Simply Sara Eats: in Warsaw

In the "Simply Sara Eats" series, I recount the my favorite food and drink discoveries.

We ate a lot of good food throughout Poland. Krakow stands out in my mind as it was our first destination in Poland, and our first taste of Polish cuisine of the trip. Warsaw though was another force to be reckoned with. We may not have eaten as much native food in the capital, but we took advantage of its international influences. The food here gets the distinction as some of the most memorable of the entire trip, and surprised us in many ways. (If you told me how much hummus I would eat in Warsaw, I would have never believed you! But more on that in a minute...) Without further ado, here’s the best-of list:

Breakfast at: SAM

I have a Polish friend who once told me that she stopped eating bread when she moved to London because she was disappointed one too many times. Living in France has undoubtedly made me a food snob in many categories, bread being first and foremost. So I shrugged this comment off at the time, thinking it was an indication of the poor quality of the bread in England.  As I learned, it was just as much a comment on how good it can be in Poland.

Then I went to SAM for breakfast, and I understood exactly what my friend meant. Polish bread is pretty spectacular, if SAM is representative of the country’s craftsmanship. Michael and I each ordered the same thing off the menu: The Moroccan - eggs cooked with Moroccan spices and served with hummus, avocado, and amazing fresh country bread. 

There is so much more I can say, but the bottom line is please go here if you have the chance. This dish was one that was simple in its elements but so well executed. I immediately organized a brunch after returning from Poland and tried to replicate this dish for my friends. It goes in the books as one of those outstanding food moments whose memory has lived on in my kitchen repertoire, and one that I want to share!

SAM [link in Polish]
ul. Lipowa 7, Warsaw, Poland
(It’s really close to the Copernicus Science Museum so plan to do both on the same day!)
Open daily from 8am-10pm, on Saturday and Sunday from 9:00am-10pm

"The Moroccan" at SAM (pictured above minus the bread) - it cost 18 pln (which at today's exchange rate is $4.85 USD).

Lunch at: Zapiecek

Sometimes atmosphere can affect the way one evaluates food; it is, after all, part of the experience. I can say that our lunch at Zapiecek was solely focused on the food, and it was...wonderful!

We arrived at Zapiecek just after the lunch rush and it was still packed. The only place to sit was outside, which was fine - though it was the beginning of May and still quite chilly. But we were starving and the prospect of being able to enjoy delicious pierogi outweighed the decision to wait for indoor seating. Our lunch was served, it started to rain a little, and we were so hungry that we didn’t even pause to take a photo. But I can say without hesitation that this is a solid choice for pierogi in Warsaw! 

Zapiecek [link in Polish]
Aleje Jerozolimskie 28, Warsaw, Poland
Open daily from 11am-11pm
(Multiple locations - see website)

Lunch (and dinner) at: Aïoli

Warsaw, as you would imagine as an European capital, is an international city. And while we certainly wanted to eat as much Polish food as possible over the course of our 16-day trip, we did take advantage here to change things up for our taste buds.

Aïoli was the first meal we had in Warsaw. They classify their food as “southern” which translates to a fusion of Mediterranean, Spanish, and Italian influences that amounted to a menu that reminded me of one that could easily show up in America. It’s the kind of place where everyone will find something they like between the burgers, tapas, pasta, pizza, salads, and steak.

I don’t remember exactly what I ordered for lunch, though I have a vague recollection that it involved pumpkin which I was very excited about. I do know that I had major food jealousy when Michael’s pulled pork sandwich came out. We returned the very next day for dinner, and both got that pulled pork sandwich. That to me is always the mark of a good place on the road - one where you would forego the opportunity to try a new restaurant in favor of sticking to a fantastic find. Though this is no secret spot - when we returned for dinner, we were lucky to score two seats at a counter along the window. You may want to consider making a reservation online if you’re going at a prime dining hour and/or with more than 2 people!

ul. Świętokrzyska 18, Warsaw, Poland
Open daily from 9am-12am

Aïoli's pulled pork sandwich, made on an in-house baked bun with fries and a side salad. How much, you wonder? It comes in at a whopping 19.90 pln, or $5.39 USD (at exchange rate in Feb 2015).

Beer at: Jedna Trzecia Craft Beer

I have to give a shout-out to the Jedna Trzecia Craft Beer as a good place to unwind, even though it wasn’t what I initially expected. When I saw there was a craft beer bar literally around the corner to Beirut (see below), my selected dinner spot for the evening, I of course wanted to go and get a drink beforehand. I thought it was going to be a place where I could explore the beer world of Poland and taste brews from places I had never heard of and certainly couldn’t begin to pronounce. Truth is that it specializes in Belgian beers.

Despite my initial surprise and slight disappointment, the fact is that it has about 70 types of Belgian beer in bottles, and there were 5 beers on tap (at least when we visited). Belgian beer being pretty fantastic, we were up for drinks anyway. The bottles ranged in price from 12pln - 17pln (at today’s exchange rate, about $3.25 - $5 USD). So with the casual, chill atmosphere, Belgian beer, and wonderful prices (just think, that all had to be imported to Poland!), this beer bar makes my Warsaw favorite list as a perfect hang-out locale. 

Jedna Trzecia Craft Beer Bar 
Wilcza 50/52, Warsaw, Poland
Open daily from 4pm-12am, Friday and Saturday from 2pm-2am, Sunday from 2pm-11pm 

Light dinner: at Beirut hummus and music bar

I really don’t know how exactly we found so much hummus in Warsaw, unless it’s just an indication that Warsaw is the furthest east we have traveled to, and we were edging slowly towards the dish’s middle eastern roots. No complaints here though. When I read that there was a popular evening spot offering music, a lively atmosphere, wine, and hummus, I was more than ready to check it out. Turns out that Warsaw is full of hummus-loving locals! 

Beirut is right across the street from Tel Aviv Cafe and Deli, and apparently they are battling out for the title of best hummus. While we only tried Beirut’s, I wouldn’t mind returning to do a comparison. If you’ve gotten nothing else from this post, you by now should understand that it’s possible to eat hummus for every meal in Warsaw and then some! 

Beirut hummus and music bar [link to their Facebook page, in Polish]
Poznańska 12, Warsaw, Poland
Open daily from 12pm-2:30am

Our sampler of hummus, baba ghanoush, and a third unknown at Beirut, Warsaw

Coffee Break: Cafe A Blikle

When I started looking into Polish food before our trip, I was surprised to see donuts make the list. I had no idea that Poland was known for its donuts, called pączki. The traditional filling of pączki is rose petal jam. The place to go for these in Warsaw is the historic cafe (and Poland’s most famous pastry shop, according to Rick Steves) of A Blikle. 

For a polished report from a reviewer who clearly has eaten more pączki than me, see the thumbs-up for this place from Serious Eats. This is what I can say with my more limited scope of Polish donuts: We sat down one afternoon and ordered one of each - one with a powdered sugar topping, and the other with what seemed like the classic choice of a glaze topped with candied orange peel (get the later one in my opinion). Feeling fancy, we went all out and ordered coffee with whipped cream and Polish cherry vodka that made for the perfect afternoon snack. (And it held us over until we could find more hummus!) 

A Blinkle [link in Polish]
ul. Nowy Swiat 33, Warsaw, Poland
Open daily from 9am-10pm

You could order donuts to go from A Blikle, but doesn't sitting down at the cafe look so much better?

Now over to you - if you've been to Warsaw, do you have any food/drink favorites? Or if not, does any of this entice you?