If you’ve yet to acquaint yourself with the southern reaches of Brooklyn, Bay Ridge is worth a wander — its quaint streets are lined with restaurants from all over the globe. You could, for example, sample food from Morocco, Mexico, and the Mediterranean in one trip, and then finish off your meal at a Norwegian bakery. There are also a few Eastern European places in the area, but none as longstanding as Polish representative Polonica (7214 Third Avenue, Brooklyn; 718-630-5805), a family-owned joint on Third Avenue that has been turning out kielbasa and pierogi for 25 years.
The Voice has written about this small, homey restaurant before — in fact, we named it Best Polish Restaurant in our Best of NYC 2011 issue, wherein we praised it for its white borscht and bigos, a hunter’s stew we noted “you should probably wait until winter to try.” It’s winter now, and that stew, a super-savory mash-up of sauerkraut and pork, is hearty and belly-warming enough to steel you for the walk back to the R train after you eat. The white borscht, a dill-and-sour-cream-smacked broth imbued deeply with pork fat, is laden with disks of sausage and hard-boiled egg, and would make an excellent lunch.
The red borscht is also worth ordering; a tangy, translucent, scarlet broth envelops tortellini-like potato dumplings. Don’t make a special trip for the stuffed cabbage or pierogi, though — Polonica’s versions are rather bland.
But we’d add a couple of dishes that make this place stand out, and those are the potato pancakes and the stuffed kielbasa.
It’s possible that by this time of winter, you’ve eaten your fill of potato pancakes, but if you’ve got room for one more version, make it this one. Polonica serves three large, crisp disks whose interiors are filled with potato the texture of which registers somewhere between finely chopped and puréed. They eat a little lighter than most of the rustic hashbrown-like potato pancakes we’ve consumed of late, and they’re especially good saddled with tart sour cream and a little applesauce.
As for the stuffed kielbasa, this is an easy sell if you’re the type who gets giddy about the idea of meat wrapped with meat, but the dish is better than mere novelty. The pungent, juicy sausage is slit down the center and stuffed with gooey cheese, then wrapped tightly with crispy bacon. Spicy mustard and sauerkraut provide respite from all the animal protein.
If you do venture out here, you’ll want to BYOB — there’s a wine shop across the street, and bodegas nearby.