, 31-054 Kraków
We cannot seem to go to a country and not have sushi. It is my favorite cuisine, so we found this amazing place on the outskirts of the Kazimierz neighborhood. From the outside, this place doesn’t look like much–even when you walk in the front door. But then we were escorted underground to a labyrinth of private rooms for some incredible eats.
We made it easy by ordering a couple starters and a “sushi set” that came in a massive boat. Paired with sake and edamame, it was the perfect last meal we had in Poland.
Sushi restaurants seemed to be dotted all around the city, but this one gets a high recommend from us for the service, location, and set up. Oh, and of course the food.
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Coffee Shops are a must in Krakow
Matras Ksiegarnia Book Shop and Cafe
Rynek Główny 23, 31-008 Kraków, Poland
This bookshop is sitting on the location for the oldest bookstore in Europe originally opening in 1610. The company has changed hands over the several centuries, and it’s a lovely, quiet bookstore in the middle of the Old Town. Jeff and I went there three times not for the Polish language books but rather the coffee shop in the back.
They had some incredible coffee choices like the Oriental Latte: a latte with chai spices. Jeff ordered it every single time and the smell was intoxicating, let alone the flavors. I had the Viennese coffee, which was a strong coffee with a mountain of whipped cream sprinkled with cinnamon. I usually take my coffee black, so the whipped treat really hit the spot.
I did try the Orange Mocha, and it was not my favorite. The chocolate was too thick and the orange was not complimentary to the coffee flavor. I wish I had stuck with the strong coffee with cream, but I had to know.
Felicjanek 10, 31-104 Kraków, Poland
Right next door to the Massolit Book Store (an absolute must-see) is this funky little corner cafe and bar. We learned about it through the Literary Map for Krakow. Its claim to fame is the wardrobes that have been converted into booths. We walked in and ordered our Bailey’s laced coffees and sat down in our wardrobe, but quickly we learned this must be a hangout for locals because we were subtly pushed out of our spot into a corner.
The smoky smell of cigarettes was already off-putting, so as we sat in our corner, we were feeling suffocated. It was a funky place to see with the red lights and staring painted eye on the blue walls, but it was not a favorite spot to hang out for a while.
A shop to mention:
ul. Nowtarska 3a, 34-500 Zakopane
I’m mentioning this place because if you are in the mood for cheap wine or beer to take back to your hotel or flat, you must locate this place. They have shelves from the floor to the ceiling covered in different beers and wine. Jeff found some excellent porter beers, and I tried something I would not recommend: Rose Hip Wine. It had the favorite flavor of rose, but it was thick and sweet like cough syrup. It was a sickeningly sweet consistency, but, I will say, after the second glass, it gets better.
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Tell me: what are your favorite eats in Poland?
Any places we should try when we go back?