Polish food could be considered similar to many other central European traditional dishes. There’s a sprinkling of a German, Czech, Slovakian, Ukrainian and Russian influences here. Although any Pole worthy of his or her passport will patiently explain to you that while there are similarities, Poland are the original creators of some of the most well loved dishes in Europe.
These traditional dishes are known locally as domowy jedzenie (in English, homely food). This is the kind of food that you would order as your final meal if you were on death row. Soul-nourishing, carb-laden and with enough fortifying potato and meat that it will stick to your insides, for the times when you’re travelling and it’s zimno ciemno i do domu daleko (cold, dark and far from home).
There are still all of the usual suspects in Poland like McDonalds, Burger King, KFC, Starbucks and so on. But these are found mainly in the tourist traps and are almost exclusively there to service visitors (and those with a killer hang-over).
Eating like a local will enable you to deep dive into Polish culture and experience some of the most wholesome, hearty and tasty food you will ever try. As an added bonus, old-style cafeterias where they sell this kind of food are mind-blowingly cheap. You could get a three-course meal with a drink for two people for under $10 (NZD).
If you go the cafeteria route, then you should dine with a Polish speaker or to learn a bit of basic Polish so that you can order there. These places are from the old school and are mostly run by older ladies in their 60’s or older. They likely don’t know much English, they were probably taught Russian in school instead. So it will probably annoy them and make them feel embarrassed if you start speaking English and they don’t understand you.
That being said, if you go to a more upmarket restauracje or bar in a major city or town that is targeted towards younger people, almost all the serving staff aged under 40 would know how to speak English. So you shouldn’t have a problem with ordering exclusively in English. Also in the big cities all of the menus of the touristy places are in English (but this is generally a sign that the prices will be doubly as expensive).
So I’ve put together this brief guide to why Polish food is amazing and included some pics and food stories from my own trip to the south of Poland, I hope you enjoy it.