Hamtramck is a small, mainly Polish city surrounded by the city of Detroit. Somehow it has retained its old-world feel. I have been there many times, especially for paczki, the traditional Lenten filled donuts. Many bakeries in Hamtramck have lines out the door. People wait an hour or more to get a fresh baked pastry. All along the main street are small family-owned restaurants. We have tried many, but never found one quite worth going back for.
That is until a friend took me to lunch at the Polish Village restaurant. It can be found two blocks the wrong way down a one-way street from Joseph Campau, the city's main drag. Stepping inside Polish Village is somewhat like entering the Cheers bar of television fame. It was dark as we headed down the stairs, and when we walked in the door everyone turned towards us. Watching others come in after us it was clear that the restaurant has its regulars.
That day I had the Polski Talerz (A Taste of Poland), which included stuffed cabbage, pierogi, kielbasa, sauerkraut, and mashed potatoes. A choice of five homemade soups is included, as well as rather dull bread.
The dill pickle soup was quite good, thicker than others I have had, with a nice tangy flavor. The stuffed cabbage tasted nothing like others I had before. It was so much better I felt cheated by my grandmother for serving me her almost fabulous version.
I knew that I had to come back soon to try some more menu items. (Sorry, Jane and Michael, I can't manage five entrees at a sitting!) I returned with my fiance. The place was full of large groups celebrating birthdays. A ninety-year-old man made sure to visit all of the other birthday tables to share the joy.
This time I tried the zrazy (stuffed beef rolls): two marinated sirloins rolled with ham, pickles, and onions, served with a vegetable and your choice of noodles, mashed potatoes, or kopytka. This time the dill pickle soup was rather bland, but everything else rocked. I fell in love with the gravy and the kopytka (dumplings). My fiance had one of the specials (they have two to five each day). The schab z czerwona kapusta i owocowa salatka (baked pork loin with red cabbage and dried fruit salad) was over-the-top fabulous.
We each saved half of our main courses for another meal, and asked for a huge portion of kopytka and gravy to go. It was all I could do on the drive home to resist pulling over and emptying out the doggy bag.
One of the best parts? The most expensive item on the menu is about $9, including vegetables, dumplings, soup, and more. The average entree is under $7. I could go on, but I just remembered that I have those leftovers in the fridge...
"The Polish Plate includes stuffed cabbage, kielbasa, sauerkraut, mashed potatoes, and a pierogi. Made by nearby Kowalski Sausage, the taut, juicy kielbasa was the best item on the plate."
"The roast pork was nice and tender. Red cabbage and mashed potatoes come wih all dinners."
"Feeling adventurous? The tripe stew was a big hit with my girlfriend."
"The version of kielbasa soup here is unlike any I have ever had before: lots of small cut-up bits of sausage in a creamy broth. This soup is outstanding!"
"POlish Village Cafe is located in the basement of what used to be a gentlemen's hotel. Note the attractive mural high up on the side wall."