Cz moge miec piwo? That’s Polish for “Can I have a beer, please?” But knowing that much wasn’t enough to even begin breaking down language barriers at POLONEZ. By day, it’s a Polish restaurant, when “kielbasi” can let you pass. But on weekend nights, disco lights gleam over the satiny wallpaper to turn the place into a Polish nightclub.
Last Saturday, when my all-American pal ordered a rum ‘n’ Coke, the bartender looked at him curiously. “Mixed?” the bartender asked in a thick accent. That was after figuring out what he meant by “rum.” There weren’t any other such confusing scenarios at the bar, mainly because Polish and Russian customers stuck to simple vodka, tequila and beer. I enjoyed a Black Russian, heavy on the vodka.
But we weren’t the only linguistically challenged patrons. Zoja, who’s visiting from Estonia, speaks Russian and a smattering of English. She sat at the bar doing a very un-American thing: drinking a shot of tequila by herself.
Zoja says when she first found out about this place, she was thrilled, because “my life is dancing.” But her Long Island friends are too “money crazy” to be interested in clubbing.
Zoja didn’t let being solo spoil her night. She was the first one out on the tiny dance floor— and often the only one— grooving to a happy techno beat.
With her baggy jeans, backpack and hip-hop moves, she looked like any suburban raver kid. Any raver kid, that is, with a temporary tattoo on her left arm. In her case, it was a WBLI logo, applied upside down. As she sat around waiting for a good song, Zoja tried being chatty in English. The only thing I understood clearly was that her Estonian friends think American techno music is “shit.”