Polka has been on my culinary to-do list for a while, but for some reason, I just couldn’t get there. Maybe it the location—the Glassell Park restaurant is hidden in one of those only-in-LA strip malls where parking kerfuffles run rampant, and every other space is a five-minute only job. But, if that’s what’s been holding you back, then park on the street. Polka is worth it.
Polish restaurants are a rare find in Los Angeles. There are only two within the city limits, and this one has been around for a whopping 19 years. The original owners, reportedly the salt of the earth, have gone back to Poland, but a relative took over and has kept up the tradition of simple, hearty dishes with more flavor than fluff.
When you walk into Polka, you’re immediately transported to your great aunt’s house. It’s homey and sweetly decorated with a touch of frill. Plus, everyone gets a big cup of soup to start. It was spinach, cabbage and potato on our visit, with flecks of shredded carrots and a creamy base. Cozy even on a hot summer day, this soup is delectable and heavy on the comfort. Salad came next, but it’s not much to speak of, just some iceberg lettuce with shreds of jicama and carrots. Strangely enough, the dressing was a sweet sesame, which gave it a tinge of Chinese flavor.
But you don’t go to Polka for salad. You go for the gulasz! The saucy beef stew sticks to your ribs in the savoriest of ways with big, satisfying chunks of tender meat. I didn’t realize that there was an option for a side dish of kopytka, potato dumplings akin to gnocchi, and I’m still kicking myself for it. Instead we got the default mashed potatoes, which were good, but I’m certain that kopytka would have been even better. Word to the wise.
The pierogi are fat, floppy and amazingly you can get a whole plate of them as your meal. They serve four of them along side mixed vegetables. The pork and chicken was strongly spiced and had a nice meaty–not mushy–texture. The potato and cheese was gluttonous, and the sauerkrat and stewed mushroom shined in a way I didn’t think it could. Though delicious, I would have been a little pierogi-ed out if I hadn’t been splitting with my gulasz-eating companion. Nonetheless, I’ll probably be ordering them again and strong-arming who ever comes with to try the stuffed cabbage.
4112 Verdugo Road, Glassell Park
Valentina Silva writes about food and restaurants. You can also find Valentina’s reviews and stories on her blog, Eastside Food Bites.