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Krakow has many restaurants, a handful of which (Farina, Wentzl) are very, very good. I’d like to make a case, however, for enjoying Poland’s culinary staples and specialties al fresco standing on two feet. Yes, that’s right: Krakow has one kickin’ street food scene.

kielbasa 

Let’s start with the obvious: kielbasa. If you go to Krakow expecting to find delicious sausage, you won’t be disappointed. Yes, multiple varieties of cased meat are available in Poland’s third-largest city, and you should try some of them. I particularly recommend kielbasa biala, a white sausage made from pork, beef, and veal and seasoned with garlic, and krakowska, a spicy pork sausage usually served in cold slices.

But if you go to Krakow expecting only to find sausage, you are in for a wonderful surprise. Step away from the “meat in tube form”[1] and embrace other aspects of Polish cuisine as well as a few gourmet surprises. Most Americans associate pierogi with Poland, and indeed these egg dumplings are served everywhere from fancy restaurants to farmers’ markets. Don’t assume if you’ve tried one pierog, you’ve tried them all.  Over the course of just three days in Krakow, I spotted no fewer than 10 different types of pierogi, including but not limited cottage cheese, onion, mashed potato, sauerkraut, pork, mushrooms, and spinach.  There is also a delicious world of sweet pierogi, which are served more often as a snack or dessert and involve fillings such as prunes, raspberry, and strawberry jam. Pierogi are comfort fare, so consume them in casual fashion, such as from a corner vendor, who will ladle a half-dozen dumplings into a paper dish and then garnish them with sour cream or bacon to your liking.

While you’re strolling in Krakow’s winding cobblestone alleyways, there will be ample opportunity to sample the ubiquitous obwarzanki krakowski, a stretched out ring of crusty egg dough that many consider to be the ancestor of the Jewish-American bagel. They’re topped with cheese or sesame or poppy seeds and cost approximately 30 cents. For a more substantial snack, gravitate toward any of the stalls lining the massive square in the Old Town where you’ll find golonka unctuous pork knuckles roasted on an open spit and giant pans of golabki, cabbage rolls stuffed with ground beef, pork, and rice. Both are quintessential peasant fare whose rich flavors and hearty texture will easily fuel you for more traipsing around the city.

Inside a chocolate shop

Perhaps the only things that finally compelled me to step inside to eat was Krakow’s chocolate shops whose wares would easily put Willy Wonka out of business. Most famous and rightfully so is Wedel, which doubles as a café serving decadent chocolate beverages and desserts.  But don’t confine yourself to the crowd favorite as there are many other small confectioners selling fancy treats such as elegant chocolate figurines as well as more nosh-able goods like bars studded with raisins or toffee. Wherever you stop, remember to keep your time indoors short: there is much more to taste on the other side of the door. 

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[1] Anthony Bourdain’s definition of “sausage.”

Joanna O'Leary

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