By Ginger DeShaney
After an almost year-long hiatus, Cafe Polonia is open again!
The famed South Boston Polish restaurant is under new management with a pair of hard-working Polish brothers at the helm: Marcin, 32, and Damian Biedrzycki, 24.
But the small, homey restaurant looks the same, the menu is the same, the cooks are the same (amazing Polish mamas), and the food is as good as ever.
“We’ll blow your mind with the taste,” said Marcin.
“We offer traditional Polish meals,” Damian said. “It’s nice and filling.”
“And you get a solid portion,” Marcin added.
What makes polish food so special? “Everything,” said Marcin, who loves pierogi. The restaurant offers different styles of pierogi: cheese; potato and cheese; cabbage and mushroom; and meat.
Damian is a big fan of potato pancakes and kielbasa. “I could eat it every day,” he said.
Customers, especially those not familiar with Polish food, have been ordering the Polish plate, Damian said, which allows them to try a lot of different things: hunter’s stew, stuffed cabbage, pierogi, and kielbasa.
Cafe Polonia, at 611 Dorchester Ave., offers beer and wine. All the beer is Polish style and “we’re proud of that,” Marcin said. When asked about Polish wine, the brothers joked that Poland doesn’t make wine!
When people go to a Mexican or Chinese restaurant, they already know the food, Marcin said. “At a Polish restaurant, it’s a big surprise. You have to read the menu.”
The regular customers from the previous owner have come back. “We’ve gotten a lot of positive comments,” Marcin said. “People are coming back. The regulars are so happy.”
The brothers said diners have come from as far away as Connecticut to eat at Cafe Polonia, which had been featured by Guy Fieri on Food Network’s “Diners, Drive-ins, and Dives.”
The restaurant, which opened in December 2002, shut down in March to “fully support the local and global efforts to contain the spread of COVID-19,” said the Cafe Polonia Facebook page at the time.
The owner, Tadeusz Barcikowski, was looking for someone to take it over and keep it as a Polish restaurant. The brothers heard that news and thought, “Should we give it a shot?” They did, and they reopened the restaurant on Jan. 8.
The energetic brothers had no experience running a restaurant, but they had both been in the hospitality industry and they both have a love of Polish food and the Polish community. “We are still learning little things,” Marcin said.
Marcin has been in the hospitality business since the age of 16. He worked at a Sheraton in Poland before coming to the United States 10 years ago. Here, he has worked at the Boston Legal Harborside, Russell House Tavern in Cambridge, and Lolita in Fort Point.
In Poland, Marcin attended regular high school four days a week and one day a week he worked in the hospitality industry, learning the ropes. He got experience in marketing, hotels, receptions, kitchen work, and more. “You are learning and doing,” said Marcin, who attended college but was learning the same things he learned in high school.
Damian came to the US in 2013 and graduated from high school here. He then went to Bunker Hill Community College but dropped out in his second year to focus on work. Marcin helped him get into the restaurant industry, starting as a barback at Russell House and working his way up to bartender. He also spent time at Mariel.
Marcin already had experience with inventory, ordering, scheduling, etc. from his time in the hospitality industry and in working as a bartender. “That was very helpful,” he said.
The brothers work every day of the week. “We were ready for that,” said Marcin, who noted they’ll likely work every day for the next 4-6 months.
“We have to hustle to make it work out,” Damian said.
They realize that the COVID-19 pandemic has shut down good restaurants. “Twenty-five percent capacity is not enough,” Marcin said.
They are both trying to figure out every way possible to do things that need to be done. “We want to make everyone happy,” Damian said. “And keep them safe,” added Marcin.
They are hopeful that being the only Polish restaurant in the area — and serving amazing food — will help the business survive.
Ten customers at a time can be in the restaurant. The brothers have put up safety barriers throughout the space. Customers can scan a QR code on the table and read the menu on their phones.
The restaurant is doing a lot of takeout and delivery business.
The brothers used social media to get the word out about the reopening. They told their friends, who also helped spread the word.
“We consistently post on social media,” Damian said, noting that one recent post on beet soup (borscht) brought people in just for the soup. As did a post on mulled wine: “People were asking for it.”
Cafe Polonia is open:
- Monday-Wednesday: 12-9 p.m.
- Thursday and Friday: 11 a.m.-9:30 p.m.
- Saturday: 10 a.m.-9:30 p.m.
- Sunday: 10 a.m.-9 p.m.
Right now they have one menu for all day, but they are looking into creating lunch and brunch menus, too.
“Come hang out and try Polish food!” said Marcin.
Follow Cafe Polonia:
- Instagram: cafe_polonia_boston
- Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/Cafe-Polonia-157678960917049
- Website: https://cafepolonia.com/