How many Polish restaurants does it take to fill out our ballot for Chicago's best? 10... What? Were you expecting some kind of joke? From pierogies to party banquets, here are the places where we'd feel confident bringing Coach Ditka.
The Ditka Awards: Chicago's 10 best Polish spots
Best Pierogi: Staropolska (click here for address and deets)
When you’re not tipping back a Zywiec or Okocim draft, sidle up to the fireplace at this Polish mountain tavern for an assortment of pierogies: bacon, sauerkraut, or potato cheese (which are dynamite). Four of them come with the two-person special along with stew, veal scaloppini, chicken breast with cranberry sauce, and stuffed mushrooms.
Best Cabbage: Podhalanka (click here for address and deets)
This Old World dive offers a smorgasbord of authentic dishes and knows how to work with greens, from their sour cabbage soup (kapusniak) with chicken and rice, to an unrivaled cabbage roll (golabki) stuffed with pork and sweet tomato sauce. Be warned: unless you actually bring Coach Ditka with you, you will have leftovers.
Best Latkes: Smak-Tak (click here for address and deets)
There’s no talking-smack when it comes to... Smak-Tak (!), especially when you’re inside the snug Alpine lodge devouring a set of perfectly crisp potato pancakes with sour cream and apple sauce.
Best Kielbasa: Kurowski's Butcher Shop (click here for address and deets)
The Polish superstore has a worthy meat counter filled with smoked sausages, ham, and kielbasa. Sure, almost everything’s in Polish and the grocer’s English might get lost in translation, but if that isn't a sign of being good, we don't know what is.
Best Lunch Stop Outside of Milwaukee Ave: Pierogi Heaven (click here for address and deets)
Enter the pearly gates of Pierogi Heaven, a lunch spot with 14 varieties of dumplings -- ranging from kraut & mushrooms to potato & cheddar -- all with the option to add extra bacon. With a new location near the Willis Tower, you should have enough time on your lunch break to eat AND stare at Magdalena Abakanowicz’s weird dismembered leg sculptures in Grant Park.
Best Borscht: Andrzej Grill (click here for address and deets)
Leading up to their pork cutlet or combo platter (three pierogies, stuffed cabbage, and sausage), dip into a cup of their unbeatable beet soup, which's served on Saturdays for just $2. Set the high score on their Super Cherry Master game while you wait.
Best Pastries: Old Warsaw (click here for address and deets)
If you’re by O’Hare, you’ll find this buffet and banquet hall pedaling cheese blintzes and the city’s top paczki. They even celebrate Paczki Day on Mardi Gras. Too cold to earn beads? Why not grab ahold of jelly-filled pastries?
Best Deli: Kasia’s Deli (click here for address and deets)
Kasia’s is so Polish, they sponsor a pierogi-eating competition (in which the winner gave everyone the one-finger salute). Stock up on hunter's stew, sautéed cabbage, and Alexandra’s pierogi... the best you can pull from a freezer.
Best Big-Polish-Dinner: Jolly Inn (click here for address and deets)
This diner and buffet has a full bar, which you may have to visit before unleashing your dance moves to the sweet sounds of Eastern European techno. This is the spot to be if you're hosting the reception for a big, fat, Polish wedding.
Most "Chicago" Meat Ever: Ditka Polish Sausage at Mike Ditka's Restaurant (click here for address and deets)
Our friends at Vienna Beef (who have many secrets) teamed up with the coach to create this shining symbol of our glorious symbol. It’s as if life is imitating art with the Bill Swerski's Superfans sketch.
1. Kasia's Deli2101 W Chicago Ave, Chicago
2. Ditka's Restaurant100 E Chestnut St, Chicago
3. Podhalanka1549 W Division St, Chicago
4. Staropolska Restaurant3030 N Milwaukee Ave, Chicago
5. Pierogi Heaven329 S Franklin St, Chicago
6. Andrzej Grill1022 N Western Ave, Chicago
7. Smak-Tak5961 N Elston Ave, Chicago
8. Kurowski's Butcher Shop2976 N Milwaukee Ave, Chicago
9. Old Warsaw Buffet4750 N Harlem Ave, Harwood Heights
10. Jolly Inn6501 W Irving Park Rd, Chicago
A great stop for Polish food aficionados and first-timers alike: stuffed cabbage, kielbasa, and, of course, their own signature pierogis -- they have 16 kinds, everything from a standard potato & cheese to blueberry or plum. Although Kasia's pierogis can be found in grocery stores nationwide, nothing compares to the freshness and quality one has with these fresh from the deli. In addition to pierogis, Kasia's has a great variety of sandwiches and soups.
Come to Ditka's Restaurant, and you might just see Da Coach himself. Walk right in, savor the legendary surroundings, and get down to business: it's time for Ditka's signature -- a jumbo Spicy Chili Cheese Polish.
The overlooked middle child of a busy West Town stretch of Division St., this cozy, Polish mainstay offers authentic home-cooking and plenty of comfort food. Inside a decades-stewed aroma of cabbage, beef, and potatoes gives you a proper "hello." The defiantly traditional fare: borscht with kielbasa, garlic-and-beef stuffed cabbage, and crispy potato pancakes with liberal dollops of sour cream and applesauce.
At this Logan Square establishment you can get all the pierogies you could ever want and anything else Polish.
Pierogi Heaven in the Loop is where to go to get some of the most authentic Polish food in Chicago. Whether you are looking for traditional meat-filled ones or vegetarian-friendly ones filled with potatoes, these pierogies, offered at six an order, are perfectly cooked to deliver a savory dining experience. If you're wanting something else than pierogies, you can order either stuffed cabbage or sausage. This no-frills counter-service location won't put you out very many bucks either, which will leave your tummy and wallet happy.
Visit Andrzej Grill for some potato pancakes and pierogies that will keep you nice and warm throughout the cold winter.
At Smak Tak, a Polish kitchen in Jefferson Park, you get the feeling you’re in a cabin basement in the Polski hinterlands. In a good way. With only five tables and all wood plank everything, this restaurant excels in specialties like potato pancakes, pierogis, and breaded and broiled meats. Let’s be real, you’ll take full advantage of Smak Tak’s BYOB policy because, well, it’s pretty dark in there, and what else is there to do in your middle-of-nowhere village anyway?
Authentic Polish cuisine and specialties like rye bread and sausages, Kurowski's Butcher Shop is the place to go for delicious treats.
Potato dumplings, stuffed cabbage, cheese blintzes, the list could go on and on, but why wait, get down there yourself. In the meantime you could prepare by loosening up some belt notches...