You might not expect the grandmotherly explosion of decor inside this corner-mall eatery, but it's entirely possible that your babcia's entire living room has taken up residence inside Polka. Books and murals and bottles and little pink wedding tables and crystal and stickers crowd under ceiling panels of every Partridge Familial color. Gentle big-band crooner music weaves between the knicknacks.
This colorful space is hosted by the Dabrowskis, a delightful pair, almost painfully charming in a way that makes you review your own sins and wonder whether you deserve this homemade meal. And why don't you ever call your poor mother?
Cabbage soup is not something I'd normally consider, sounding fairly grim to a spicehound like me, but it's lemony and wraps your tongue in a tart embrace. Spoonful after spoonful is downed, and I appreciate its unprepossessing nature. With it is a crispy salad with Polka's prized Sesame Delight dressing (you can buy this, by the way). Both make for a pleasant expectation of what is to come.
The pierogi are famous at Mrs. Dabrowski's kitchen; Since Bianca's eating them, you see here the Potatoes & Cheese, and Seasoned Sauerkraut with Stewed Mushroom versions instead of the pork-and-chicken. The potato pierogi have the consistency of the twice-baked potatoes I loved as a child, stuffed in great raviolian pillowcases of excellent springiness; they are just plain tasty and honest, homelike even if Poland is not your home. The sauerkraut takes some getting used to, but still elicits a nod of approval.
For the more creophagous of us, there is gulasz, gently stewed cubes of beef in a brown gravy, flanked by hot vegetables cooked to perfect texture. You have a choice of mashed potatoes, but you will of course choose the potato dumplings, with an initial texture of gnocchi but dissolving into a spongy whipped consistency.
I have a weakness for klopsy, which despite the uncertain name are riveting examples of ground-meat delivery. A loosely packed partnership of beef, pork and chicken, they have almost a pan-fried skin, like Salisbury steak ascended to godhood. All this luxuriates in an onion-infused, fork-clinging brown gravy. Put your fork down occasionally if you can.
At the moment Polka is scurrying under its newfound publicity via various Food Channels and review sites, but you can usually get in for lunch more easily than dinner. Polka is open from Wednesday to Sunday.
( Categories: Cuisines (by Region), Glendale/Atwater/Eagle Rock, Polish )