If you get to Minneapolis, make double-sure you don't miss a chance to savor the wonderful Ukrainian and Eastern European food being made and served at Kramarczuk's East European Deli! My sister Jean and I were in Minneapolis recently, visiting relatives and exploring the area where our Father and his family lived at one time. We visited a few Polish restaurants in the area, but saved the best for last when we ate lunch at Kramarczuk's. Our great-grandmother was Ukranian and we both remember lots of great Polish food at the table when we were young. And as it turns out, there is a lot in common between Ukrainian and Polish food--in some cases, only the names change, just a bit.
Now, it's true that I was like a kid in a candy store, and I ordered enough food to easily feed a basketball team, but I just had to try a little bit of everything, and I was not at all disappointed, not in the least. Where to begin??
Well, my favorite food in the world is probably pierogi, the Polish version of a ravioli, only much, much better. In Ukraine, pierogi are called varenyky, but they are the same thing: a wonderful filling is stuffed in a noodle-type dough and then boiled. Though sometimes also fried in Poland, in Ukraine, varenyky are traditionally boiled, then served with sour cream. We had the sampler platter and they were indeed outstanding! We had three varieties, each one better than the other, and all excellent: meat, sauerkraut and mushroom, and potato and cheese. Yum, they were to die for, and the accompanying sour cream had just a touch of horseradish added to it. Wonderful wonderful, wonderful!
But there's more. I also ordered the Holubtsi (called Gołąbki in Poland), a stuffed cabbage roll. But this cabbage roll was one of the best I've ever had, a close equal to those made by my mother and those made by my cousin Alicja in Poland. A nice meat and rice filling, pleasantly but simply seasoned, was wrapped in a cabbage leaf, then cooked for a good long time until the meat was juicy and flavorful, and the cabbage leaf tender and savory. But the best was the sauce. If I had to do it again, I'd buy a quart of the sauce, take it home, and try over and over again to duplicate the flavor, it was that good. It was creamy and tomato based, but the flavors were all very subtle. I actually used my spoon to eat it like a soup, it was sooooo good! I'll never forget it and wish I could duplicate it.
But that was not all. We also tried the Borscht (beet soup) and braised red cabbage. Both were very good as well. The borscht (barszcz in Polish) was excellent, with a nice hearty beet flavor, served with a bit of sour cream. I could eat a gallon of that stuff. I washed down my meal with a Polish beer, Żywiec. And, once we were done pigging out on the excellent food, we also tried a pastry from the deli. You see, Kramarczuk's started out as a deli and meat market, then added the cafeteria-style restaurant later (and they still make their own sausage, some 20 or more different types). And we found one of the original Kramarczuk brothers has written a book about how their family emigrated from Ukraine to the United States after World War II. My sister Jean bought the book for me and I read it, it's truly an amazing story about life as it was in Ukraine long ago, and how a poor family came to this country and, with some hard work and surrounded by a loving and supportive family and community, melded into American society and prospered, while never forgetting their roots. It's a great story, and Kramarczuk's Eastern Eurpoean Deli is an amazing place. I highly recommend it!