Podlasie, in Endicott, is not taking a creative or modern approach to Polish cuisine. But you know what, who cares? Because this unassuming, warm but spare eatery on 17C, just up the road from the Glendale complex is kicking it old school with soul-warming, earthy, homey food that will make you wonder why you haven't eaten here yet. The restaurant is immaculate, painted in welcoming reds and yellows, and perfectly laid back, with friendly, casual service. You've gotta go!
Podlaise always touts their homemade soups on their Facebook page, so I made sure to order the du jour. The tomato and rice soup was served in a large bowl, and was very well flavored through, though thinner than I would have expected from homemade cream of tomato soup. I suspect a good amount of tomato paste was the source of the deep flavor, and the perfectly cooked long grain white rice was a pleasant surprise - rice in soups is so often overcooked and flabby. Little rounds of French bread were served on the side. I think it would have been cool to have these toasted and buttered and floating on top, but that's just me trying to modernize something that's intentionally simple and traditional. Shame on me! I quite liked this taste of childhood, though we ate Campbell's in our house, and this was way better. I was merrily slurping soup and splattering it all over my glasses. I didn't mind one bit.
Just then, a very cute young cook came out to check how I liked the soup, and admitted that he had burnt my bread, sheepishly. No biggie, because about two minutes later, my also cute waitress delivered a new batch. It was softer, and warm deliciously through. The goodness of it surprised me. It was everything white bread should be: airy, golden on the outside, a pinch of salt in there giving the crumb just enough personality, and the wholesome goodness of your childhood singing through. I know I keep hearkening back to childhood, and I apologize, but this was just such honest, clean, home style food. Is there a tiny Polish child living inside me and I don't know it? Is that creepy?
Ok, enough with creepy conjoined Polish twins! Let's get to the pierogi! I chose a combo of the traditional potato and cheese and the sauerkraut with mushrooms.
And when Cute Cook popped out to ask me if I wanted bacon on top, I giggled and said yes. I mean, duh.
The pierogi at Podlasie are delicate and glistening, with highly rendered, almost crystallized bacon on top. You can taste the russet potato inside, mild farmers cheese surrendering to the earthy, comforting spud. The dough is tender in a way that betrays someone working it by hand, just enough to make it smooth and elastic enough to withstand the cooking process without too great a thickness or any hint of over-developed gluten. The bits of onion cooked down in the butter dousing the plate are like candy. But it's not too much butter - none of these babies are drowning today.
The sauerkraut dumplings also are sweet, with none of the commercial, canned flavor you so often get in the kraut. This is made in house, simply, from scratch, from a recipe handed down by someone who cares about sauerkraut. Does that make sense? You can taste the love and the comfort built in. It's mild and sweet, finely shredded, and utterly, gorgeously delicious. The mushrooms are in there, but subtle. The potato perogies are homey, but these are the main event. Don't miss them.
Basically, while I was putting down this entire plate of dumpling goodness, I was thinking that I might marry one of the sauerkraut pierogi. Cute Cook can be the ring bearer at the wedding, maybe?
I was sad they were out of the chocolate babka the day I was there, but the chocolate cake is iced with chocolate mousse, and rather than be too sweet or too rich, it was dense and deep in a cocoa-enriched way. Just perfect. So I think it's alllllll going to be alright.
Look, I only ate a few things here. One lunch probably shouldn't merit such praise. But I really, really liked this food. I kind of want to give it a nine on the BHS scale. Is that crazy? But between Cute Cook being all attentive and asking me if I wanted bacon, and how clean it was in there, and those freaking delicious, tender, precious pierogi - I think I'm in love. You guys totally have to check this place out. The menu is limited, and it's small, but so inviting and just simply good. Please go, and then report back in, ok? Promise me!