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Houstonians, you may not realize it, but the tastes of Warsaw, Krakow, Lodz, etc. are within your reach–and not necessarily through multi-leg flights from IAH. Both inner- and outer-loop residents can easily access stellar Polish fare via a short drive to Polonia, Houston’s premier Polish restaurant and supermarket.

Recently this beloved institution moved to a new location on Blalock Road in order to expand their grocery store adjacent to the restaurant. Now, patrons have access to an even greater selection of Polish products as well as prepared foods for takeout. What remains unchanged at Polonia’s new locale is the array of hand-crafted, authentic specialties guaranteed to open the eyes of newbies to Polish cuisine to a world beyond pierogi and kielbasa. (Though both, btw, are top-notch at Polonia.)

The large portions and generally hearty quality of the entrees may lead a disciplined diner at Polonia to skip a starter for fear of ordering too much food. But when it comes to eating out, especially at a place so special as Polonia, discipline is best left at home along with the dog. Reconcile yourself to leftovers and indulge in a first course, particularly one of the soups or appetizers that may push the limits of your comfort zone. I’m talking about super-briney herring with sour cream, a surprisingly successful marriage of seafood and dairy, or the pork aspic, whose gelatin texture and savory flavors are momentarily unsettlingly but permanently addictive. These dishes are especially refreshing in Houston’s hotter months; however, if you happen to visit Polonia during a cold snap, go for the żurek, a sour rye soup with a broth made pungent from fermentation and laced with smoky sausage and a whole hard-boiled eggs.

From these dishes move on to entrees that will stick even more to your bones, such as the bigos, a traditional hunter’s stew with mushrooms, sauerkraut, sausage, bacon, pork, and a dozen other vegetables and spices. Slightly tamer in terms of richness is the veal schnitzel, a larger cutlet pummeled into tender submission, then breaded and fried. Both of the aforementioned are served with cute mounds of mashed potatoes eager to soak up any extra juices.

Polonia’s true pièce de résistance, however, is the “combination plate for two,” whose pedestrian title masks the culinary magnificence of this sumptuous tray of kielbasa, duck legs, biogs, stuffed cabbage rolls, pierogi, meatloaf, mashed potatoes, and salad (in reality two lettuce leaves). Obviously not for vegetarians and probably only nutritionally necessary if you’re about to embark on a 1000-mile trek to Mordor, the combination plate is a must-order for those who want to enjoy a world-class buffet of terrifically prepared Polish staples.

After all that, it’s unlikely you’ll have room for dessert. Too bad because the blintzes stuffed with farmer’s cheese and your choice of fruit jam are very good. There’s no law against getting an order to go and it’s not like you didn’t need a takeout bag anyway.

Polonia
1780 Blalock Rd
Houston, TX 77080

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Joanna O'Leary

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