I have a soft spot for Polish food and search it out wherever I live. Lard spread with fried bacon bits on a slice of Polish rye bread is an excellent way to start a meal. I then like to move on to a soup. Either a Polish dill pickle soup, as we make on the show, or a borscht. Next, I order the Polish sampler plate, if available, so that I may try as many Polish delicacies as possible. At Cafe Polonia, the satisfying Polish plate comes with a bit of kielbasa, a small serving of bigos which is a hunter's stew with cabbage and beef, stuffed cabbage called golabki, and a selection of pierogis sauteed with onions. All of these hearty flavors represent comfort food at its finest. The atmosphere at Cafe Polonia is very inviting and comforting as well. Chef-owner Tedeusz Barcikowski, or Teddy, built all of the beautiful wood tables, chairs, and banquettes, which have lovely individual cushions in different fabrics to encourage you to stay a while. There is always Polish music playing from the speakers and lots of Polish beers to choose from. Diners are transported to another place at Cafe Polonia.
Transported is an apt word for the feeling of Cafe Polonia, the Baltic Market, and the Our Lady of Czestochowa Church on Dorchester Avenue in South Boston. The Baltic Market, also owned by Teddy and his wife Joanna, is filled with a wide array of specialty Polish items. There are many types of kielbasas, hams, cheeses, pierogi, blintzes, pickles, mustards, breads, pastries, and imported chocolates. The people working at the shop all speak Polish, along with English and other languages (I heard Russian exchanged with one patron), and are extremely helpful in offering suggestions to those less familiar with the cuisine. I felt like I was in an old-world European market.
The Polish Triangle has changed over the years. There is not as great of a full-time Polish presence in the neighborhood. However, the Polish Triangle remains a neighborhood where Polish culture is actively preserved for the region. Saturdays and Sundays are the busiest times at the market and restaurant for Teddy and Joanna. The increase in activity can be attributed to people attending mass at Our Lady of Czestochowa Church, which still offers several masses in the Polish language. After attending mass, Polish immigrants and those of Polish descent stock up on Polish specialty items or enjoy a post-church restaurant meal.
When I visited Our Lady of Czestochowa Church's recreation room, I had the opportunity to witness the Krakowiak Polish Dancers of Boston rehearse for an upcoming performance in Cambridge. This dance organization has been around for 45 years. Many of the members started learning these traditional Polish dances as children. I learned first-hand that different regions of Poland have unique folk dances and costumes. The welcoming Krakowiak Polish Dancers of Boston eagerly dressed me in a costume and invited me to partner in a folk dance. It was such a treat to meet members who had relocated to Massachusetts from Poland just a few years ago along and members that had grown up in the neighborhood and attended the now closed Saint Mary's Elementary School, which was attached to the church. It was wonderful to experience a taste of Polish cuisine and culture and see that it continues to thrive in the Polish Triangle.