Andrea asks: I’ve got some cheapskate cousins who are visiting from Chicago next week. When I go there, they take me out to dinner at some franchise fast-food place. I want to reciprocate with something equally as cheap, but don’t want to bore myself to death in the process. P.S.: They hate anything weird or spicy.
Dear Andrea: I’ve got one word for you, “Polish.” The cuisine of Chicago and the entire Midwest is based on bland European food, mainly from Germany and Poland. If something’s got onions in it, they think it’s highly spiced.
But while Polish food stints on the chilies and cilantro (i.e., none), it makes lavish use of garlic, and is interesting in a wholesome and calorie-intensive way. While your relatives go for the pot roast and potatoes with a side of coleslaw, you can head for more interesting stuff like the thick, curving kielbasy, pickle soup, and sauerkraut pierogi.
You don’t say where you’re located, but I’d recommend Little Poland in the East Village, Happy End in Greenpoint, or Polonica in Bay Ridge. You’ll end up spending around $10 per person, and walk away happy and very full.
Read the recent FiTR piece about the Polish taco at Happy End.