Welcome to my latest post on my home neighborhood of Dorchester. You may have already seen my post on one of Dorchester’s Vietnamese restaurants, Banh Mi Ba Le, my visit to the JFK Library, or my suggestions for spending a day in Dorchester. This time around, we travel to another side of Dorchester, again just blocks from my own neighborhood, which is sometimes referred to as Dorchester’s Polish Triangle.
A trip to this area was perfect for the Saturday before Easter as many of the foods and traditions are similar to those I experienced growing up, spending Easter in Pennsylvania with the Slovakian side of my family. And it was doubly perfect because most of the food is not-so-light comfort food, just the thing for a really raw, rainy afternoon.
Our first stop was the cozy Café Polonia, a restaurant whose bright exterior is just the beginning of a warm and comforting experience. We were very lucky to get to Café Polonia when we did. It is a tiny place with just a handful of tables, and a table for two was just opening up. They were also closing in about an hour for a private party, which gave us plenty of time for a quick lunch.
Café Polonia features home-cooked Polish cuisine and Polish beers. In addition to their Dorchester location, they recently opened a Salem restaurant.
Its rustic wooden picnic tables are in a light-colored wood and adorned with fresh flowers, further adding to the brightness of the restaurant.
Once we were seated, we were given a basket of bread with a side of schmaltz, basically lard with bits of bacon in it. I passed, but the husband enjoyed a slice of bread with this spread.
For our beverages, I ordered a Zywiec Porter, a rich, dark beer with coffee and chocolate notes. Unfortunately, I did a terrible job of pouring it!
I had a hard time deciding on what to order for lunch, so we decided to split the potato pancakes and the Polish plate. Four hot, golden pancakes arrived in no time.
They were light, crispy, and fluffy, with nice onion flavors and a hint of dill. Tangy sour cream provided a cool, creamy contrast.
The Polish plate was made up of pierogies, kielbasa, and stuffed cabbage served with spicy mustard and freshly grated horseradish which I quickly grabbed and added to my sour cream . Fresh horseradish is one of my favorite ingredients. I love the heat! The food definitely reminded me of home.
The service at Café Polonia, which is always busy, is fantastic. It is really a neighborhood place. Many of the customers are Polish, and there is always a lot of merriment in their native languge. Our server was taking orders, cleaning tables, and bringing out food and drinks for all of the tables, yet he still took a second to chat with us and to wish us a Happy Easter.
After lunch, we headed back out into the rain and across the street to the Baltic Market, one of the several grocery stores in Dorchester specializing in Eastern European food. All ready for Easter, the Baltic Market was selling out of babka a sweet Polish bread found in many varieties including chocolate, raisin, and as you see here, cheese and cherry.
Almost everything in the Baltic Market is from Europe. The tiny store is well-stocked with juices, sauces, vegetables like pickled beet, horseradish, and of course, Polish beer.
They even sell Polish greeting cards! The line you see forming at the meat counter ended up being about 40 people long.
I almost had a perfect shot of the different types of meat available at the Baltic Market until this woman leaned into the shot. Picture a whole wall and counter with all sorts of sausage and cold cuts. The Baltic Deli, like the other Polish delis in the neighborhood, makes excellent sandwiches.
On my way out, I snapped a shot of some European chocolate that I love, Milka. One time trying Milka, and you will never be able to eat American chocolate again!
I am looking forward to visits to the Baltic Market for picnic sandwiches this summer. It is a great store to browse for all sorts of delicious international treats!
As you can see, Dorchester is a community that is thriving on its diversity. All in a matter of a few streets, you can go from eating a banh mi, to sipping a perfect pint of Guinness with some chips, to eating babka bread pudding and listening to a polka.
Do you have a favorite family tradition or traditions related to your cultural background?