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Milk Bars and Other Magnets In Cracow

As in the rest of Poland, after World War II, Cracow took on a new lease of life, its past and present both palpable in a city well worth discovering. You should venture into the Old Town (Stare Miasto) and stop over in Rynek Główny, one of the largest squares in the world, descend into the underground museum underneath it to journey back to the Middle Ages, enjoy a beer and some good music in the lively Jewish quarter (Kazimierz), stroll along the banks of the Vistula, go up to Wawel Castle and wander through the city’s markets, streets, memories… And, of course, dive into the local cuisine. A warm, tasty, homemade cuisine, with Slavic, Jewish and Hungarian influences which you can try at affordable prices in dozens of restaurants. We made a thorough tour of the city and let ourselves be charmed by it. Here’s what we learned.

Pod Baranem and Pod Nosem – Enjoying Polish Cuisine

Located very near Wawel Castle is Pod Baranem, a cosy, intimate restaurant with very efficient and friendly service. They serve a good żurek, a soup made of fermented rye flour, with egg, potato and homemade sausage. It is potent and tasty, like many dishes with local DNA. Also worth trying is their cabbage stuffed with meat and mushroom sauce, as well as their good meat dishes. If you’re keen on crockery and table ornaments, you will leave the restaurant wishing you could take everything with you. A classic charmer.

In the restaurant of the boutique hotel at Kanonicza 22, Pod Nosem, they serve up Polish cuisine, but this time with a creative flourish of renewal. A young crew headed by their chef, Przemysław Bilski, perform to perfection in a quaint space and terrace with views of the castle. They have delicious pierogi (typical Polish dumplings with different fillings) and other dishes, including a highly refined cream of asparagus, various meat dishes and even tripe. Their wine list is good and it is difficult to choose from their broad array of cakes.

Eating Cheap in Cracow? Milk Bars and Lunchtime Menus

Cracow is not an expensive city but, if you’re looking for a place with good food at laughable prices, your best option is to head for a “milk bar”. Reminiscent of their Communist past, these milk bars (mleczny, in Polish) are no-frills self-service eateries, their menus chalked up on the walls – an average ticket would cost 5 euros per person. A recommendable venue in the centre is Pod Temida and, if you’d like to see where the concept eventually leads to, be sure to visit Milkbar Tomasza.

Apart from milk bars, another option for cheap meals are the lunchtime menus offered by many restaurants. Highly recommended venues include C.K. Dezerter – where, for just €4.5, they serve, for instance, a scrumptious soup with semolina, and fish with a salad of fermented cabbage, carrot and potato – and the Chimera garden, an incredible salad bar with menus of the day, a large number of veggie recipes, homemade cakes and juices.

Cafés, Bars and Pubs In the Ever-Lively Jewish Quarter

The area around Plac Nowy is packed with bars, restaurants and terrace cafés which are lively all day long. It is an eye-opener to venture inside and see their unusual decor, featuring souvenirs from bygone times. Mleczarnia, and the Mlekowoz terrace café just opposite, as well as Alchemia, with live music, and Wódka Cafe Bar, with dozens of Polish vodka varieties, are some of the most interesting spots in the area.

In Plac Nowy, it is also customary to eat at the food stalls serving zapiekanka (huge panini with loads of ingredients and sauces). If you prefer something less filling, we recommend you go to Szynk, a charming haven of homemade cuisine and good music. We had a delicious soup there – Cracow has so many soup dishes you could have a different variety each day of the year – and chicken stuffed with spinach and cheese. We loved it!

Text and photos by Silvia Artaza of Gastronomistas.com

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