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#31
Posted March 9th 2009, 6:38pm
We went exactly a week ago tonight, ordered more food than we could eat, and ate it. It was everything people here crack it up to be! Especially the potato pancakes. Of the various entrees, the one that I ordered was the pork stew, and it was so good that I would have a hard time ordering anything else the next time. (I would want to, just for the sake of experimentation, but then I wouldn't be having the pork stew, and I'm not sure I could live with that.)
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#32
Posted March 10th 2009, 6:23pm
I'll agree with Gary. Our lunch at Podhalanka was very good. We were treated to the usual overflowing hospitality from the moment we walked in the door. Someday I want to see a hospitality throwdown between the lady who runs Podhalanka (sorry, I don't know her name) and Deta. It would be interesting to see who could out-nice the other. I'd give anything to be a judge. :wink:

Seriously, Podhalanka couldn't be any more low key and inviting if it tried.

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I don't have much to add to Gary's description of our meal other than to mention once again how good my pork tenderloin was. I asked for a fried egg on top, and they were more than happy to oblige. Here are a few more pics of our lunch.

Podhalanka Rye Bread
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Podhalanka Mixed Pirogies
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Podhalanka Potato Pancakes
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Podhalanka Breaded Pork Tenderloin w/Fried Egg
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Davidd take note. This pork tenderloin (though not a sandwich) is worth seeking out on your BPT Quest.
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#33
Posted March 11th 2009, 11:23am
Davidd take note. This pork tenderloin (though not a sandwich) is worth seeking out on your BPT Quest.


Oh, but they do make a fantastic tenderloin sandwich.
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#34
Posted March 27th 2009, 10:08am
LTH,

Jazzfood had the brilliant idea of asking Helena of Podhalanka to prepare an off menu dinner of Bigos, aka Hunters Stew, aka National Dish of Poland, so he posted to the Events Board and thirteen hearty hungry souls met last night for a delightful meal.

BYOB beer and wine were in evidence, but I a sucker for Podhalanka's refreshing mixed fruit Kompot. Polish rye, beet salad mixed with a kick start of horseradish, along with apple sauce, sour cream and platters of delicious Potato Pancakes started off our meal. GAF innovatively mixed a bit of sour cream with the beets.

Beets, Sour Cream, Apple Sauce

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Potato Pancakes

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Choice of soup, either my favorite White Borscht or Mushroom Barley.

White Borscht

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Three types of Pierogi followed, generous portions served family style seemed the order of the day.

Pierogi, three types

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Bigos, the main event, was really quite delectable. Tender rich long simmered mix of kielbasa and beef, slight sauerkraut tang balanced with just a hint of sweet. When Helena started bringing out the bigos we all thought they were share portions, as were the previous dishes, turned out she had a full plate sized portion for each person. Needless to say we all took home leftovers.

Bigos

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A wonderful way to spend a midweek meal, lovingly prepared food, for an almost unreasonably inexpensive price, and the terrific company and conversation of LTHers.

LTHers at Podhalanka

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Helena w/pierogi

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A good time was had by all, thanks Jazzfood and Helena.

Jazzfood (Alan Lake), Helena

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Additional pictures, scroll down to 3.26.09.

Enjoy,
Gary
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#35
Posted March 27th 2009, 10:39am
Amazing photos! I have lived literally around the corner from Podhalanka for more than two years and I've never been there, but now I want to go. My girlfriend is originally from Poland but she does not want to dine out Polish food, so I'll guess I'll have to go solo.
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#36
Posted March 29th 2009, 11:10am
Podhalanka was doing a brisk lunch business yesterday afternoon. Maybe because it's decorated like my old deceased Auntie's house, I find this place to be so homey and inviting. Some people were stopping in for a quick bowl of soup at the counter while on their way to somewhere else; others were taking more leisurely lunches with friends. I don't think know of an off-Loop restaurant that does such a bustling soup business.

Having said that, the slightly sour cabbage soup is my favorite, the white borscht with chunks of kielbasa a close second. We split a plate of pierogies and potato pancakes to round off our carb-loading lunch. My only complaint is that the meat pierogies are a bit dry and stringy. Although I prefer Smak-Tak's meat pierogies, I just don't think I'm a fan of them in general, much preferring the potato and cheese variety.

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Carb plate of pierogies and potato pancake

One thing I don't recall being mentioned here is that the LTH GNR sign is in a place of honor at Podhalanka -- above the crucifix, the place where the picture of the pope -- or JFK -- usually goes. :) (Sorry for the blurry camera phone pic, but you can still make out what I mean.)

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#37
Posted March 29th 2009, 12:12pm
It was a splendid meal at Podhalanka, especially the exquisite potato pancakes, the savory beets, and the rich bigos stew, as well as the cabbage pirogies. I cared less for the White Borscht, finding it too sour for my taste in soups. Having recently eaten at Smak Tak, the ambiance and style of cooking is somewhat different. ST is more upscale, and it would be hard to imagine a duck at Podhalanka like we were served at Smak Tak, but there is no reason that two excellent Polish restaurants need to be the same: no more than Alinea and Weiner and Still Champion (OK, that is a stretch, but the point is clear).
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#38
Posted September 1st 2009, 1:17am
Stopped by Podhalanka for lunch yesterday. Started with a bowl of zurek, which was perfect. Just the right amount of tartness and their great Polish sausage bites. Also got an order of fried pierogies, kraut and potato. The dough was light but I was feeling pretty full before I'd finished them off. So I decided to skip the entrees and get a bowl of mushroom soup which did not disappoint. It turned out to be one of the better meals I've had lately, and I could barely finish everything. Already looking forward to my next visit.
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#39
Posted February 25th 2011, 1:46pm
Wednesday's edition of Jazzfood's bigos throwdown at Podhalanka was my first time at this restaurant. I loved the meal and I don't know what I was thinking waiting so long to try this place.

Ronnie's 12,000 or so words on the meal probably say enough, but I feel I need to add a few more...

It seems trite to say that a meal at Podhalanka feels like eating in someone's home, but that is exactly what it felt like to me. And not just anyone's home, but the Hungarian/Romanian cooking that I grew up eating at my own home. Podhalanka's potato pancakes are indistinguishable from my mom's. Same for the horseradish infused beet salad. The white borscht, while new to me, blew my mind. I couldn't stop eating every bit of the sour, herbaceous broth even though I knew there were several courses to come.

As for the bigos, I thought it was terrific and it took me back home in a unique, special way. The flavors reminded me of my mom's "káposztash gombotz," a dish of stewed cabbage, sauerkraut, and meatballs. Same Eastern European flavors, I guess. Only the bigos added extra dimensions of smoky, porky goodness from the bacon and kielbasa.

Many thanks to Jazzfood for setting up the meal. It was a real treat.
--Rich
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#40
Posted March 29th 2011, 10:44pm
Stopped by for dinner today. Tomato rice soup was excellent. As were the pierogis. Got the breaded pork cutlet for my entree, it was cooked perfectly and a quite generous serving. I took most of it home.
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#41
Posted March 30th 2011, 10:09am
Just wanted to note that I've become a semi-regular at Podhalanka over the past year (having enjoyed it off and on for many years prior) and I have a few cheerful observations: First, the neighborhood's gentrification seems to have increased traffic into Podhalanka, which is great and something I'd feared would have the opposite effect. I chalk it up to good press in the Reader, Time Out, LTH, etc. and tremendous value. Hipsters seems to like (or at least accept) the idiosyncratic scene, too. As old Polish guys in paint-splattered plaid flannel become scarce, wannabe bike messengers are on the uptick here. Second, the food is better than ever. It really stands up well compared to the better spots situated in the heart of today's Polonia further northwest and south. Fried cutlets, boiled beef with horseradish, pork shank, the cold salads, compote and pierogi, all good to great versions. And the soups are as good as any.
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#42
Posted April 12th 2011, 6:53pm
A friend who is moving out of the Wicker Park neighborhood wants to hit up Podhalanka to check the box before she goes. I think we are going to check the box on Friday night. I've been a few times - breakfast, lunch,and dinner but never seen anyone drinking. Can you bring your own booze?

We aren't going to linger and get rowdy, just a beer or so per person in a small group (4 or so).

I see some beer and wine in the pictures of the big party there but not sure if it's ok on a regular night.

Also, always wondered how the compote would taste with a shot of vodka... :-)
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#43
Posted April 12th 2011, 8:29pm
october271986 wrote:A friend who is moving out of the Wicker Park neighborhood wants to hit up Podhalanka to check the box before she goes. I think we are going to check the box on Friday night. I've been a few times - breakfast, lunch,and dinner but never seen anyone drinking. Can you bring your own booze?

We aren't going to linger and get rowdy, just a beer or so per person in a small group (4 or so).

I see some beer and wine in the pictures of the big party there but not sure if it's ok on a regular night.

Also, always wondered how the compote would taste with a shot of vodka... :-)

Polish food and vodka?! What a freakish combination! :D :wink:

From what I recall, byo is a-ok. Best to call first, though.

=R=
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#44
Posted April 12th 2011, 9:27pm
october271986 wrote:Also, always wondered how the compote would taste with a shot of vodka... :-)


I believe that, in the Old Country, our phrase is "babcia aperitif."
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#45
Posted October 1st 2011, 5:04pm
It pains me to report that I had an icky experience there yesterday (the first in 10+ years of loving the place). It was the first time (that I can recall) that I wasn't served by Helena, but rather by the man that I see around there pretty regularly that I have assumed is perhaps part of the family. I brought a party of five, three of whom were new to the restaurant and from out-of-town and perhaps their noobness was clearly evident to the server. He asked if we were new to visit the restaurant and I explained that two of us were regulars but the others had not been before. He seemed gracious at first, explaining the soup choices, but then suggested that we all share each of the day's soup choices. Now firstly, I don't really like being told what to order and beyond that, I'd be damned to share a bowl of one of my favorite soups of all time, the white borsch (love sharing, but I draw the line at a bowl of soup), so I spoke up and said I'd like to order my own bowl. And then, before we had time to open our menus, he said that he would just bring out plates of their most popular items for us to share and then swiftly collected the menus. I was most likely going to order stuffed cabbage anyway and always like to steal a pierogi from a friend's plate or a bite of potato pancake and these choices were to be in the lineup. No big deal, I supposed. He brought us a pitcher of compote, which we dispatched of rapidly. He brought us a second pitcher and explained that this one was "on him". Another eyebrow raiser, since we had not ordered the first and were not led to believe that we would be paying for it (Helena never seemed to charge me in the past). Soup was great as ever. Then the mains started to arrive- stuffed cabbage, kielbasa, mixed pierogi, cheese blintzes, potato pancakes, certainly plenty of chow, a plate for each of us, but then what's this, a whole other round of the same dishes- a double order of everything! And he said, "don't worry I'll bring boxes". We did our best and ate just about the first round of plates. I knew we were being had and when the check arrived I was not surprised to find a total of over $110. We certainly got what we paid for, with four to-go boxes and about a whole other meal for each of us, but we were not really expecting to spend over $25 each on a lunch at Podhalanka. I felt like I was being treated like a tourist in my own neighborhood at a spot I have cherished and patronized countless times. So a fair warning, if this guy waits your table, be clear and firm that you would like to order on your own from the menu.
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#46
Posted October 1st 2011, 7:45pm
I believe he's a nephew and I've found him to be pushy and a bit of a con as well. He's pulled similar things on me, way way way too much food and then, even though still reasonable, more expensive than it needs to be, or ever is when Helena is there. The only bad taste that's ever been left in my mouth there is him.
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#47
Posted October 2nd 2011, 12:24am
Jefe wrote:It pains me to report that I had an icky experience there yesterday (the first in 10+ years of loving the place). It was the first time (that I can recall) that I wasn't served by Helena, but rather by the man that I see around there pretty regularly that I have assumed is perhaps part of the family. I brought a party of five, three of whom were new to the restaurant and from out-of-town and perhaps their noobness was clearly evident to the server. He asked if we were new to visit the restaurant and I explained that two of us were regulars but the others had not been before. He seemed gracious at first, explaining the soup choices, but then suggested that we all share each of the day's soup choices. Now firstly, I don't really like being told what to order and beyond that, I'd be damned to share a bowl of one of my favorite soups of all time, the white borsch (love sharing, but I draw the line at a bowl of soup), so I spoke up and said I'd like to order my own bowl. And then, before we had time to open our menus, he said that he would just bring out plates of their most popular items for us to share and then swiftly collected the menus. I was most likely going to order stuffed cabbage anyway and always like to steal a pierogi from a friend's plate or a bite of potato pancake and these choices were to be in the lineup. No big deal, I supposed. He brought us a pitcher of compote, which we dispatched of rapidly. He brought us a second pitcher and explained that this one was "on him". Another eyebrow raiser, since we had not ordered the first and were not led to believe that we would be paying for it (Helena never seemed to charge me in the past). Soup was great as ever. Then the mains started to arrive- stuffed cabbage, kielbasa, mixed pierogi, cheese blintzes, potato pancakes, certainly plenty of chow, a plate for each of us, but then what's this, a whole other round of the same dishes- a double order of everything! And he said, "don't worry I'll bring boxes". We did our best and ate just about the first round of plates. I knew we were being had and when the check arrived I was not surprised to find a total of over $110. We certainly got what we paid for, with four to-go boxes and about a whole other meal for each of us, but we were not really expecting to spend over $25 each on a lunch at Podhalanka. I felt like I was being treated like a tourist in my own neighborhood at a spot I have cherished and patronized countless times. So a fair warning, if this guy waits your table, be clear and firm that you would like to order on your own from the menu.

Jazzfood wrote:I believe he's a nephew and I've found him to be pushy and a bit of a con as well. He's pulled similar things on me, way way way too much food and then, even though still reasonable, more expensive than it needs to be, or ever is when Helena is there. The only bad taste that's ever been left in my mouth there is him.

I wonder if anyone in charge at Podhalanka realizes how annoying these practices are. The last time I ate there, food showed up that I hadn't ordered (and of course it showed up on the bill as well). That was years ago but I've avoided the place ever since.
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#48
Posted October 2nd 2011, 3:04am
I know the guy you're referring to. He scammed me once for some food I wasn't expecting to pay for. I had ordered an entree for dinner, and asked him what was included in the meal. I've been to a lot of Polish restaurants, and some of them give you everything from soup to nuts when you order a dinner entree. Instead of responding to my question, he said 'What did you want?', and I said sauerkraut and beets, and he said 'Sure, no problem.' But then there was an extra charge of $5 or so on the bill for the kraut/beets. I didn't say anything because I had enjoyed a very good meal, and it wasn't very much money, but ever since then I am very careful about what I order when that guy is waiting tables. I got the impression that he is some kind of family member also. There was a definite element of hustle in this guy's manner.
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#49
Posted October 2nd 2011, 10:32am
Cogito wrote:I know the guy you're referring to. He scammed me once for some food I wasn't expecting to pay for. ...

There was a definite element of hustle in this guy's manner.


Well it is Nelson Algren's old neighborhood. :wink:
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#50
Posted February 19th 2012, 6:59pm
HI,

I met THE GUY, he is a creep.

Yesterday after Culinary Historians, a couple of lingerers inquired where to go for a good lunch for $15 - $20. Thinking about their tastes, I suggested Podhalanka. I added they have a white borscht where they advise adding a boiled egg for a slight upcharge. That detail sealed the deal this would be their place.

When THE GUY came over, he was pretty slick. Just as Jefe mentioned, gave the soup options, suggested sharing and what to have. I remembered this post, though I could not recall the details beyond his being irritating.

I quickly opted out of his suggested meal plan, because all I wanted was pierogis. I very specifically ordered potato and sauerkraut. He repeated my order, "Mixed pierogi, no meat." When it arrived, there were more cheese than potato and some sauerkraut. I suspect THE GUY just does not listen.

One of the key items desired was a stuffed cabbage roll. He inserted his plan once one of the ladies had a hard time deciding between beef or pork cabbage roll. My friends did go with his plan, which I had a gut feeling was going to be more than the $15-$20 range. The impression I had there would be both cabbage rolls types present, but THE GUY had a different plan.

Our table of three received a glass of compote each, no pitcher.

When the soup was served, THE GUY reached over to another table for a bottle of Maggi. Without inquiring if anyone wanted any, he squirted a number of drops into my friends bowls while proclaiming, "This will make this soup taste much better." Any other time I have had condiments offered, the waiter has always asked. THE GUY assumes his tastes are what you want. If that was my bowl of soup, I would have handed it back to him for a fresh bowl.

A parade of food begins to arrive to the table: blinis (never inquired which type were desired), pierogies (never inquired which type were desired), potato pancakes and one cabbage roll. Not two, like he hinted at, but one for two people. The bill without tip for these ladies was $46.

My bill for pierogies was just over $10. I will note the onions on top were cold to practically frozen. Fortunately the heat from the pierogies caused them to melt into submissiveness.

Helena was there roaming about without much to do. Whoever THE GUY may be, she is allowing him way too much influence.

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On the plus side, there was a lot of business. Far more active than Smak Tak, where I will be going next time I want Polish food.

Regards,
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"You'll be remembered long after you're dead if you make good gravy, mashed potatoes and biscuits." -- Nathalie Dupree
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#51
Posted February 20th 2012, 11:04am
Cathy2 wrote:When THE GUY came over, he was pretty slick. Just as Jefe mentioned, gave the soup options, suggested sharing and what to have. I remembered this post, though I could not recall the details beyond his being irritating.


Just like any long term relationship, you have your ups and downs and in the end of the day learn to compromise. I couldn't stay mad at Podhalanka- THE GUY or no THE GUY, so I decided to get proactive with him. A few weeks ago my friend and I (this may be an advantage, small group, sit at the counter, gives him less of a stage and audience for his shock and awe treatment) had a nice lunch there in which we engaged with him. He asked if we'd been there before without listening for an answer, jumped into his spiel about the soups. I matter-of-factly stated to him "My friend and I are here to have a light lunch. We eat here all the time, love your food, and know exactly what we want". He got the point and put our order of two soups and a shared plate of pierogies (still quite a filling lunch with a slice or two of bread). Establishing ourselves as non-noobs, THE GUY actually struck a up with us a conversation about who we were, where we came from, and how we discovered Polish cuisine. I scored major points when I asked about the bigos and told him that I make it at home all the time. Hopefully he will remember me next time and I'd like to think that if he will know better than to f*ck with me in the future. If the rapport continues, I will gently suggest to him that his aggressive tactics are scaring away longtime customers.
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#52
Posted February 20th 2012, 11:15am
Jefe wrote:I matter-of-factly stated to him "My friend and I are here to have a light lunch. We eat here all the time, love your food, and know exactly what we want". He got the point...

Based on this, I'm thinking THE GUY actually correctly surmises about some of his customers that they are unfamiliar with Polish food, that he knows better than they how to put together a meal they will enjoy, and that they are happy to pay for his expertise (in the form of a higher tab for more food than they might have ordered). Seen this way, he's not out to bilk anyone but performing a valuable service. The problem is that he's not able to discriminate all that well between the customers who need/want this kind of "don't worry, I'll take care of you" consultation and the ones who don't.

I've been to Podhalanka once, a couple of years ago, but THE GUY wasn't there that night. We enjoyed it. I'm thinking I won't let the possible presence of THE GUY be the factor that puts me off from returning.
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#53
Posted February 20th 2012, 12:15pm
Jefe wrote:He asked if we'd been there before without listening for an answer, jumped into his spiel about the soups.

I think he genuinely does not listen. Did he want to add Maggi to your soup?

Jefe wrote:Hopefully he will remember me next time and I'd like to think that if he will know better than to f*ck with me in the future. If the rapport continues, I will gently suggest to him that his aggressive tactics are scaring away longtime customers.

I'd love to be the fly on the wall. If he thinks like riddlemay suggests, he may not change.

Riddlemay - I look forward to your report. Now that you know how things are staged, you will probably not fall into the same trap.

Regards,
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"You'll be remembered long after you're dead if you make good gravy, mashed potatoes and biscuits." -- Nathalie Dupree
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#54
Posted February 20th 2012, 12:41pm
With my high forehead and perfunctory Polish, I think I could ingratiate myself pretty quickly with THE GUY. Who wants to Ess mit Fresser (eat with Fresser) at Podhalanka anytime soon? Nu, a party we could even make, maybe!
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#55
Posted February 21st 2012, 10:30am
The Guy served us at our last two visits (3months and 2 weeks ago)-he charged for fruit juice/compote which was not ordered and barely consumed.What is that stuff anyway? Our last visit we told him no compote and I ordered all meat perogi and was served a mix of cheese and meat-more cheese. Still, great food and soups. The horseradish beef is awesome.
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#56
Posted February 21st 2012, 10:38am
Hi,

I showed one of my friends (the other is non computer) what I stated, her reaction:

... a little to quick, especially offering the "taste" which turned out to be full price of each of the "dishes", for three not two for a total tab of $50 and I'm not sure it didn't include the juices which sounded to be complimentary, ha. When he started all that, I expected that were going to happen so I wasn't surprised when the bill came. Otherwise, pretty good but I'll be prepared next time -- I think so? has an idea how to pad the tabs . . . Actually didn't mind the seasoning of my soup but could have used an explanation of what white borscht is -- I thought it always mean't beet which is beet root I'm thinking so I don't know what makes it white. Enjoyed the company and chance to visit

Regards,
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"You'll be remembered long after you're dead if you make good gravy, mashed potatoes and biscuits." -- Nathalie Dupree
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#57
Posted February 21st 2012, 12:26pm
Elfin wrote:he charged for fruit juice/compote which was not ordered and barely consumed.What is that stuff anyway?


kompot is common in many Eastern European countries and usually involves adding boiling water to dried fruit and letting the fruit infuse into the liquid

It is a traditional drink that dates back hundreds of years; like you, I've never been a big fan.
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#58
Posted April 10th 2013, 10:23pm
I know there have been some less than pleasant experiences at Podhalanka lately. I've been many times and never encountered the up-selling or nastiness many have talked about. Furthermore I was really sad to hear about their rudeness during the chowathon. A couple months ago I stopped by to organize a bigos dinner there only to learn that they won't make the bigos anymore. Disappointed, I decided against taking my group there, particularly since so many complained of bad experiences lately.

Well, I decided to give them another shot tonight, and I have to say they really knocked it out of park. I was with a large group so we were able to order a wide variety of items. Everything was superb and reminded me why I used to love this restaurant so much. My wife and I split an order of the kapusniak and the white borscht. Both were rich and hearty, perfect on a cold and rainy night. The pierogies were doughy and plump as usual, and they continue to serve my favorite potato pancake in the city. The cabbage rolls were fluffy and flavorful, even the chicken cutlets were well fried and crispy. I've always enjoyed my meals at Podhalanka, and this one really made me feel like I don't go nearly enough.

I'm really sad to hear about all the bad experiences, but I can't say I've ever personally experienced anything less than exceptional hospitality and rib-stickingly delicious food. I'm dying to try their rendition of bigos, maybe if we bring a large enough group?
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#59
Posted April 10th 2013, 11:25pm
turkob wrote:I know there have been some less than pleasant experiences at Podhalanka lately.

Jefe wrote:It pains me to report that I had an icky experience there yesterday (the first in 10+ years of loving the place). It was the first time (that I can recall) that I wasn't served by Helena, but rather by the man that I see around there pretty regularly.

Jefe wrote:Just like any long term relationship, you have your ups and downs and in the end of the day learn to compromise. I couldn't stay mad at Podhalanka- THE GUY or no THE GUY, so I decided to get proactive with him.


Ever since I laid the law down about a year ago, "the guy" and I are on convivial terms. In fact, I have learned to like and respect him and not in a Stockholm syndrome type of way. I think he's laid off the huckster schtick– one of my 18 yo students, albeit a no-nonsense kinda gal, had her first lunch there the other day and other than thinking it was obnoxious that he suggested ordering soup, she reported that he did not hustle her group any further. I have personally had no further problems with him, in fact he always treats me like a regular at this point. While enjoying my standard lunch order of white borscht and sauerkraut/mushroom pierogies a few weeks ago, I witnessed a touching interaction between "the guy" and a down-and-out denizen of the Polish Triangle– he served him rounds of soup and coffee, would not accept his money, and sent him off with a doggy bag to last until the following Monday, reminding him that they would be closed on Sunday and would need a meal that day. Now that's a great neighborhood restaurant.
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#60
Posted April 11th 2013, 11:30am
I recently had a great lunch at Podhalanka after a long time without visiting. I took a business associate who'd never been, and he loved it, as well. We were served by "the guy," and while he did suggest soup, it wasn't a hard sell, and we would have ordered soup anyway (why would you not order soup at Podhalanka?). He also politely enough suggested we use the liquid seasoning on the table in the soup, which we did and appreciated. Given the rapid changes going on in this area (e.g., the new apartment high-rise being built on Division and Ashland and changes all up and down Milwaukee), I hope Podhalanka doesn't get gentrified out of existence like Busy Bee did, but I plan to take advantage of it more than I have in the past while I still can.
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