Chicago is the biggest Polish city outside of Warsaw, and if all you know of it is hitting the Red Apple for their super-cheap buffet, you’re barely scratching the surface of the pierogi scene here. Here’s our guide to Chicago places that capture the Polish spirit, from grandmotherly to hipster. There are sit-down restaurants, sure, but for the full flavor of the scene, you have to visit delis full of hanging unpronounceable sausages and bakeries full of paczki and poppy seed coffee cakes, too. In case you’re afraid of getting lost in translation, we’ve also rated each spot’s general handle on English, from “Good” to “Pretty Good” to “Just Point at the Menu.”
Milwaukee Avenue has lost a lot of its old Polish diners and luncheonettes to gentrification, but instead of fading away, this longtime standby spiffed up a few years back with Ye Olde Poland decor like iron chandeliers, and it makes for a fun, Disney-like experience. The food is a little more sturdy than Smak-Tak’s, but it does well enough by classics like pierogi, potato pancakes, and devolay (chicken rouladen).