Welcome to Food Crawls, a series in which Eater Detroit staffers guide you (virtually) on various food crawls in the metro Detroit area. When we go out, we often find ourselves wanting to try more than one restaurant or bar at a time. On some occasions we seek out a specific dish or drink, while on others we might explore a style of cuisine special to a neighborhood. Email us if there’s a particular theme, specific dish or drink, or neighborhood you’d like to see covered in a future installment.
Hamtramck bills itself as “the world in two square miles,” and that’s not an exaggeration. Indeed, you’ll find Bangladeshi food and businesses, Muslim mosques, and halal markets all in within a few blocks. Over the years, fancy chocolates, pop-up dining, and coffee shops have moved in, drawn by the relative affordability of running a business in a close-knit community.
But before all that, it was the destination for many Polish immigrants lured by good-paying jobs in the auto industry. While many of those families have moved on to the ‘burbs, the rich Polish culture and a handful of restaurants serving Polish cuisine remain and generations of families frequently make the journey into Hamtramck to revisit their favorite haunts.
With empty bellies, Eater Detroit’s intrepid team of eaters embarked on a Polish food and booze crawl starting in Detroit and journeying into downtown Hamtramck in search of city chicken, pierogi, and — yes — blackberry brandy, too.
Stats from this food crawl:
Number of spots: 5
Number of eaters on this crawl: 7
Number of people of Polish descent on this crawl: 1
Number of shots of Jezynowka: 1
Distance covered: 1.3 miles
Homestyle cooking at Krakus Restaurant
12900 Joseph Campau, Detroit
We start our food crawl not in Hamtramck, but in Detroit just across the border. When it comes to Polish food in metro Detroit, Krakus doesn’t get as much attention as Polonia or Polish Village Cafe, but no one at the restaurant seems to mind. Krakus celebrates its Polish heritage without feeling overly kitschy. There’s a laid-back attitude and lack of pretension here, with no-nonsense but perfectly polite service and charmingly frozen-in-time, mid-century decor. If this food were hanging in your closet, it would be your favorite warm sweater. The dill pickle soup is light and bright, punctuated with fresh dill. The pierogis, which we order with caramelized onions and bacon, are fried to a satisfying crisp with plenty of sour cream. Bread is ready at the the table for dipping in the soup and sopping up the various sauces. What did our resident Polish eater have to say? It gets a “10/10.”
Stock up on snacks at Srodek’s
9601 Joseph Campau, Hamtramck
We hop in the car (it’s still winter at the time of this crawl and an ice storm no less) and drive down Joseph Campau. We make a quick pit stop at Srodek’s, and even though we just ate, the smell of smoked meats makes us hungry again. It’s the perfect spot to pick up ready-to-cook pierogis filled with everything from kielbasa to sweet potato as well as frozen nalesniki (similar to a crepe), not-so-traditional pizza, and chili cheese hot dogs. These will come in handy after the bars close.
City chicken and bacon spread at Polonia
2934 Yemens St., Hamtramck
We shuffle over treacherous icy terrain to Polonia. The restaurant greets customers with a large hanging fish and brightly lit dining room featuring a menu board that calls out the daily specials. Polish folk music plays enthusiastically in the background, giving Polonia a bit of a more upbeat vibe compared to the quiet, homey atmosphere at Krakus. The menu has all the usual suspects such as potato pancakes and pierogi. The bacon spread, essentially bacon fat with pieces of bacon mixed in, beckons to us and we do not resist its gluttonous call. Smear it on a slice of bread. Do not eat this without the accompanying dill pickles — they’re there for a reason. The order at Polonia also includes a plate of city chicken, which is chicken like how chicken of the sea is chicken. We also try the dill pickle soup here. Polonia’s pleasingly sharp and lemony rendition stands in contrast to the milder flavor at Krakus.
Cult movies and blackberry brandy at Whiskey in the Jar
2741 Yemens St., Hamtramck
Whiskey in the Jar may have craft beers and a Detroit City FC banner, but it maintains a quintessential dive bar feel with a pool table, plenty of mirrored beer signs, old-school movies playing on the television (Gleaming the Cube featuring an extremely baby-faced Christian Slater is playing on the TV the night we visit). In the spirit of our Polish crawl, the group orders several bottles of Zwiec and one shot of Jezynowka for posterity. The blackberry brandy is served in a plastic cup. It’s cloyingly sweet with a the flavor similar to Dimetapp. Na zdrowie!
Polish Fusion at Bumbo’s
3001 Holbrook, Hamtramck
Is it technically a pop-up, if it’s your own establishment? Every Sunday and Wednesday your friendly corner bar Bumbo’s dishes up flavorful and creative Polish fusion (e.g. Mexi-Pole and Turkish Delight) to go along with cocktails such as the Warsaw Mule. The evening we go features a Pole-Asian menu with dill pickle congee and pierogi with ponzu and sesame seed. The congee has a silky texture like you would find in a traditional version but with the essence of a strong dill pickle soup, while the pierogi has a nicely fried exterior and velvety interior. Pop-up or not, it’s delicious either way.